You Are How You Act: Why Fearlessness Must Come From Your Identity

by Dan Cumberland

One of the most amazing facts about humans is that our identities are a collection of stories.

Essentially, we are the stories we tell about ourselves. The choices we make all flow from those identities and thus, from those stories.

I spent the month of February leading a community of people who faced fears and courageously made new stories for themselves.

We learned we can be strong, courageous and adventurous.

But really, we learned to be fearless.

Making the choice to show up in the world in a new way is half of the struggle.

The other half is letting yourself believe these new stories matter.

Erwin McManus once told a story of a friend with whom he plays basketball. This friend typically had a few inches on every other player on the court, yet he didn't play like he did.

This guy could easily shoot over the other teams' heads if he wanted, but he wouldn’t do it.

McManus talked with him after one of their games and questioned him on why he didn’t take those shots. The friend explained he had never been able to get a clean shot.

McManus pressed this and said there's no way the defender could have stopped him. His friend replied by talking about how he was the youngest and smallest of his three brothers.

When they played basketball growing up, he could never shoot over them. He was small then, and he was still playing like he's small after all these years.

I love this story because it feels so true in my life. Everyone could see how tall this guy was, but his past told him he wasn’t tall enough and he couldn’t use his height.

He had grown, but he didn't realize how much.

The same is true for you.

You've grown, but you may not realize how much.

Choosing to show up in a new way, to face your fears, to be bold and to speak up is an important part of the growth process.

The second (and more difficult) part is to actually believe you have grown and you can do the kinds of things your older stories tell you that you cannot do.

In the present, you’re already doing them. If you could just see yourself, you'd see you’ve already grown.

If you could see the way others in your community already see you, you'd see it's already true. But, will you believe it is true? Will you believe you can be and already are courageous?

There's a push and pull struggle that will inevitably happen. You'll start to believe the new stories, but then the old stories will speak up, leaving you questioning everything.

I’d like to invite you to believe you already are fearless. I’d like to invite you to believe the very thing we already know about you: You have what it takes. I’d like to invite you to step up to the task of being whom you were made to be.

Enough with diminishing yourself, enough with modesty and enough with trying to fit in. You were made to be a person of courage. Will you allow yourself to be?

This shift, whatever size it may be, has the potential to change everything. Once you accept the truth that you are courageous, it changes your default reaction in the face of fear.

No longer does fear’s voice dictate what you do. You now have choice and agency.

The question of what you will do when you encounter fear now has an answer: What any courageous person would do.

This article was published on Republished with permission.