My sister recently started university and seems to be having a good time. She has friends and made a good effort to meet new people.
The person most surprised at this is probably her.
Weeks prior to starting university she came into my room many times, sometimes at night, to say:
“What if I won’t make friends?”
“What if no one likes me?”
And so on.
The thing is, she’s very friendly and when she wants to be, she has a higher than 50% chance at being funny. When she does finally talk to people, the conversations don’t end in one person on fire and the other in tears. They’re fairly normal.
This, she didn’t believe. Even up to the point when we were saying goodbye, she voiced doubts about making friends and having a good time. Before she walked away, my mum started pointing out people she could talk to as if she planted people in the crowd to make the start of university easier.
Goodbyes were said and she walked away. But she didn’t dart to her right and run upstairs into her room. She joined a group of people and started talking.
This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. All she did was say hello and not fall on the floor. She probably doesn’t think it’s a big deal but that doesn’t take away from what happened.
She had a small fear: she’s not going to make friends. It was at the forefront of her mind up until she said hello.
She stepped over this barrier and continued forward despite of the fear hanging around in the back of her head.
Not all courage needs to be loud.
Courage isn’t limited to those who have faced great adversity such as overcoming cancer, giving a speech in front of thousands of people or charging into battle in the front line. Nor is it limited to firefighters, surgeons or police officers. It’s something all of us exhibit.
It involves facing small fears we may have such as talking to new people, asking for help even if you think pride stops you or remaining persistent with something even though you’re not too good.
Since this courage doesn’t demand great attention from others, it’s easy to go unnoticed. Even to the person who exhibits it. It might be dismissed as something too small to be proud of.
Such dismissal might take the form of: “If Mary did [enter grand event here] why should I be proud of talking to a new person?”
Thankfully, there are many examples of quiet courage that we should take time to appreciate. Here are some examples I’ve seen in a few of my own friends.
- She used to be overly critical about herself and university grades. Now she practises much more compassion.
- He joined a group to help with weight-loss.
- She started sharing her work with friends.
- She told her business idea to non-friends and admitted it’s something she wants to pursue.
There are more examples of this that can very easily swim around unnoticed and you can probably find examples like this among your own friends. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find it in yourself too.
Why is it important?
It’s remarkably easy to be harsh on ourselves.
If we do something wrong, it’s because of our flawed character. If a friend does the same thing, we don’t subject them to the same criticism. Not just because we don’t want to lose a friend but because that criticism wouldn’t be true.
Noticing and appreciating quiet courage helps remove us from the negative and often exaggerated thoughts we might have of ourselves. Doing so moves us closer to self-compassion and further from self-criticism.
It’s a welcome change noticing a small thing you can be proud of. Even if we aren’t bothered by self-criticism, it’s a good exercise in catching the good in ourselves and other people. If we do find ourselves in tough times, appreciating the good in small things is an unbelievably valuable thing to do.
It’s OK to appreciate our own examples of quiet courage.
You don’t need to scream from the top of our lungs “I spoke to someone new!” every time you make steps to beating social anxiety but you can congratulate yourself. It acts as small encouragement to keep trying. Which is, of course, the best we can do.
But if you do want to scream your encouragements to the world, please do. Just not in my ear.
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