Woman flexing in doorway
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How many times have you felt yourself shrink?

How many times have you made yourself small enough to fit into some role that you wanted no part of?

How many times have you kept your mouth shut when you wanted to scream loudly, or handed over your power to someone who didn't have your best interests at heart?

How many times have you succumbed to an impulsive or addictive behavior rather than making a clear-minded choice?

How many times have you told yourself, "I can't. I'm not strong enough. I'm not courageous or confident enough to be all that I desire to be?"

Every day we are confronted with hundreds of choices that either make us feel confident, strong, and worthy, or rob us of the things we desire the most. Paralyzing fears, repressed self-confidence, and untapped courage are the obstacles that prevent us from making powerful choices—choices that are in concert with our best interests and deepest desires. For too many of us, unworthiness permeates most of our decisions in dealing with our finances, our families, our bodies, our weight, or our self-image.

When we lack confidence, we feel unworthy of having what we want, of speaking our truth, of making radical change that would transform the foundation of our future. When we feel weak, helpless, and powerless, we lack the strength to ward off the thoughts of defeat, negativity, and fear that prevent us from living the lives we want. When we relinquish our own power and deny what we are capable of, we succumb to our addictions, our fears, our unhealthy impulses, and the patterning of the past. We act as if and believe that we are indeed weak and insecure

Of course, this negative cycle may not be happening in all areas of our lives. We may be thriving at work or in our relationships. But for far too many of us, there are areas where we have lost control, where we can't gather enough strength to break through our fears and meet our deepest desires. Every time we make a choice that is based in fear, we are sealing in the belief that we are unworthy, that we are not good enough or not strong enough to be in control of our own lives, our thoughts, our beliefs, our choices—and, most important, our future. Every time we make a choice based in fear, we teach our minds to believe that we are helpless, hopeless, and powerless—three emotional states that leave us feeling the victim. What do we need to be confident, to stand in all our strength, and to feel great about ourselves? We need to rebuild our confidence. And we must begin by improving our self-esteem. We need to learn to love all of who we are—our history, our flaws, our misgivings, our weaknesses, and our fears. And even more than learning to love ourselves, we need to take love on as a cause. We need to become warriors for love. We need to fight for ourselves and stand up for who we are and what we want to become. We need to be warriors instead of victims, fighters instead of followers. Why a warrior? Because a warrior lives and acts with great strength, integrity, and commitment. A warrior has ignited the courage within. She can face her toughest emotional challenges and break the old patterns. A warrior takes an aggressive stance toward her opponents—which are, so often, the fearful voices of the enemy within.

Why have we, as women, turned away from our aggressive nature? For too long, we have denied a fundamental part of ourselves. We have chosen weakness over strength. We have chosen others instead of ourselves. Why? Because we've come to believe that our aggressive nature is wrong, that it is unacceptable, unwarranted, or unwanted. Maybe in the past it came out in the wrong way, or maybe somebody else's aggressiveness harmed us. We have relinquished the very quality that can give us the courage to stand up for ourselves. But this is not the same aggressiveness that causes people to harm others for sport, nor is it what drives the warrior gone bad to wield a weapon with the intention to dominate and destroy. Instead, this is the aggressiveness of the feminine warrior that is a part of every woman's heart—on fire with the justice of Rosa Parks; armed with the truth of divine love, like Joan of Arc; and capable of sourcing wisdom from the deepest well of her being, like Helen Keller.

We are all born with a part of us that is determined and aggressive— an inner strength that we call upon when we fight for our children and protect our families. This can be the healthiest part of us—the part of us that has us go after something, to be ready for combat, to be ready to win, and to engage in the battles life gives us. There are times when we have to battle with the dark thoughts that are filling our minds—the lies, the misinterpretations, and the shame. There are times when we need the strength to say "Stop." We need the courage to say, "I'm not going to listen to you" or "That's not true." We need the backbone of a warrior for love if we are to be willing to go face-to-face with that which has made us feel weak, impotent, and unable to change. This is true whether we've been battling a craving because we want sugar to make us feel loved, or fighting the impulse to spend when we need to save. Maybe we need the strength of the warrior to set a boundary, to say, "No more!" or to stop enabling someone we love. Or maybe the warrior is there to save our lives when we need to fight a disease of our own or of someone we love. A warrior’s job is to do this. A warrior isn't thinking, "I'd be such a bad person. What will they think of me? I'll be all alone and I won't have any friends if I speak my truth." Or "I just have to lie down and die because I have a disease." A warrior will instead fight to be set free.

Most women have given up their true warrior in exchange for approval, for position, for the illusion of safety. And those who may feel that they have access to their warrior might be mistaken, because most of the time that feeling is coming from a place of fear rather than a place of love, a place of control and manipulation rather than a place of compassion and understanding. The warrior who comes forth from the ego is a warrior of weakness and control—intent on its own power, designed to protect some shattered self-image—rather than a warrior for the greater power of love. A courageous warrior is a spiritual warrior, ready to fight for the Divine in all its expressions. A courageous warrior looks at each person as a divine being and each experience as a divine experience. She leads with her heart, powerfully determined to bring about the best in everyone and everything. A courageous warrior speaks out even when everyone is whispering for her to stay silent. She knows that she is powerfully sourced by something much greater than herself and that she can release the judgments of others. Self-approval becomes secondary to divine approval. A courageous warrior stands armed and ready for anything that life might throw her way—a divorce, the loss of a job, an addiction, a hurricane, an oil spill, a family illness, a deep loss, or a heartbreak—because she is filled and sourced each day by divine love and the knowledge that challenge is part of her journey. She knows that every day she will have a choice of whether to succumb to fear or to overcome fear with love, faith, and courage. She is brave enough to leave behind those who might hinder her success or diminish her value. She is confident enough to reach out to those who can help her win. A courageous warrior doesn’t succumb to the internal demons that would knock her down. Instead she fights for a higher truth—a higher love.

A courageous warrior doesn't look to her past, her patterns, her family history, or her problems to determine whether she can feel good about who she is. She looks inside herself and to the divine power that created her. She is here to gather the strength to fulfill her potential—which means she will have to face controversy. She will have to break through the limitations of her thoughts and her mind that can trick her into believing she is nothing more than a mere flawed mortal. She will have to be willing to face conflicts that will serve to ignite her strength as she stays focused on her vision of the future rather than on the past. A courageous warrior is a woman who bravely battles with the universal enemy—self-ignorance.

So how does a courageous warrior live? She sees her fears clearly and embraces them with honesty and courage. When you are a warrior for your flaws, you search out the beauty in them. You make them important. You find kindness and compassion for the very things that make you different. A warrior is able to see the beauty and perfection in every aspect of herself. When you are a warrior for your body, you search out every good thing there is to fill it with—everynutrient, every vitamin, every thought, every belief. You love your body, and you thank your body in the morning and bless it throughout the day. When you are a warrior for your finances, you make sure that you have enough resources to take care of your family and yourself now and in the future. You feel the courage, strength, and confidence to go out and pursue work that you are inspired by, or to create a business that you dream about. You save enough money and learn enough about your finances to know what you need to take care of yourself in the future. When you are a warrior for your family, you don't take family matters so personally, because you know you are part of a clan in which everyone has their lessons to learn. A warrior looks to see not how her family has harmed her but how she can make them stronger and how she can be stronger by standing for them. When you are a warrior for your past, you find the gifts in difficult experiences. You know that these challenges have been opportunities for you to overcome. You know that in letting go of them, you have achieved a great goal. With each challenge, you rise to a new height. You are prepared to combat the agonizing voices in your head that tell you it shouldn’t have happened or that you must be stupid or that there is something wrong with you. You ask, "What voice am I listening to? Am I listening to the Voice of Fear, the Voice of Powerlessness, the Voice of Hopelessness, the Voice of Helplessness, the Voice of Insecurity? Or am I listening to the Voice of Acceptance, the Voice of Power, the Voice of Confidence, the Voice of Courage, the Voice of Strength, the Voice of Forgiveness?" A warrior knows she has the power to choose which voices will guide her.

When you are a warrior for your future, you wake up in the morning with your vision in your awareness. You are clear about your actions and unshakable in your choices. You are focused on what’s in front of you instead of what’s behind you. You are focused on what you can do, not what you didn't do. A warrior is excited and passionate as she creates the future she most desires.

Excerpted from Courage: Overcoming Fear and Igniting Self-Confidence by Debbie Ford, reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2012.

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