People tend to think relationships should be easy. They take the most perfect day of their relationship and use that as the measuring stick for what every day should be like. But in reality, relationships are mundane, messy, and everything in between. To make it through these normal parts of our relationships, we must learn how to find courage to be uncomfortable.
Courage is what we need to do the things that are uncomfortable. We need courage to set boundaries so we don’t get lost, and to speak up about our feelings, needs, and wants. Yet finding this courage can be so difficult!
A woman I work with is afraid to let go of her anger out of fear that her husband will never change, he will only hurt her again. She can’t trust him and she doesn’t believe he will change. She needs courage to open her heart to him again.
A man I work with is unsure how to help his wife to get over her hurt so she can show love to him again. He knows he hurt her and he wants to do better, but he doesn’t know what to do anymore. He is at a loss and thinks maybe things will never change, so should just end the relationship. He needs courage to move through that hurt with her and open her heart to him again.
A couple I work with are constantly defending themselves to one another. One will matter-of-factly say something about the other, and the partner will respond in defense, being sure to equally “ping” the other. It feels childish, yet so real and raw between them. They both need courage to let down their armor and be softer, more loving, and open with each other.
Courage is what pulls us out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, which is why it can be so scary.
We Need Courage to Grow
In the examples above, each person needs to step out of their “safe” habits in order to grow and to change the circumstances that they admittedly do not like.
“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” ~Dr. Brené Brown
Think about what your anger, fear, or hurt is providing for you. You get something out of it, or you would not be in the situation. Is it giving you the comfort of knowing what will happen next? The alternative is to feel vulnerable and to speak up, play big, and be open to love. It takes courage. It takes that “I’ll do whatever it takes” attitude.
Knowing you need courage to make changes is one thing, but finding it is another. I walk alongside my clients as they find their courage, nudging them, and supporting them as they take those first wobbly steps forward. Here are some of the strategies I use to help them along the way.
How to Find Courage When It’s Hard
Face the fear. Ask yourself “who do I need to become to move through this?” Put yourself in the mindset of courage, then get on your wading boots and walk through the muck. Acknowledge that it is going to be uncomfortable and do it anyway.
Use self-talk. Talk to yourself lovingly, and be your own cheerleader. Tell yourself you can do this (you can!). Read quotes that inspire you, put up encouraging post-its, or set reminders with positive messages on your phone.
Keep breathing. When you start to get scared, take a good, deep breath. It will bring you back to the present and keep you grounded.
Talk and listen. Once you have the bravery-boots on and you wade into a difficult conversation, remember to listen openly. It is scary to explore the unknown because what if your biggest fear is confirmed? That you are not enough? But you will never hear the truth if you don’t lower your defenses and listen with curiosity.
Set boundaries. Setting big boundaries takes courage, so practice by implementing smaller ones. Time is a great place to start. Set limits around your time to ensure you take time for self-care, which will improve your mindset. Or if you tend to be reactive in conversations, ask for time to consider the conversation before returning to it.
The Alternative to Getting Uncomfortable
Of course, there is an alternative to finding your courage. If you choose the comfort of the present over pushing yourself through the tough things, you will be left with the dreaded “what ifs” of grief and regret.
What if I had…
Let my guard down a little more, or opened my heart to love more often?
Stopped being so angry and hurt, and set better boundaries?
Been less defensive, and listened more?
I like these “what ifs” better:
What if you…
Found the courage to do the difficult thing, and saw what is on the other side?
Risk being hurt, and discovered the depth of your love?
Opened the door to feeling love again?
Don’t miss out on an opportunity now. Dig deep for your courage in your relationship; there are many great things left to experience.