Fearlessness vs. Foolishness

When it’s time to honor the pain

I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a business women. I’m a runner. After 40 trips around the sun, this is what I know about myself for sure. These are the parts of me that give me joy and pleasure.

I’m also an early riser, up by 5:30 a.m. every day. I lace up my tennis shoes and I run. It’s my therapy. For years I’ve run countless miles without any injuries. But two months ago, I pulled a muscle. It hurt but the pain was manageable. I could still run so I did. My desire to run was greater than my desire to honor my pain.

Two months later, I laced up and began my normal morning run but I just couldn’t do it. The pain had gotten so severe I was almost limping. One foot in front of the other, I tried to ignore it but realized I couldn’t. I couldn’t take one more step. I had to stop running.

In order to be courageous, we must embrace pain and desensitize ourselves to the thing we are fearful of so that we can push past it and achieve our goals. This is crucial to being a leader who is courageous in tough times. But there are also times when we need to honor our pain, where we need to rest and heal. Knowing the difference is key.

When does being fearless and courageous, willing to feel the discomfort and pain, become foolishness?

If the pain is literal not figurative

Your body is the first to let you know about a threat, the brain responds in milliseconds to a threat in fight, flight or freeze response, but it is the last part of you to acknowledge stress. When your body is showing signs of pain it’s because your emotional stress has settled in after months if not years of not being addressed.

If the pain persist or gets worse

If you have been struggling with an issue, a person, a situation for a while and it just isn’t working it may be time to consider that ignoring the issue or the pain is not a viable solution. In this case, it’s essential to face the source of your pain and hear it out. Almost any problem we face does not get better on its own. We honor our pain by choosing to research and address the issue. Usually this requires a courageous conversation after we’ve done some self-reflection and preparation.

If the effort your enduring pain for is futile

Sometimes if you are hitting a brick wall over and over again and you’ve faced up to the source of pain, it may be that the source of your pain is a futile part of your life. It may require cutting out a relationship or at a minimum changing the relationship. If you are working on a project and it just isn’t getting traction, it could be because you’re not working on the right project or you’re not putting your focus into the right parts of the project. In this case, stepping back and getting perspective is the best way to honor your pain.

If my pain impacts others adversely

Sometimes we are capable of ignoring our pain, but when we see that a source of pain we are ignoring is impacting someone else adversely it becomes a different issue altogether. It is possible that it requires others to say “enough” before we can see the damage of not honoring our pain is doing to us and others. The most common example of this is the spouse and kids who suffer because of the pain of the other overworked spouse. Honoring our pain can be life giving for us and others.

Here are a couple of key questions to consider for yourself:

Where are you hiding from your pain in the name of courage?

Where do you need to honor your pain?

by Angela Sebaly, co-founder of Personify Leadership

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