When Was the Last Time You Defined Courage for Yourself? - Christine Kane

Several years ago, I began working out again.

I created a regular routine.  I read fitness books. I learned the in’s and out’s of strength training.  I became a regular at the gym. It was a big deal. It was a profound act of Courage.

And it taught me that I’ll always be defining and redefining Courage throughout my life.

See, I had spent many years recovering from bulimia – an addiction to eating, to perfectionism, to self-flagellation, to compulsive exercise, to emotions and negative thoughts.  In the process of that recovery, I defined Courage as letting go of these old patterns and habits, and re-learning how to live intuitively, imperfectly, and gently with my body and myself.

I recovered.  And I am forever grateful to myself for the Courage to go through that.

However, years later, I realized that Courage is not a one-time definition.  Courage, like everything else, is organic and fluid.   If I stayed attached to my original definition of Courage, then I might forever define myself as “broken” or “addicted.”

For instance…

We’ve all had friends who, upon going through a heart-breaking romance, use that experience to keep a wall around themselves.  (“Men are jerks!”)  We all know they’re kidding themselves. Their grief might be necessary for a time, but at some point, we can see that they’re using their wounds to keep expansion at bay.

Well, after healing from bulimia, I recognized that I had become that very person.  I used bulimia as a way to never have to work out again.  I used my old addiction as a way to keep expansion at bay.  “Back off! I used to be a mess! I will forever have to protect that messy part of me!”  (Or, “Workouts are jerks!”)

I started to question this old belief.  I wondered if I needed a new definition of Courage.  I asked myself whether or not I could be Courageous enough to:

•  stop defining myself as “broken” or “addicted.”

•  face those perfectionist parts of me that don’t like to work out unless I end up looking like Madonna.

•  love myself AND have a fitness routine.

My decision to work out again was a giant act of Courage. And it has continued to teach me about living a deeply healthy lifestyle – one that has nothing to do with my ever having been bulimic.

I reflected upon this as I read Lianne’s guest post about choosing the word Courage for the year.  She wrote that for her, Courage was partly about having the courage to NOT go on another diet and NOT beat herself up for her weight.  Courage was about allowing and acceptance.  As I read her post, I could feel myself shouting, “Yea! You go girl!”

So, which is it?

Is it Courage to have a fitness routine? Or is it Courage to let go of being on diets? Is it Courage to sky-dive? Or is it Courage to meditate?  Is it courage to have a heart-to-heart with your partner?  Or is it Courage to finally walk away?  Is it Courage to turn off the television and eat in silence for once?  Or is it Courage to go out on the town and have a fun night out?

The answer is YES.

The gift of Courage is that it expands you. It changes you.  It teaches you about your mindsets and how to bust out of your self-imposed limits.   If you look back at your life at the times that totally changed everything, there was most likely some act of Courage involved.

But what expands you at this moment might not be the thing that expands someone else.  Courage goes WAY beyond any mental construct and asks you whether or not you truly know yourself.

So, I’m curious.

What is Courage for you right now?

  • Urvi Chandiok

    Courage, to me, right now, is to forgive myself for puking out my favorite flavour of ice cream that Mom got me and finally doing what needs to be done rather than just thinking. It is to get out of this pit of bulimia and create a life I know I’m capable of. It is also about healing and never looking back again.

  • Tammy

    Courage, to me, is being open to others and not being afraid of being hurt. Hurt is what makes you live. Feel. Hiding behind a wall, yes, that protects you but it also inhibits you from feeling your emotions as well. I hope I can do that.

  • joycekpoh

    Hi Christine, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now and have really enjoyed all the information you share and all the comments as well. I don’t believe in resolutions and so don’t make them. I really loved the idea of chosing a word for the year, when I first read about it. I put different words on small pieces of paper and folded each one and put them all in jar. After a short meditation, I shook the bottle, closed my eyes, and picked one. My word I picked was “Courage”.

    Courage for me this year, and thereafter, is to consciously take a good and careful look at every area of my life;i.e. spriritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and socially (relationships) and take the steps, to make the needed adjustments and/or changes (comfortable and uncomfortable) to help me achieve and live a balanced life. I’ll do this by reviewing each day before retiring to sleep.

    Thank you for sharing through your blog.


  • KatherineME

    Courage is busting out, as you said, of my comfort zone. In the face of anything that I am afraid of and doing it anyway. Witnessing acts of courage has become a rich experience in my life. Heartbreakingly watching my 13 year old niece die of cancer with amazing grace and strength. Seeing my daughter play in a basketball game against kids bigger and meaner than her and she has tears in her eyes but she plays anyway becuase she knows there is no one else who can take her place(really proud of her!) Sittng on my hands as my son engages in the tasks of getting into a college and seeing him scared at times of growing up. Makes me also see the many diving boards I stand on, looking down, waiting for the courage to jump. Makes life exciting! The diving board of transitioning from Full-time- single-Mother to full time career person who can financially support herself. The diving board of living my life without the comfort of a partner to lean on. The leap to express myself musically and as a writer…yikes!!! That is a big leap! Hence, your song about leap of faith is my mantra!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks or this post

  • kathleen

    Courage is allowing myself to release (the word I chose for this year) so many things I’ve held close to myself and which have held me back: the regrets, the fears, the addictions, the clutter. Courage is allowing myself to be myself without hiding behind all those other things.

    Thank you. I love this new image of myself as courageous.

  • carolyn

    Courage is my word for the year, along with Love. Courage is ….too overwhelming for me to even say at the moment. But despite that, I will take a deep breath, and be brave, knowing I am OK, and post anyway.

  • CJ

    i agree Kate – that Baby Steps newsletter was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today – thanks Christine!

  • Kate

    I’ve already commented on courage right now for me. I am wanting to express appreciation for your feature article on baby steps in your weekly newsletter. I don’t have the words to describe how helpful it is!

  • Gayle

    Courage is living in the present. This year (2008) it meant being fully present/available/vulnerable during my Dad’s passing and the passing of one of my best friends (within a week of each other)…and I am grateful.
    “Love never ends.”

  • R

    Courage is allowing ACTION instead of sitting around thinking about what I want to do, what I ‘should’ do until the time to do anything has passed. It is about getting out of my head (and my fear)and getting into motion. I choose ACTION.

  • Lillithmother

    Courage for me this year is admitting that I am a creative person but don’t know where to go when my muse pokes me. Courage is joining an on-line creative support group. Courage is liking my creations even if no one else does.

    Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this Christine, considering my word for 2009 is tenacity.


  • Jeanie

    My mom died recently. The last time I saw her, she was lying in ICU, on the other side of the world. She and I were very close, so when she told me: “I want you to go now, and live your life,” I felt free, scared and devestated, all at the same time. For me, courage is about honoring her wishes… to take the U.S. on board as my home… to cut the emotional ties to my childhood… to stop living in the past… to be the best wife and stepmom I can be… and to never lose sight of my mom’s strength, love and loyalty.

  • Kathy C

    Hello for the first time…there’s courage:) I was having trouble picking my word…FOR A WHOLE YEAR…just one…This is my first time picking a word, and I think I just found it. I was diagnosed with MS in October. I have 3 amazing kids and a ridiculously supportive husband. Courage to me is taking a very large step against western medicine. I have gone against mainstream and I continue to take baby steps every moment of the day. I am stronger with the MS. in front of my name and I am thankful for it. But, I will continue to need COURAGE everytime I allow fear to creep in. Thank you for your blog…your words…and for thought provoking moments like this that make people stronger. It is lovely to know you in cyber-world;)

  • irene c.

    Courage for me is to be here in this moment like Lance.
    Courage is to show up every day no matter how I feel.
    Courage is to love the amount of snow that is falling as I write
    Courage is to look beyond the fear and enjoying the steps taken to walk into a new adventure
    Courage is simply sharing what we are sharing

    Christine, rest enjoy the naps with mr. patticus he is there for many reasons

  • Jessica Dawn

    My courage is to speak out. To stand up. To do what needs to be done. I have been running from fear only to realize it is with me all the way. I have been stuffing my feelings for so long. They have been coming out lately in tears. I can no longer hold back. I have to let it all out and stand tall.

  • EVA

    Hi Christine,

    Loved your Word of the Year focus for the last month!

    Courage to me has meant seeing things that I want to do, but am hesitant about or fearful of doing, and doing them anyhow. Doing what preparation I can, taking that deep breath (very helpful) and Acting. Just doing it. Lots of things don’t feel right but for the ones that do, those that feel like a big stretch, I think it is courage that has been responsible for the fact I have actually done them.

    Everyday I find myself more courageous as a result. Stacey had an excellent point that is also true for me. It first has to feel like the RIGHT thing for you (me) to do.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  • Christine Kane

    Hi Everyone – I’m at home with a major cold today – so I’m not in a great “responding to comments” place. (though mr. patticus is loving the joint nap time.) I’ve LOVED reading these. So brave and strong. Thanks for the transparency and courage!

  • Valerie Heck

    Courage for me is being brave enough to not hide the marks on my body from self mutilation. When I stress I tend to pick at my skin and then I want to hide so no one sees it. Courage is me not covering up my problem but allow others to see it and in some way help me through. Courage is also going to Therapy every other week and talking about my problems in hopes that I can slow down the self mutilation and eventually stop. Courage is also not beating myself up when I do pick. I won’t punish myself, I will take better care of myself!

  • Stacey

    Since I wrote about courage as a guest blogger I’ve had more thoughts about the word. I wrote that courage, for me, was “feeling the fear (resistance) and doing it anyway.” Later I talked with a friend who said that she was struggling with feelings of failure because she had started a project that necessitated great courage and accomplished some amazing things, but later she dropped it. She wondered if she lacked the courage to take it to the next level. I asked her how it felt when she dropped it and she said it was a relief. It’s just when people ask her about the project that she feels like she “chickened out.”

    Her story helped me realize that resistance is there for a reason. And it’s not always the point of courage to break through it. In the examples I provided in my guest post it always felt better for me to push through them, but I also have examples of where I pushed and it didn’t feel good. And I backed off. (I’m taking a very relaxed approach to publishing my children’s book.) So the point for me is to get out there – living life creates desires that challenge and excite me – and ask myself which feels better? To pursue it or not? Courage is sitting with that question quietly and answering truthfully.

    I’ve started a series on my blog about my word for 2009 – Rejoice!

  • Andrea

    Courage just became very important to me. My mother died last night after a long illness. She had Altzheimers and as a result, family members have been using their imaginations to understand her and her life. I am preparing to deal with all the “stories” (in the sense of E. Tolle) from family members about her life.
    I am willing to allow people their “stories” but I do not want to erase my own. My mother had a hard life but she was well cared for and felt safe and loved at her death.
    I am setting an intention to protect my family and myself. I am doing warrior poses. I am saying prayers. I am trying to stay away from “stories” so I am not stuck in the past. I am hiring a lawyer.

  • Elaine

    “What is Courage for you right now?”

    The courage to be myself.

  • CJ

    Thank for this post, Christine. Your site is such an important part of day! To me, courage means FACING, looking in the eye: the faces with the “good luck with that expression” when I dare to say my biggest dreams out loud (my father, my sisters, people I just met), facing the bills when they cascade like a waterfall off the top of my fridge when I open the door for milk, facing myself in the mirror every morning as I dare to believe I am the NY Times Bestselling author, on my second book, this time a $500,000 advance. Courage to me, is facing the truth of what I really want and really going for it, really getting in the ring and facing myself: me vs. me – the ego me that says “who do you think you are? and what do you have to offer anyone?” and “you have 3 kids, you should be feel guilty wanting more than being a mom” vs. the dreamer me that says “I have creative ideas that are worth something, that will bring joy to children.” Up until this year, anyone watching this match up would never bet on the dreamer me. But this year I have figured out how to beat the ego me: I have a new practice, a new kind of training under my belt. I have learned what it means to stay conscious, forever, carefully, painstakingly, tediously, courageously shining the light on the tricks my ego plays on the dreamer me, all those sucker punches! This year, the dreamer me is taking the title.
    Thank you for Christine, for the opportunity for me to write this (for myself)!

  • Riina

    I chose courage to be my word for the year 2009.

    So far during these six days I have had the courage to let go of my jugdemental thoughts when they are “right” (like my husband should help me out more) but not helpful. I have also looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that now I have the courage to accept my body just the way it is.

    I feel that my courage is courage to be me, to feel all my feelings, to parent my children in a way that feels the best for us, to choose the things we want for us.

  • Giulietta

    courage for me is rocking the boat & making waves ~ whatever the outcome. I see too many emperors running around without clothes on …


  • Sunrise Sister

    Your definitions of courage are right to the point. Congrats on your abundance of it!

  • Anna

    Courage is believing that I alone know what is best for me and not letting everyone else get in “my business”.

  • Andi

    Courage is to walk away from the definition of “we’ve been underemployed for 2 (+) years” and to quit using the excuse that because things aren’t the way they used to be in some ways that they can’t be good in others. Courage is not looking back, but looking forward.

  • Elaine (the UK one)

    Courage for me is about not settling with living small.

    It’s about working through all those old paradigms that hold me back and threaten my expansion during 2009. It’s about ‘beginning again’. Having the courage to listen to and follow my deeper voice and beginning anyway even though the route might not be clearly defined and a little fuzzy. Having faith. It’s having the courage to trust and believe in my inner voice and being authentic and true to myself.

  • Fiona Purdy

    Courage for me is continuing to pursuing my career as a full time equine artist and shelling out a WHOLE ton of money to paarticipate in a ten week art show – in this economy! And courage is going into this show with only 4 weeks of preparation. I wasn’t even thinking about doing this show until Dec 1st – when the Universe presented it to me as the next step in my career. I tried to back away from it several times but the Universe kept insisting. So I screwed up my courage and I’m doing it!
    I am very proud of myself.

  • TWM

    I am thinking of that Ramones song, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” — courage for me is going down there and trying to figure out the sump pumps…

  • Kathy

    Welcome back Christine!! Courage is a great word – the meaning of which is (whether we are conscious of it or not) constantly evolving in our own lives. I love that you are asking us to reflect on what it means for us this year. I have started with a personal coach this year. We’ve been talking about the things I need to work on. For me in 2009, courage means sticking to the budget even after we pay off all those credit cards with the loan that’s finally coming through. Courage in 2009 for me is to focus on my strengths at work and not constantly compare myself to others – to find my true value to myself, to my customer and to my employer. Courage means taking a chance with David’s new wine and food writing/touring business and contemplating how I might leave my current job at IBM someday to commit full time as it becomes the success we intend it will. Courage for me this year is to truly be open to all of the possibilities. My gut tells me there’s much ahead. Exciting and scary. Requiring courage. Lots of it!

  • Bonnie

    This year, for me, courage is sticking to the daily habits that will make it possible for me to be happy and productive as an artist: working in my studio every day, getting up early to make that possible, spending less time on unproductive things like Web surfing.

    When I first read your post this morning, I stopped midway through because I thought, the courageous thing right at this moment would be to stop and read this later, AFTER I have spent some time on my artwork. Then I went into my studio and worked on a new drawing for 50 minutes.

    So, THANK YOU!

  • Glad

    I like what Lance (above comment) said about courage in the moment. I see courage as a kalediscope – it changes moment to moment for the one looking through glass.

    Today – for me – courage is feeling the fear and taking action in spite of it. Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is to take that first small step into the scary unknown.

  • Diane

    I’ve said it before and it is worth repeating. One of my favorite definitions of courage is from Anne Lamott.

    “Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.”

  • Sue

    Courage for me right now is all the little things that I choose over another. For example, overnight our city had hours of sleet and my kids have a 2 hour delay for school. This is when I planned to work out today (copy all of Christine’s thoughts about working out!) and courage for me is to decide that I can work out at 2pm today, even though it’s not ‘ideal’. By then I’ll have thought of 100 things I should do on this day off instead, and damn if I didn’t already shower! 🙂 But I will choose to go, and I’ll feel better for it.

    Courage is also choosing not to play small anywhere, to be present in my life, and to take care of myself on all levels.

  • Pat

    Courage is feeling hesitant and afraid but forging ahead anyway. Courage is releasing clutter, old favorite things and even good things from my life to allow space for new experiences. Courage is my mind shift from “my art is a hobby” to I am competent and capable.

  • Lance

    Hey Christine,
    So…men are jerks!!!! (I’ll try not to take offense!) (I kid – I understand your point…)

    Courage…interestingly, like Christi, I am using that as my word for this new year (in fact I wrote about it yesterday). So, what is it…at this moment…for me: Courage – what does this mean to me? in very simple terms – Courage is to be true to my being. Vague? (yes). What does that mean? Well, at this moment (and I think that’s key – the idea of “this moment”) – that means listening to that voice in my head (well, maybe heart) telling me I should write – and write more than just the posts I put up, or the comments I leave… And then, courage is being okay with exposing myself more, to really letting that inner voice come out…

    And, to finish – a quote that is ringing very true for me with all of this: “A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Colin

    Courage for me right now is being in the process of selling the business that I took over at 23 when my dad died, and having NO IDEA what I will do when my employment contract is up in three years. Courage is realizing that nothing in my life has turned out the way that I expected or planned it, and deciding not to worry about what happens three years down the road. That net will be there somewhere.

  • Christi

    Courage is actually my word for 2009. 🙂

    Right now, courage is sitting down to write every day, even when resistance creeps in. Courage is about speaking my truth, to others and to myself, even about the small things. Courage is about facing our finances and taking small steps to make things better. Courage is calling the pediatrician and talking about some issues my nine-year-old son’s going through, possibly getting a recommendation for therapy. Courage is continuing to take care of myself. Courage is also being present for my life and showing up instead of tuning out.

    I’m sure a month from now, courage will mean different things, but this is what it means for me at this point in time. 🙂

    Thank you so much for this post.

  • Emily

    Courage for me right now is allowing myself to be in the space I have created in my life by letting go of so many things, beliefs, and people. Courage is knowing that all is well even if I don’t know the how of how things will work out.

  • m

    courage is going to choose the word ‘love’ this year. I was going to choose ‘bloom’ but realised that was the easy one!

  • Laure

    Courage to go into the studio and create my art.
    Courage to put it out into the world.
    Courage to let go of all my “is it good enough? will it sell? can I make it?” self-doubts long enough to find out.
    Courage to just be instead of be doing something because of the pressure I feel to be producing to prove I’m doing something important.

    I’m not sure there is a step in day that does not take courage as I try to find my way to a new life path. Thanks for illuminating the
    path just a bit.

  • Mindful Mimi

    Welcome back to posting!
    Although my word of the year is serenity, courage is a big part of it. It takes courage to choose a word and try to live by it. It takes courage to stay serene. And it takes courage to not be serene when the going gets tough, despite having told everyone what my word would be and seeing their reactions when I am all but serene 🙂
    But it’s a path, it’s different every day. Today I am off work, the kids are with my parents and serenity is easy. I do things slowly, I do what I want. When I work and the kids are driving me nuts, the way to serenity is very different. And I am still trying to figure out the different ways. It takes courage to leave your kids with caretakers from time to time in order to find time with your husband, find your inner peace, and be serene.
    I do feel that this year will be important to my self improvement. And I know that I am the one who has to make a move. That takes courage. And no matter which word you choose, there is always some fear and guilt hiding somewhere, waiting to sabotage it.
    I am glad you have managed to come out of this illness and be the real you. It takes courage to be the real you. From what I have seen though over the last months, you are doing a great job. Keep on doing what your doing, and keep on reinventing the word to suit your life.
    Thanks for stimulating my brain that way this morning.

  • Kate

    Right now courage for me is telling myself I am not a total fool for being generous, giving and sharing my resources during the past few years. It is reminding myself that there are people who can be trusted and that it’s in my best interests to keep my heart open.

  • lynne

    I love this concept of courage — because I can readily see how I can apply it to my life. I have been battling (read: lots of resistance) my habit of procrastination for a long, long time, and this is the year that I am determined to move beyond it and become the kind of person who does things “now” versus putting them off (thanks so your “Be. Do. Have” insights — which provided a lightbulb moment for me — thanks, Christine!). But I never thought about the role of courage in that whole process. It really does take courage to face the fears that create the procrastination… and courage to be the bigger, better kind of person that I know can choose a different path than the procrastination road. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog… I can’t tell you how much inspiration and comfort it provides!

  • Deb

    Ooh I have my own list of rants like “employers are jerks, or HR depts are jerks, or resume screeners are jerks;” gee did I leave anybody out?

    I haven’t sorted out where this fits in trying to get a job and getting nothing, but even worse getting the sense there is no respect or even empathy for the people applying. I want to work and I need a job but I have noticed that the longer this drags out the more prickly I get which seems to be the opposite of my “cultivate” intention for the year. So obviously “courage” is playing a role here but I haven’t captured the how.

  • Diane

    I’m showing courage right now . . . in working cooperatively with my husband on a long needed home clutter reduction and reno program.

    I’ve spent lots of time in the past obsessing or bickering with him about this. It’s an act of courage to let go of my perfectionism about home decor and organization—and my need to have the last word in our fights about it.

  • Connie Rose

    Courage for me, right at this moment, is about being bigger than the little bout of depression I’ve been in all day, encouraging myself to feel good even though a part of me would rather wallow in not-okayness.