One of the most amazing facts about humans is that our identity is a collection of stories. In essence, we are the stories that we tell about ourselves. The choices we make all flow from that identity and thus, from those stories.
Recently I’ve been leading a community of people who are facing fears and courageously making new stories for ourselves. We’re learning that we can be strong, courageous, and adventurous. We’re learning how to be fearless.
Making the choice to show up in the world in a new way is one half of the struggle.
The other half is letting yourself believe that these new stories matter.
Erwin McManus once told a story of a friend of his with whom he plays basketball. This friend typically had a few inches on every other player on the court, yet he didn’t play like he did. This guy could easily shoot over the other teams’ heads if he wanted, but he wouldn’t do it.
McManus talked with him after one of their games and pressed him on why he didn’t take those shots. The friend explained that had never been able to get a clean shot. McManus pressed this, saying that there’s no way the defender could have stopped him. His friend replied by talking about how he was the youngest and smallest of his three brothers. When they played basketball growing up he could never shoot over them. He was small then, and he was still playing like he’s small after all these years.
I love this story because it feels so true in my life. Everyone could see how tall this guy was, but his past told him that he wasn’t tall enough and that he couldn’t use his height.
He had grown, but he didn’t realize how much.
The same is true for you.
You’ve grown, but you may not realize how much.
Making the choice to show up in a new way, to face your fears, to be bold, to speak up, is an important part of the growth process. The second (and more difficult) part is to actually believe that you have grown and that you can do the kinds of things that your older stories tell you that you cannot do.
In the present, you’re already doing them. If you could just see yourself, you’d see that you’ve already grown. If you could see the way others in your community already see you, you’d see it’s already true. But will you believe that it is true? Will you believe that you can be and already are courageous?
There’s a push and pull struggle that will inevitably happen. You’ll start to believe the new stories, but then the old stories will speak up— leaving you questioning everything.
I’d like to invite you to believe that you already are fearless. I’d like to invite you to believe the very thing that we already know about you: you have what it takes. I’d like to invite you to step up to the task of being who you were made to be.
Enough with mitigating yourself. Enough with modesty. Enough with trying to fit in. You were made to be a person of courage. Will you allow yourself to be?
This shift, whatever size it may be, has the potential to change everything. Once you accept the truth that you are courageous, it changes your default reaction in the face of fear. No longer does fear’s voice dictate what you do. You now have choice and agency.
The question of what you will do when you encounter fear now has an answer: what any courageous person would do.
PS- This post was adapted from one a prompts for Fearless February— a free social project to help you face your fears and take personal, meaningful risks in the month of February. The month is not yet half over. We’d love to have you join us. Click here to check it out.