I just read somewhere that it takes “courage” to make changes and/or let things go. It was a curious assertion– though confidently made by the individual whose said it.

I don’t know.

“Courage,” as best I can tell, is not making changes or letting go of things just for the sake of making changes or letting go.

I mean, a lot of the time we’re told that it takes “courage” to make changes or to let go, because many people experience making changes and letting go as difficult things to do. But the fact is, sometimes it’s very easy to change things or to let go— especially if we’re scared of the alternatives.

Put another way, there are times when changing or letting go are the easy things to do. When you grab a cookie sheet out of the oven but forget to use an oven mitt, it doesn’t take a lot of “courage” to let it go.

Letting it go in that case is immediate, instinctive, and much easier than the alternative.

Some people go through life making changes and letting to of things not because they are “courageous,” but because they are afraid.

Have you ever known someone like this? They get anxious, scared, paranoid about a situation, and, instead of sitting with it and seeing how it develops, they scramble to make changes right away…whether those changes are particularly well thought out or not.

Therapists see this a lot when working with people who struggle with unstable relationship patterns. If a person happens to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that growing closer to people, relying on them, and being vulnerable to them will eventually mean pain, then they’re often tempted to torpedo relationships as soon as they become comfortable.

Again and again they do this. Get into a relationship, start to get comfortable, then…anxiety flares up, and instead of sitting with or working through the anxiety…BOOM!

The reason why it’s important to understand that not every impulse to change or let go is important is because there are lots of people— usually people who are selling something— who want to frame “making changes” as always courageous.

They want you to think that by choosing to make changes— namely, by choosing to buy or invest in whatever they happen to be selling— you’re being “courageous.”

These salesman aren’t really even selling the product they’re ostensibly pushing. They’re selling the opportunity for you to feel “courageous,” by setting up an equation whereby “making changes” (i.e., investing in their product) defines you as “courageous.”

They, like so many other marketers, are trying to sell you on the opportunity to feel good about yourself.

The thing is…you don’t need their product to be courageous.

You don’t need their approval to feel good about yourself.

You have all the tools, and all the reasons, to feel good about yourself right here, right now— no purchase or transformation necessary.

The world does this a lot. It tries to control our behavior by setting up equations whereby, if we behave as “they” would prefer, you supposedly fulfill the definition they’ve established as desirable.

Politicians do this an AWFUL lot. They’ll try to sell you on the basic message that “if you’re a good person, if you truly believe in principles X, Y, and Z,” you’ll vote for Candidate Whomever.”

Or, they might try the opposite: “You don’t want to be like all of THOSE people supporting Candidate Whichever, do you?”

Again, and again, and again, the world tries to control our behavior— our voting behavior, our buying behavior, our interpersonal behavior— by telling us what behavior equates to certain qualities.

They try to tell us what “courage” means…by defining behaviors that aren’t necessarily courageous.

They try to tell us what “moral” means…by defining behaviors that are “moral” only in relative terms.

They try to tell us what “good” is, what “high class” is, what “smart” is. But if you look at the behaviors they link to these adjectives, you’ll notice a curious pattern: these behaviors aren’t necessarily “good,” “high class,” or “smart” in and of themselves. They’re “good,” “high class,” and “smart” because they happen to align with what these people want us to do…most often, how they want us to cast our votes or spend our money.

Don’t let the world tell you what “courage” means. It may mean something completely different to you than it does to the world.

Don’t let them tell you what it means to be smart, kind, moral, or high class.

You’re more than their marketing strategies.

You get to define who you are.


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