I want to know, “What is courage today?”
The other day, I heard someone say that in 1945, 18-year-olds were fighting in a war. In 2015, 18-year-olds cry if they don’t have enough likes on Facebook.
This made me think: is courage really changing?
We applaud children for having courage to try new foods, while around the world people fight for their lives. In a way, courage is relative. Because for some people, trying foods, crossing the street, leaving their homes, dating, learning and even parenting can raise a significant amount of anxiety and will demand courage.
The amount of courage we need adapts to the situation we are in.
For one person, driving, hearing loud banging noises and seeing people on their cell phones may bring a great amount of anxiety and demand significant courage… that is if they are a returning veteran who experiences PTSD.
Courage can be defined as many things. These are a few examples off the top of my head and the people who live with courage. If you ask them, they may not say they have very much at all. (That just proves my point):
- A returning combat veteran
- A spouse who confronts her fear of an abusive partner
- An artist who confronts his fear of public performances
- A child who faces her text anxiety
- A new father who lives with the fear that he may end up just like his father, but he grows and parents to the best of his ability
- A cancer survivor’s doctor visit
- A teenager who confronts his depression each and every day
- Parents who face a lifetime of supporting a disabled child
Courage and facing our mental health
Why this is important is because you and I face our fear all of the time. Fear challenges us to shrink our comfort zone. And the limits set by fear will shrink our confidence, our willingness to believe in ourselves and the size of our world. Fear is a direct attack on our faith in the world.
There was a time last year when driving the car caused me significant anxiety. I had several panic attacks while driving and the experience terrified me. I look back on it now and it seems bizarre. Today, my driving anxiety is gone, not because I have a lot of courage but because my context has changed. It took some courage, but mostly just work.
I no longer experience anxiety to the same level that I routinely did. I am not cured, it’s just that that form of anxiety has responded well to meditation, breathing, exposure therapy, normalizing my fears and support.
What took courage to do last year is now a routine practice for me. Driving is no longer a coruageous act. That is, until you hit rush hour. Then, you need guts, courage and the loudest stereo you can afford.
As a writer, I want people to like what I write and share it. I post a lot of my work on Social Media and there, the likes and shares mean something. I can pour my heart into a piece and get 2 likes and a share. Then another piece is done in 45 minutes and gets a thousand likes and 600 shares.
Likes and shares can make you feel stressed out and can impact your self confidence. When you can not see people reading your stuff, likes seem like the next best thing.
The only problem is that likes and shares are not real.
Likes and shares: Courge not required
Social Media could be doing us more harm than good. Honestly, I am avoiding reading any of the reports, but I have heard other people gossip about social media’s effects on our mental health. It makes sense though.
Our context today is digital media and our ‘friendship‘ groups are virtual. When we write, or sing, or perform something and it gets a few likes we can feel deflated and unloved. That’s because our context has changed.
I think that I probably invest too much value on the likes and shares. At the end of the day if something is important to you, like writing, just do it and work at it every day. If you are good, your people will find you. And that takes time.
If you cry over the amount of your likes, you probably need to change your perspective. What people like today will change and sometimes people like something just because other people like it. Weird.
What you can’t argue with is character and talent. You know when you have it. You are tested and tested again. And you stand up, over and over, after falling. That is courage. It takes courage to go to combat, to face cancer, to face depression, to be a parent and to be tested again and again.
What takes courage is not our likes and shares but the people in our lives, our character and the talent that we work at every day.
Keep it Real
Photo by the US Military