[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_V1grA-SFQ] I often ask anxious people what is the opposite of anxiety and they reply peacefulness. It is certainly more peaceful to be able to erase the tension from anxiety. A more useful opposite would be courage. The world would be a better place if we all had more courage. Maya Lin was only 21 years old when she won the design contest for the Vietnam Memorial in 1981. Frieda Lee Mock won an 2007 academy award for her documentary for Maya Lin; A Strong Clear Vision. Watching that film makes it clear that a lot of anger from a controversial war got dumped on Maya Lin. The Vietnam Memorial evokes so many feelings because it is remarkable. Maya Lin endured a lot of ugly racism because she was Asian-American. It is very moving to watch her quiet dignity as she is attacked in the hearings. Her Yale art history professor is interviewed and he says “The word for Maya is courage.” She is so young and she perseveres with the strength of her convictions.

Current research on anxiety reports that facing your fears in small doses is the key to healing. Facing fear requires courage. What small lies do you tell the people you love because it’s easier? Courage means do what’s hard. What is something you’ve been avoiding saying to someone else? Fear and anxiety demand that so much goes unspoken. One safe way to play with the idea of having more courage is to make a list of 75-125 people in your life since elementary school that were important to you in some way. Then write down something either positive or negative that you never shared. This exercise may inspire you to risk more authenticity in relationships.

The cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz was braver than he realized. Barack Obama had the courage to challenge whether or not an African-American could win the presidency. Artists and poets have the courage to question mainstream culture. There was an episode of ER many years ago where Julianna Margulies played a bride who changed her mind on her wedding day, something that took an immense amount of courage. Many women have told me they knew on their wedding day they were making a mistake and felt unable to face everyone’s¬†disappointment. Use Maya, Barack, or the cowardly lion to push yourself into a braver place.

Too often we play it safe; because we want to be nice or please others. These are really excuses to avoid honest encounters which ultimately means avoiding growth. Growth can only come from dealing with the unfamiliar. As long as we surround ourselves only with the familiar we will be boring. Virgil,the epic poet lived 70 B.C.-19 B.C. and way back then he said “Fortune favors the bold.”

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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