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Embracing Your Feminine Courage

Find the Authentic You by Embracing
Your Feminine Courage

By Sandra Ford Walston

As female entrepreneurs, we may find ourselves susceptible to falling into the trap of trying to live up to someone else’s expectations such as trying to make someone else happy. Similarly, we may hold ourselves back in our professional lives, believing there’s no way out of a situation we feel stuck in, because we need the security of a particular job or our mindset has us stuck in certainty.

Let me share a story of someone I know, who, recognizing that she had fallen into this very trap, found her way out by embracing something we all have inside of us.

Dorie excelled at math and science in high school, so at the advice of her parents and guidance counselors, she entered college as engineering major. She excelled scholastically and earned a doctorate in bioengineering.

Once Dorie started her career, however, she found that she had no liking for her work. Still, she was reluctant to change career paths, and in this state of unhappiness, developed a severe eating disorder. “My passion finally emerged while I was being treated,” she told me. “It became clear that my mission was to help others overcome their eating disorders.” So she turned down a corporate six-figure salary and returned to college to earn her counseling degree. And now, living her passion and being her own boss (and eating healthfully), she’s never been happier.

Dorie learned the hard way how easy it is to lose our true purpose and compromise our authentic selves — the opposite of feminine courage — because we’re trying to meet someone else’s expectations or simply because we think there’s no way out because we need the security of a particular job or our mindset has us stuck in certainty.


It took years for Dorie to muster the courage to act from her heart — the place where self-acceptance lives — and express her true identity, thus revealing her authenticity. The word “authentic” is derived from Greek authentikos, which means “original.” Unfortunately, there’s no magical formula for originality. Anyone can shoot arrows at a target, but few are enthused enough to hit the bull’s eye — unless the target is what we truly want out of life.

Dorie eventually chose to confront an uncomfortable truth — that she wasn’t living her authentic life. In facing this obstacle, she grew into her courage and the energy that comes with it. Simply put, when she found the courage to aim at the right target — the one that made her heart sing — she also found the energy to hit it.


To understand the importance of courage in our lives and work, we must first understand the true meaning of the word—from the French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” It has little to do with physical, male-oriented bravado. It doesn’t require that you bet the farm or act foolhardy — taking uncalculated risks with slim odds. It means acting from the heart, from the center of your innermost being, and declaring a path that reveals your courageous intention — this is courageous leadership!

Many people settle for conformity or complacency (two courage killers) rather than display courage. Staying true to our authentic selves takes more effort, and often means being uncomfortable in the short-term. It means letting go of the scripts that we use to justify not acting on what we know to be true to our authentic selves — like “I’m stuck in this job, so how could I possibly go out on my own and do what I love.” And given the disadvantages that women have traditionally faced in the workplace and the cultural stigma attached to this “BIG” word, being true to our authentic selves requires much more courage than it might for most men.


Courageous women state their goals first and then look back to determine what’s possible in creating a plan to reach them. They develop new models when the old models fail. They move forward and upward, stay self-disciplined and take risks to reinvent themselves when necessary. Setting challenging goals and taking calculated risks reveals their heart and spirit. Because of their desire to continually learn and improve their performance, these women build an innate understanding of a “courage-centered” life that leads them down the path to self-fulfillment.


When you combine the original meaning of courage (“heart and spirit”) with authenticity (“genuine and real”), you get the true you! If you long to alter the context of your life, to break through and achieve your noblest aspirations, then courage and authenticity are your most important tools.


Is courage your unsung hero? By accessing the empowering virtue of courage, we not only take aim at the true target of our life’s work, we begin to hit the bull’s eye with ease. Like Dorie, you too can be happier and more fulfilled.

Even in everyday experiences, you can discover and claim your inner courage with a few simple steps. Take time to consider these three exercises:

  • Recall a time at work when you were proud of yourself — when you felt like your True Self was shining through. Perhaps you shared a vulnerable moment that revealed your open heart, or something truly pivotal happened such as speaking up on a touchy topic that put you at risk. This was your courage at work! What were the specific behaviors you employed that made the difference? Remember the people, places and goals that helped you step up. Use this energy again.
  • Conversely, think of a recent time you didn’t apply your feminine courage and its energy. Why didn’t you step up? (“She who hesitates before each step spends her life on one leg.”) What might have been the difference if you had drawn from a brimming reservoir of courage?
  • Establish a contemplative practice. Take some time for quiet, still reflection – pause and focus on being rather than doing. Silence is a powerful tool for drawing out your courage. Being allows us to see beyond the limited scripts of doing and into the deepest levels of the True Self, the authentic you. Contemplative thinking diminishes setbacks and helps you recognize the obstacles that undermine your potential to have a vibrant, rewarding business of your choosing.


About the Author

Sandra Ford Walston is The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. She’s an organizational effectiveness/learning consultant, speaker, corporate trainer and courage coach specializing in understanding courage behaviors, courageous leadership and individual personality and leadership styles with a focus on tricks and traps of the human condition. The internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE (2001) and winner for the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Sandra facilitates individuals and groups in discovering the power of everyday courage. Her follow-up book, STUCK: 12 Steps Up the Leadership Ladder (2010) is for all working women regardless of age or position who wish to learn how to employ courage actions at work. Her third book,FACE IT! 12 Obstacles that Hold You Back on the Job (2011) is not about how to get a job, but about learning to apply courage techniques to overcome work-related barriers to self-fulfillment.

Sandra is qualified to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and is a certified Enneagram teacher. Sandra has been published in several periodicals such as Chief Learning Officer, Training & Development and Strategic Finance. She provides skill-based programs for public and private businesses, including Caterpillar, Inc., Nolte Engineering, Hensel Phelps, Auburn University, Procter & Gamble, Farmers Insurance, IBM, Wide Open West and Hitachi Consulting. Sandra instructs at the University of Denver Graduate Tax Program. She offers a free courage newsletter and posts a courage blog, and she can be reached at www.sandrawalston.com.




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