Courage is not the same as Brave.
Bravery is often treated the same way as Courage and tends to be listed as synonymous in the dictionary. It is derived from “Bravo” – we shower praise when it is seen and demonstrated. It is about having the discipline to do what needs to be done, boldly.
Bravery is definitely a required element of Courage – you need a hint of bravery in order to tell the story from your heart: to tell your own truth.
Because it’s so easy to lie, deny, and sometimes deceive yourself and everyone around you – you do it in a misguided attempt to protect yourself, or you believe that it will protect someone else.
One way or another, you believe that the truth – your truth – will cause more harm than good. You don’t want to make waves. You don’t want to rock the boat. You want to fit in. You want to belong to something, or someone. You don’t want your world to unravel or potentially fall apart. You don’t even want to admit things to yourself, because you don’t trust yourself to be able to keep your truth hidden.
I’ve been there more times than you’d think. I’ve suffered my entire life from “good girl syndrome” – that cringing thing where you would do anything and everything to be a “good girl”, and therefore loved and cared for or with by your caretakers or by the rest of the people in your life.
The consequences of not being seen as a “good girl” felt life-threatening, even if they arguably weren’t: threatened abandonment, withdrawal of love and affections, withdrawal of attention…loneliness…losing all the prominent people in my life and having to start again, when it felt so darn hard to get there the first time around.
So I would hide all of this away, keep everyone in the dark.
The thing is, ignorance is bliss…
…right up until the point where it really isn’t bliss any more.
Your behaviours to keep everyone else ignorant of your truths make you physically ill. Your undisclosed truths eat at your heart and mind and sit in your stomach – tension, fear and striving, condensed into a dense pearl of pain that won’t go away. Its presence puts you on edge because you feel constantly nervous, and it starts to affect your digestion.
But no matter how much Gaviscon you take to sooth your stomach, or painkillers to numb the pain, it doesn’t ease up, it doesn’t loosen up.
It’s a pearly fist that’s white-knuckling your stomach, and it’s got a hold on you.
So, maybe, you start eating just a little more to ease the pain – when you are hungry, it is excruciatingly painful, but if your stomach is digesting something, maybe a couple of bites of bread or toast, then for about 20-30 minutes, the pain goes away…and then the pain comes back with a vengeance, almost as if to make up for the time you didn’t have pain.
But then you reach a stage where you can’t eat any more, and the pain and anxiety doesn’t go away even if you did force it down.
So you stop eating just for a couple more hours than your normal eating patterns – if you can endure the pain for just a little while – maybe 2-3 hours – it calms down a bit. But then maybe you start shivering from having low blood-sugar levels, and eventually BAM! That painful hunger returns.
This is what used to happen to me on and off, every 6-10 months or so, since my mid-teens and right up until the beginning of 2014. It still comes back when I go through trauma, like the perfect storm last year of my friend dying, losing the chance to take over my parents’ business, and having a hard time in the day job. Just some potential physical effects you can get from sustained anxiety.
The thing is, even if I’ve always had a great relationship with food, like with all relationships, it does go off-kilter when something else throws it off, like anxiety, health issues, stress, or trauma. It is, after all, a relationship that is interconnected with all the other relationships in life – health, love, work, “stuff”, creativity and so on.
When you treat your eating decisions and habits, your views on food and choices on whether you cook or not – when you treat all these things as if they were part of a relationship to be nurtured: it makes you more aware of when things are going wrong, and it begins to open up options for you to make it right.
Sure, that doesn’t mean there will always be an easy answer that’ll make everything better immediately, but as long as there are options (and it’s rare that there truly aren’t any options), there is the possibility for Hope.
But, as with all relationships – they can only flourish when you have open communication as to what’s going on, what’s going wrong.
Honesty with yourself.
Let me propose something controversial:
The only person in this life you ever have to be 100% honest with, and to always tell the truth to, no matter what…
Everyone and everything else? Honesty is the best policy, for sure…but the decision is ultimately yours.
When you are open and honest with yourself, when you are courageous with yourself?
You can finally see what is wrong.
And when you can see what is wrong, you suddenly have options – pathways open up. Ah, the Freedom that having choices brings! And you have a decision to make:
Which pathway do I choose to go down? Do I try to make it right, or shall I continue living with this issue?
Have the Courage to make your choice – make your choices from your heart.
Have the Courage to then follow through with your choice – set goals, create pathways to those goals.
Have the Courage to walk those pathways, and the discipline to stay true to them.
Because the thing to understand?
Is Courage sets you on your path Home.