Courage for the Fearful

July 2, 2017

“She is always looking for the next challenge and never frightened by change.”

I cleaned out some files recently and found among the paperwork a “360 feedback” from a few years prior.

One of the “observers” noted this of me:

“She is always looking for the next challenge and never frightened by change.”

Sounds nice, right?  But it’s not true.

It is true I have operated with a “what’s next?” philosophy. I’ve tackled that project, what can I do now? What can I learn that I don’t know?

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t frightened by change. Actually, I’m petrified of it.

It’s why I stayed too long in a career that became less satisfying as time went on and more and more difficult to leave.

It’s why I developed an awful case of “Frowny Work Face.”

Frowny work face 2 courage for the fearful

I’M The One In The Back. With The Noticeable Frown My Family Calls My “Frowny Work Face.”

I’m a creature of habit and of comfort in many ways. I like knowing and have had to learn to embrace that not knowing and figuring it out and proceeding without all the answers are the keys to growth.

I’ve given thought to “courage” lately – what it means, who exhibits it, and what is the outcome of that bravery.

When I told people I was leaving my job to embark on a new career, the response I received most frequently was this:

“Wow, that’s so courageous of you.”

But based on the looks on their faces and my gut instincts, I think the word they actually meant wasn’t “courage” at all. I felt what they were saying was this:

“Wow, that’s so foolish of you.”

I suppose now I’m operating in a state of courageous foolishness. Or foolish courageousness.

Because I don’t really have this thing figured out. Really, not at all. But I have faith that I possess the capacity to do so.

And that, I suppose is what makes me courageous in the face of this foolish, not-entirely-figured-out leap even as I faced the unbearable freedom of free time.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this, folded a perfectly good hand to see what else is in the deck. In some ways, I’ve been a serial quitter.

It has always worked out – maybe not entirely as planned – but always it has led to something interesting and often to something better. I draw courage from those experiences even though what I feel is fear.

And so, I came to this conclusion…

Courage is not for the courageous.  

Courage is for the fearful, the ones who put one step in front of the other despite that fear.  

Courage is for those who don’t have the answers but go out and seek them.

Courage is for those who walk away from something that’s not working in search of something better.

Courage is for those who sign up for the race when they’re not entirely sure they’re ready to take on the miles.

Courage is for those who know being willing to start over doesn’t mean you’ve given up.  You’re only just getting started.

Courage is for those who don’t overthink to the point of underacting but plow forward, knees knocking, lips quivering, facing their fears head-on.

Courage is pushing outside of your comfort zone and trying something new, fully knowing that failure is one possible outcome.

Courage is for those who simply remain curious about What’s Next and step forward to find it.

Only the foolish would think courage belongs to the courageous.

Your friend jen courage for the fearful Valerie Gordon is a 10x Emmy-winning producer, a lifelong storyteller, and the founder of carer and communication firm The Storytelling Strategist. She’s actively working on her Next Chapter and runs engaging and interactive workshops to help others find their own next chapters. Reach her at


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