When someone told me recently that they thought I was very brave, I dismissed the comment. To me, having courage means overcoming extraordinary challenges, like climbing Mount Everest or running with the bulls. It never dawned on me that I demonstrate bravery every day, yet we all do. In fact, even though we aren’t necessarily facing tough physical challenges like climbing a mountain, we deal with a variety of obstacles and a multitude of fears as a part of our daily lives. And for the most part, we dismiss our ability to overcome these as not worthy of acknowledgement.
What I’ve learned is that recognizing your bravery, no matter how insignificant the situation may seem to you, is empowering. It fuels your self-confidence and personal and professional power. And the continued dismissal of how you demonstrate courage, keeps you small.
The dictionary definition of courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” I would argue that it isn’t necessary to NOT have fear when facing these situations. In fact, we demonstrate more courage when we are fearful and then proceed despite our fear. That shows the most courage of all!
From my own experience in competitive corporate settings, as well as coaching hundreds of professional women, it is obvious to me that as professional women we deal with difficulties, danger and pain (maybe not physical, but emotional) as part of our normal work day. And we have the courage to maintain our composure and stay focused. That takes courage!
Here are ten ways you most likely show courage every day:
You’re the only woman in the room, but you speak up anyway. How many times do you walk into a meeting, take a seat at the table and realize you’re the only woman present? Men dominate the conversation and rarely ask your opinion. Sometimes they ask, but then try to talk over you. But you show courage when you volunteer your opinion or when you respond to questions with confidence and demonstrate you’ve done your homework.
You ask your boss for a raise or promotion and offer sound proof of why you deserve it. If we don’t communicate our career goals, we won’t get the support we need to advance. Let it be known that you have ambition. Ask for a raise when you feel you have earned it and present documentation of your business results and how you can move the company or department forward to reach their goals. If you don’t get the desired response, ask for input on how to advance and when it might be possible to get the raise or promotion.
You hire diverse teams that don’t necessarily agree with you all the time. You listen to their point of view and are open to hearing what they have to say. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and listen to others with an open mind. We often ask for input but then dismiss it because we are so convinced our opinions are right. It takes courage to entertain other ideas and admit you may be wrong.
You challenge the status quo. Although you want to make sure you’re not perceived as always being negative, you do want to challenge the status quo when appropriate. It’s courageous to offer different ideas to stimulate new thinking with your boss and co-workers. Present your ideas in a positive manner to avoid being labeled a naysayer. When you unlock the current thinking of your team, you emerge as a leader.
You have a difficult conversation with co-workers, your manager, or your direct reports. You may need to confront them about an inappropriate statement, something they did or didn’t do and this makes you uncomfortable. When you speak up, you show courage and people will respect you for communicating your feelings.
You set boundaries with your colleagues and team. You show courage when you refuse to be a doormat. When you clearly state what is acceptable and what is not, and when you hold people accountable for their actions. You are brave when you honor your own needs, when you own your work and refuse to let your colleagues or boss take credit. When you do this, you stand in your personal power.
You make a formal presentation despite your fear of public speaking. Fear of public speaking is common. You want to be seen as a leader and when you get the opportunity to do a presentation that will give you more visibility and credibility, you offer to do it. You show courage when you persist despite your fear. You prepare and practice and practice so you sound confident and poised. That’s courageous.
You carve out time from your busy schedule for self-care. This may not sound like courage to you but let’s face it, most of us have such a busy schedule that taking care of ourselves is our last priority. It shows courage to say “no;” no to your colleagues and no to your family, and to declare that you need time alone, or you need time to work out or have a girl’s night out. You need a break and recognizing that and honoring that need takes courage.
You ask permission to work remotely and present a sound business case for doing so. Your company may not offer the option to work virtually, but you find that you get easily distracted working in the office and you know you are much more productive working at home. You put your well thought out business case together and make the request highlighting how it will benefit your boss and department. You put a timeline together for when you will be in the office versus home. Presenting your case and asking permission takes courage.
You leave your current company when you realize that your values are no longer aligned and there is no opportunity for advancement. You’ve been with the company long enough to know that it is not the type of organization in which you will thrive. Maybe there have been some changes in leadership since you joined, but now you don’t see a clear future despite your hard work. First of all, the recognition that you should move on takes courage. You may have a good salary, good benefits, a good commute. Why would you leave? But you’re honoring your values and honoring your talent and ambition. Putting a plan in place to find new opportunities takes courage and determination as well.
Can you relate to any of these? Isn’t it time you recognized your courage in dealing with some of these situations?
Try keeping a journal of how you demonstrate courage each day and recognize just how brave you are! That acknowledgement will help you become more confident and more successful.
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