There are many types of courage and ways to show up in your life that are courageous. If you think back on a time when you went after something you wanted, left a relationship that you felt stuck in, healed a shadow aspect that had been keeping you down, or walked through tough but necessary emotional depths to come out lighter on the other side—you had to have mined courage you didn’t necessarily know you had. Anytime you get out of your comfort zone or the status quo, you dig deep and lean into your storehouse of courage. And each time you do it, you have more information about yourself going forward. You realize your capacity for facing down doubt or fear has expanded. You grow in esteem for who and what you are. And that’s going to show up in all other areas of your life in the most positive ways: you stand taller, own your power, speak your truth, take risks, and go after who and what you want because you now know you have the fortitude to dip into a reservoir of courage that’ll carry you through whatever challenge arises.
There are six types of courage needed to face challenges on this here journey of life: physical, moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social. Let’s unpack them so we can check that we’re leaning into all of them, ensuring our progress as a complete and whole person.
Physical courage is the one most people think of first. It’s stepping between danger and the person you love most. Climbing a treacherous mountain as a personal mission. Running a marathon for the first time. Getting sober or initiating a weight-loss program. It’s bravery at the risk of bodily harm or discomfort. The stuff heroes are made of. It involves physical strength and resiliency. Pushing yourself physically past where you’d normally stop, taking on an accomplishment or goal that’s important to you. You set your mind to braving the physical unknown.
Social courage involves standing up at the risk of social embarrassment, ostracism, rejection, or being unpopular for the sake of a belief, opinion, perspective, cause, or action. Think of any social crusader who changed the course of events for the betterment of many, or anyone who has ever rallied for the underdog despite resistance. These are saints in our history of civilization, as they pushed us forward in our collective societal progress. We can all find ways to stand for what matters to us in the face of what a majority believes. When you are socially courageous, you are living from your authentic self.
Intellectual courage is about being willing to wade 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.’ This kind of courage is around releasing the identity of the mind to expand and become discerning, absorbing new ways of viewing the world around us, however uncomfortable it makes us in the moment. It’s being willing to be reeducated around race, politics, religion, history—topics where we traditionally put stakes in the ground and say “It’s this way!” and shut out other perspectives. This courage keeps you open, curious, and compassionate. You essentially learn to unlearn what you’ve fiercely identified with previously.
Moral courage involves doing the right thing despite negative outcomes. It’s about ethics, integrity, character, and values. It’s also the proverbial line in the sand you won’t cross no matter how tempting the payoff, even if you won’t get caught. It’s being in your truth no matter the cost because it’s how you feel compelled to walk through the world around you. You’re embodying “doing the right thing.”
Spiritual courage is wrestling with your faith in tough times. It’s clinging to faith when there’s no physical evidence of it, or when that same faith is being challenged because of extenuating circumstances. It’s the kind of courage needed to expand spiritual points of view when you feel stuck, through prayer, meditation, contemplation, and teachings that uplift. The payoff is you come to trust the process of your life with all its twists and turns.
Emotional courage is exploring all of your feelings, both the positive and the negative ones—the whole gamut—giving them permission to be discovered without repressing or redirecting them. It’s mining them as they arise and being willing to follow the trail of emotions wherever they lead you, knowing all healing happens in us through this allowing.
Some of us might be more developed in reaching for one type of courage over another, and we might not even recognize that we’re regularly exploring our self-development through leaning into that type regularly. We just assume it’s what everyone does. It’s only when we’re called to delve into another type of courage, to achieve a goal or maintain a value, that we comprehend and appreciate what our courage has afforded us. It’s walking through the contraction of fear and doubt before the expansion of victory and fulfillment that only courage can hand-deliver us. We become the person we admire, and we fulfill our specific gifts, passions, and responsibilities in the world. All hail courageous you.