Courage wasn’t always my friend.
I actually spent the first half of my life running from courage.
Choosing comfort, conformity, and everything else I thought I should do, believe, think, love, communicate…the list goes on.
I played small. I chose to hide.
I hid in my relationships, health, spirituality, and career…you name it.
But mostly, I hid from myself.
Then a death, a game-changing health challenge, financial ruin, homelessness, and stepping out of a few closets changed everything.
In my twenties, as I sat vigil with my dying mother, I knew it was time to lean toward courage. We simply cannot die with integrity if we don’t first live with integrity — practicing our values instead of just professing them. It was time to begin doing the things I had always wanted to do instead of dreaming about them. It was time to look my fears directly in the eye instead of evading both their gaze and power over me. It was time to stretch in the direction of freedom rather than living in the quiet bondage of self-judgment, hesitation, and fear.
For the phoenix to rise, she must first allow the fall
I was looking these realities in the eye one random April day when I fell and forever changed the structure and agility of my lower spine. When I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, I could no longer run from courage —I couldn’t run at all. From anything.
Several medical chapters and short-term paralysis later, I began learning how to walk again. My relationship to the practice of courage changed too. It was time to put one courageous step in front of another — in health, life, career, and love. Fast-forward a few more years and I came out of the closet—sexually and spiritually—and forever changed my relationship to my family, my community, faith tradition, and all the rest. No piece of this story has been easy—quite the opposite. In every fall, though, we are challenged to rise up from our pain and move forward with greater confidence and conviction. This is my courage in practice now.
In every step since her death, my mother’s final four words to me still thunder in my mind. Her last word to me was love, the birthplace of the rest.
FAITH. KINDNESS. Courage. Love.
Here’s the truth, though. Making friends with my courage wasn’t an instant love-at-first-sight experience. I resisted the discomfort immensely. I knew I wanted to live in integrity and also knew this meant navigating immense change and transition—in my career, relationships, spirituality, and community. I wanted to practice my courage but without leaving my comfort zone.
It’s so human, isn’t it? We hold such a desire to try new things but with a safety net attached to each adventure. The stable job, the insurance policy, the financial cushion, the “get-an-extra-just-in-case-one-breaks” mentality. We love believing in a false sense of security that only really exists in our mind. All we have is now—this moment and how we embrace it—but we love to spend our days living in the past or trying to prepare for or forecast a future that may never come. Does this mean ditch planning? Not at all; just a reminder to keep it in perspective by allowing presence to sit at the head of the table in our lives.
Rather ironic, don’t you think, that my mother was one of many people that intensely planned for Y2K? Extra water, supplies, you name it. When we arrived at Y2K itself, she chuckled at how much energy and time she placed on something that never came to be the way it was predicted. Did our family use all those supplies? Yes, absolutely. And we were grateful for them but most importantly, we learned that no Y2K planning would ever take the place of being present to each other in each moment we are gifted.
Presence is the ultimate practice of courage and love. The kind of presence where we don’t rush each other to get to a solution, to feel better, or to fix something. The kind of presence where we simply hold space and see each other for where we are. It took my mother’s death to learn this but since then, being present to others and to myself has really mattered to me. It doesn’t always come easily and I mess up regularly but it is so worth returning to this practice everyday.
called to courage
Sometimes we willingly choose the practice of courage. And sometimes we are called to a life of courage before we are ready. Either way doesn’t matter — what matters is discovered in the practice itself.
Underneath all the rubble of these life circumstances, I actually found myself again— in the practice of learning how to walk again. It was literally like starting over — one baby step at a time.
I began to shed the ‘shoulds’ and outdated narratives in favor of my integral truth. Benchmarks for success, beauty, and strength began to shift. I began to make friends with my own intuition more deeply rather than second-guessing myself or seeking a thousand perspectives to somehow reconnect with my own. I doubled-down on my efforts to build strength and resiliency from the inside out. Courage became the practice that didn’t just help me walk again—it awakened my authenticity, deepened my abundance, and continues to transform my life every single day I show up to practice.
What about you, friend? Where are you being called to practice your courage? Where is it whispering to you? Where might you be running from it too? What do you know you want more (or less) of in life but it will require courage to get there?
Name it aloud for yourself in this moment. Notice what happens when you begin to name it aloud over and over again. There is more to the practice than naming but this is a great start.
an invitation to practice in the open
Courage isn’t a sexy thing to talk about, is it? In today’s culture, we love to talk endlessly about courage in theory while keeping our courage in practice a secret until we have a beautiful result to share. We don’t want to show the messy parts and we try to keep the trips and falls on the down-low. However, in doing so, we perpetuate the false idea that the brave result is where the celebration lies. We are invited to remember that the hero’s journey is popular for a reason—what we most long to bear witness to and champion is the deep, consistent practice of courage; the practice we see in others that reminds us of our own.
Join me this spring, friend, in practicing your courage in the open.
Show up even when it’s hard.
Be present even when you have a million things to do and two million other things on your mind.
Say the courageous thing.
Start doing the things you say you really want to do.
Take the leap, deep diving into the unknown.
Invest in what and who matters.
Be willing to leave your comfort zone for what you desire.
Choose to practice your courage not just for what you will receive from it but for the transformation that will take place within you as a result of the practice itself. All those little moments in the quiet before we see the brave result is what really transforms us anyway.
Forever with you in this practice,
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
An intuitive leadership and life coach for 14 years and founder of The Courage Practice®, Tonyalynne Wildhaber coaches individuals, leaders, coaches, and soulful entrepreneurs to make friends with their courage in a conscious way.
With a unique approach of integrating inner wisdom with outer strategy, she partners with you to courageously step into your highest potential, navigate challenge and transition with greater ease, and transform your abundance and life from the inside out.
Tonyalynne is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council specifically for her integrated leadership and life development approach. She is a frequent contributor to Forbes, WomELLE, and Thrive Global. She is head-over-heels in love with the Pacific Northwest, drinks iced coffee in all weather, and is attempting to train a little Yorkie named Ollie.
ABOUT THE COURAGE PRACTICE®:
The Courage Practice is an inside-out, soul-to-strategy coaching approach guiding you to build a personalized practice to strengthen, shape, and empower you to live, love, and lead with conscious courage.
Where do you want to be more courageous? Click here to book a complimentary consultation to explore the possibilities together.