I can’t recall how I found it. I must have been searching for a place to get lost. The drive was nearly 30 minutes from my house. About a mile down a trail, on the side of a road, through overgrown blackberry bushes, I trekked to a quiet spot overlooking the Folsom River. I went there every night for 2 months and watched the sun set. For awhile I believed I went there to be alone…then one day, a friday in the middle of March, I realized I went there because I WAS alone.
The next morning I placed my engagement ring on the dresser next to the man I had loved with every cell in my body for 6 years and left. I didn’t pack a box or bag. I left my clothes, my pictures, jewelry, and everything we had collected over the years where they belonged–with him. That wasn’t my life anymore. That girl, the one who gave him everything, she wasn’t me. She was a version I had created so that he would love me…because I didn’t love myself.
Whenever I tell the story of leaving my fiancé at 22, and detail just how deeply lost I was in that relationship, people often tell me that my choice was “so brave.” On paper, I guess it was. I was 22. I had no job, no place to live, no friends, no hobbies, no clothes except what I walked out in. I had a car in my dad’s name, half of a Subway sandwich leftover from the night before and $40. On paper that does seem brave, but in reality it didn’t feel that way. It felt quiet and peaceful. It felt natural. It felt really good.
See, the day I chose a new life is the day I chose me. My courage wasn’t courage at all–it was self love.
14 years later, I still choose self love over fear. I love myself too much to let fear steal my happiness, my future and my identity again. Not to say I don’t get scared–I am a human and it is a human emotion with its place, but I remind myself that courage is just another way to say “I love you, I believe in you, and EVERYTHING is going to be OK.”
Ok, great Allison, but what if I am still learning to love myself? What if I still get scared? What if courage is a life skill I am still developing? Here are a few tips to help courage (aka self love) be your homeboy.
- Get to know yourself.
Fear cannot lie to you if you know the truth. Take time to get to know yourself. What does your truth voice sound like? What does your fear voice sound like? How does your body feel when fear is being drama? How does your body feel when truth and self love are giving you peace. What are your strengths? What are the best things about you? As you learn more about yourself it will be easier to act courageously because it will feel natural and in line with what you DESERVE.
2. Become aware of the things that don’t build courage.
I am afraid to fly. That is an understatement. I am panic attack, clutching the arms of strangers, crying hysterically, terrified to fly. If I am getting ready for a flight i am not going to call up a friend and ask for a horror story of her worst flight. I am not going to read news stories of planes crashing. I am not going to look up statistics on malfunctions and deaths. Those things breed more fear.
Take time to look at what you are feeding your fear. Are you giving it a steady diet or starving it? What are you doing, or thinking, that does not build courage.
3. Identify the fear-based patterns that get you stuck.
Perfectionism, people-pleasing, pessimism, and self-sabotage are the common fear-based patterns that dig their claws into people. When you know what each of those patterns looks like, you’ll have an easier time noticing when you’re in them and consciously choosing to shift out of them.
4. Get into your body when the fear kicks up.
Your fear isn’t logical; it’s primal. We feel it in the body, so in order to build courage, we need to deal with the fear in the body. When you’re feeling afraid use body-based practices to access the body and teach it that it can handle fear—it’s safe. This can include yoga, meditation, running, weight lifting, slow walks, or any other body-based practice where you get conscious about what you feel.
5. Listen without attachment
Do you know someone in your life that sort of nags you? Someone who always has an opinion on something? Chances are you get stuck listening to that person spew their views while you listen counting the minutes before you can text a friend and be like “You are not even gonna believe what susan said today!”
Fear is that friend. Fear is Susan.
Your fearful thoughts will spin all kinds of devastating stories about how you’re not enough. Rather than attack those thoughts by telling them to shut up and go away it is more helpful to listen to what the fear is saying while being aware it is just fears opinion. The key? Not getting “attached” to what is said by taking it on as a “truth” about who you are and what you’re capable of.
6. Reframe your limiting stories.
Reframe your limiting stories. If I had listened to the limiting stories I was told about what my life would be like without that man I would have been stuck in a life I never truly enjoyed. Happiness would have forever evaded me. Instead reframe the limiting stories you are told, or you tell YOURSELF to be less fearful and more courageous “maybe I can’t do this now, but I am willing to put in the effort to try. I believe in my power and abilities.”
7. Reach out and create community.
Fear and self-doubt thrive in isolation, and they diminish in community. It’s not fun experiencing setbacks or failures, even though we know that they are part of every journey. In those moments when things are tough, we might be inclined to isolate and hide out—but instead, that’s when we most need to lean in to the community around us.
Find people who will sit with you in your disappointment, but also cheer you on to get back up and try again.
Allison Avalon is a Blogger and self-help mogul originally from Northern California. As a former counselor to at-risk youth Allison developed creative and inspiring new tactics to tackle self-doubt, negative self-worth and body issues. Her book “Im Possible Self Care Planning Guide” supports personal growth through teaching you to better understand and make time for you self care needs. Additionally, Allison moonlights as a motivational speaker for women. You can connect with Allison on Instagram @namnashte
*Photo by Christy Shaterian Photography