Launching this course was a huge act of courage for me.
I had been designing the curriculum for Cultivating Courage last year and was getting really excited about the idea of a 30 day courage challenge. One day I googled “30 days of courage” (what I was originally going to call the class) to see if anyone was doing something similar. I was shocked to discover that not only was someone already doing a course by that name, but it was someone I knew! Someone in my creative circle who I have always adored and admired – Marianne Elliott. Crap! I thought.
While we hiked the following week (she happened to be visiting the bay area from New Zealand) I brought it up: “Marianne, you won’t believe this, but I have been creating a curriculum for a class about courage and just discovered that you already launched one! I would never want you to think I was copying you.”
She laughed. “That is hilarious! Kate Swoboda just emailed me about the same thing. She is launching a 30 days of courage class also!”
My heart sank. Another person in our circle offering a 30 days of courage class as well?! This was getting to be a bummer. And I was launching last, I thought. It was going to look like I copied.
Even though Marianne was relaxed about it, I was catastrophizing back at my desk.
- They’ll probably do it better than me.
- Look at Marianne. She was a UN peacekeeper in Afghanistan! What do I know about courage?
- Kate’s whole website is about courage. Maybe this is her terrain and not mine.
- They’re going to think I’m copying.
- I have nothing unique to say.I suck. I should just quit.
And that’s when I had a revelation — that there was an opportunity for us to decide, collectively, that there was room for all of us. That we didn’t have to compete but could support each other instead.
I was nervous when I got to the restaurant. We chatted about life in general for a long time, then I shyly brought up the courage courses. We each took turns describing what our courses were like and we started to see what I sincerely hoped was true — that we each had our own unique voice. That our approaches were different. That there was no way anyone else’s course could be like mine, because I am the one writing it!
I also remembered that I have my people and they have theirs. And that our people wanted us. They wanted our voice, not somebody else’s.
In the midst of this conversation, I also remembered my first art wound. I was in the 4th grade and we were told to write an essay about something we were afraid of. The teacher gave the example of being afraid to drive Highway 17, a dangerous highway near our home where people had accidents regularly. I have the same fear! I thought. What a coincidence! And so I wrote about that.
The next day she held up my paper in front of the class and read the first paragraph. “What’s wrong with this paper?” she boomed.
“She copied you!” the kids shouted.
“What grade do you think this student should get?”
“An F!” the kids yelled.
I was aghast. And crushed. And humiliated. And wanted to die.
To this day, I am deeply afraid of anyone thinking I have copied them. I try hard to be unique in everything I do and feel horrified (the same horror as that day) if anyone says my work is like someone else’s. I was careful to not even read the sales pages for Marianne or Kate’s courses lest I inadvertently be influenced in some way by what they were creating. Crazy, right? This wound has held me back in countless ways, often paralyzing me even before beginning. (Why bother? Other people have already said it or said it better)
As I shared this with Marianne and Kate, I could feel a new layer of that story was being healed, right there at the restaurant. We actively decided that we would not compete with each other, but would be allies instead. We decided to be examples of a different way through. That instead of feeling threatened by each other, we would choose to support + celebrate each other’s work.
In a world where we are all vulnerable to the comparison game, the not-enough game, the there’s-no-room-for-me game, this felt like such a sweet victory.
In the end, I decided to change the title of the course to Cultivating Courage (hooray!) so as to not create confusion. This felt good and right. The whole process though was, you guessed it! an exercise in courage:
- Courage to keep going anyway.
- Courage to keep writing in the face of my very active gremlins.
- Courage to trust myself–trust that I had something to say and would say it in my own unique way.
- Courage to believe that there was room for everybody.
I’m so glad I did. This course has been such a bright spot in my life.
This is one of the many stories in the Cultivating Courage course. I would be so honored if you would join me!
The next session begins on Monday, November 4th, 2013. Cost is $79