Creating Courage Within

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the conquest of it.
Frail and timid, no one would have guessed that this little boy would some day be transformed into a courageous and prominent figure of his day. Theodore Roosevelt the 26th President of the US writes this in his autobiography about conquering his fears.
"Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy, I was, as a young man, at the first both nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit.
"When a boy I read a passage in one of Marryat's books [Frederik Marryat, British naval officer and writer (1792-1848)] which always impressed me. In this passage, the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness.
He says that at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action, but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this is kept up long enough, it changes from pretense to reality, and the man does in very fact become fearless by sheer dint of practicing fearlessness when he does not feel it.
"This was the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to 'mean' horses and gunfighters; but by acting as if I were not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose."
When I first read this, I found it a little hard to grasp. However, after thinking about it some more I found a way into it. From what I understand, in acting the really great actors get so caught up in who they are portraying that they literally take on their character's feelings and emotions; they "become" that person. So I figure that if that can be said of actors, it follows that the same should be true of anyone who puts on an act to be something they're not. 
Now grasping this concept is one thing, but putting it into practice is a completely different matter. With something challenging what I usually do is to start out easy and gradually work my way up. For example, starting a conversation in a public place with someone new isn't overly intimidating for me, but is still out of my comfort zone. It's one of those things that to do takes some "acting" on my part.
Of course, putting something new into practice oftentimes creates some embarrassing moments. I'm reminded of the time I was learning Spanish while living in South America. Once, I asked a waiter for a glass of water, or so I thought. What I really said translated to "a kiss of water". Oops! Boy, did he give me a strange look. Thankfully I was with someone who spoke Spanish, and he cleared things up right away. Whew!
Looking back at my time learning Spanish, I'm so thankful that I kept at it in spite of the embarrassing moments. I not only learned a new skill, but I also became more aware that paying the price for the benefits of growth is worth it. And now that I think of it, the more that I stepped out in spite of my fear, the more my courage grew as well.
OK, it's not going to produce a president everytime, but I think that most would agree that growing in courage is definitely worth it. And I've found that the more I work at it and keep climbing forward every day the more the things I fear are diminished and my life becomes fuller and richer.


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