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Types of Courage and Ways it Shows Up in Our Lives

Courage may seem like a strange area to discuss in relation to mental health. However, courage presents itself every day and various capacities and can help us conquer life’s challenges. In today’s world, simply getting out of bed, calling up a friend, or making it through the day can be an act of courage. As the rate of mental health struggles rises, whether due to COVID-19 or other life challenges, asking for help and support is an incredibly important and admirable act of courage. 

There are many different types of courage and ways of showing up to situations that are courageous. If you take the time to look back on prior life experiences, it’s not unlikely you’ll identify many ways you’ve been courageous throughout your life. If you’re struggling to identify these instances, the rest of this blog post will be helpful in making that distinction. Bottom line, anytime you enter an uncomfortable situation or step outside of your comfort zone, you’re relying on one of six types of courage. In order to ensure we best able to access all six categories of courage, it’s important to unpack them and gain a deeper understanding. 

Physical Courage

This is typically the type of courage people think of when thinking of a courageous act. Physical courage is choosing to stand up/conquer something at the risk of bodily harm or discomfort. This can look like running a marathon, confronting a dangerous situation (whether to protect yourself or others), getting sober, and many other examples. Physical courage requires physical strength and resiliency to push yourself physically past where you’d most comfortably stop. 

Moral Courage

Moral courage is all about standing up for what’s right and morally sound despite the potential negative response. Exhibiting moral courage is living life according to your values and ethics regardless of the situation you’re in and people that may disagree with you.

Emotional Courage

Emotional courage can be very scary at times. It requires acknowledging and feeling all your emotions, both positive and negative. When you’re feeling down or angry, allowing yourself to truly feel these things may seem overwhelming or daunting. If this is the case, being in the presence of someone you feel supported by (friend, therapist, family, etc.) can be very helpful. Emotional courage is allowing your emotions to arise without avoiding, ignoring, or repressing them. 

Intellectual Courage 

Intellectual courage is all about “… being willing to wake through challenging ideas that might not be a normal train of thought, by questioning your way of thinking and what you’ve previously learned and assumed as “truth”.” Challenging things you view as fact can be an intimidating experience. It’s giving yourself, and your mind, the opportunity to view other perspectives and adopt new ways of thinking and ideas. “This courage keeps you open, curious, and compassionate.”

Spiritual Courage

This type of courage is allowing yourself to question your faith when things become difficult or challenging. This frequently arises due to some form of tragedy or death, bringing into question the things you believe in. Spiritual courage allows you to question things, and reaffirm or modify your beliefs through prayer, meditation, and teachings. Allowing yourself to question your spirituality/beliefs can make your faith stronger and more impactful. 

Social Courage

Social courage involves putting yourself at risk of embarrassment, rejection, or ostracism while standing up for what you believe in. Social courage is necessary to move our society forward and give other’s the opportunity to change and evolve. Whether this is standing up to a bully in the school cafeteria or fighting for human rights, social courage is putting yourself at risk for the sake of the greater good. 

Leaning into the various types of courage allows us to tackle goals, maintain or values, and approach the world in an authentic way. While some of us may be more competent at some types of courage over others, we all have the ability to cultivate and grow all areas that courage can show up in our lives. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling with self-esteem or fostering the different types of courage, it may be useful to try counseling in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our licensed therapists today! We’re here to help.


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