What Makes You Feel Courageous?

Courage can mean different things on different days. One day’s courageous act could be speaking truth to a family member, while another day’s act could be honoring the need for an afternoon nap. We've been so grateful to team up with Athleta for National Women's History month to bring some incredible events to The Hivery. And, the primary question we've been asking ourselves all month-long is: What does it mean to be a courageous woman?

We have been blown away by our Hivery community's willingness to share their battle wounds and the lessons they've learned with so much grace. Below we've included some of their incredible insights. And, Susan Goss Brown, VP of Operations at Athleta, joined us in our female-fueled coworking space on International Women's Day to answer that same question. In working together with Athleta this month, we are grateful to show The Power of She: United We Thrive.


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Faye Wylder

Describe a time when you felt courageous.
Honestly, I don’t ever really feel courageous. Most of the time I feel afraid and slightly confused. I’m an entrepreneur, an artist, a leader, a mother, and a human. And so, I act with courage most every day because most every day asks me to risk my reputation, my privilege, my ideas about the way things are, and my limiting beliefs about Love. The risk always pays off.

What feelings mix with courage for you?
For me, I think courage really shines alongside terror, which sometimes masquerades as jealousy, doubt, procrastination, righteousness, and sloth.

What advice can you offer other women looking to feel more courageous?
Courage exists beyond the doorway of fear, which exists beyond the doorway of pain. Say a prayer, take a breath, and open those doors. Every day. Every time. Those are the doors to God.

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Sharon Stahl

Describe a time when you felt courageous.
My most courageous act was to jump into New York advertising as an Art Director.  It didn’t seem courageous at the time. I was in shock. I was new. I was green. I was in over my head. I had no idea what I was doing.

There was a meeting of the Creative Department, which was 100 people strong, but only 4 were women. It took me a year to be able to talk in full sentences in meetings. The only thing that gave me strength was the inner knowledge that I could do my job well. I stayed 12 years. It was torture at times, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.  

What advice can you offer other women looking to feel more courageous?
Confidence is the nurturing mother of courage. With confidence, you can face risk and adversity and overcome your fears. And luckily, there are ways to boost confidence in whatever you do.

  1. Be so prepared that you don’t need notes.
  2. Be the source of the magic. Adding the magic makes you extraordinary. It makes you different. It defines you. Being the deliverer of magic gives you confidence. People love you for it. And, more importantly, you love yourself for it.
  3. Develop deep relationships with people with whom you share mutual respect and admiration. You will fail, but it is critical to have people around you that know it is JUST FAILURE and has nothing to do with your talent or self-worth.
  4. Never ever (not even once) be unkind.
  5. Learn from failures. Your failures are the ugly step-sisters of your successes and you can’t go through life without them, so you might as well put them to good use.
  6. Allow yourself what I call "My Minimum Daily Requirement of Misery.” I give it five minutes and then say, out-loud, "Knock it off!" and get back to work.

With confidence comes courage. Fear doesn’t stand a chance with those two on your side.

Be the best self you can be, take pride in your craft, say no to idiots, choose happiness, garner friendships that last a lifetime, learn how to make a good martini, and floss.


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Dr. Cheryl Huang

Describe a time when you felt courageous.
Leading up to my 50th birthday, I gathered the courage to create a bucket list in writing. The item on the list that required the most courage was signing up for dance classes. To overcome my fears, I imagined the worst outcome: that I would look like an older lady striving to move her older bones to music.

I tried the classes and was hooked. They have turned out to be my go-to for fun, joy, inspiration, energy, and confidence. These days, I truly cannot imagine life without them. Fortunately, I got there because I cared more about doing what I wanted deep in my heart than what I looked like in the process. If I am lucky enough, I hope to be that 90 year-old who is still dancing like no one's watching!

What advice can you offer other women looking to increase their feelings of courage?Perspective has really helped me. Many of my older relatives were artists and intellectuals in Communist China and, as such, were persecuted by the Communists. My great uncle was an extraordinary photographer who captured the grace and beauty of Shanghai's women, and Communists burned all of his works. My great uncle ended up committing suicide because along with the photos, they had destroyed his soul.

So when I come to The Hivery and I hear everyone describe their hopes and dreams,  I feel so strongly that we must express ourselves and follow our passion projects. It is truly not about outcome (fame, fortune, awards, ego). It's about human rights, freedom, and opportunity. We should never give those up for fear or lack of courage. We really owe it to the world to share the gifts we all have and showcase the human spirit.

“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
— Asian Proverb
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Kate Nicholson

Describe a time when you felt courageous.
I hate to say desperation is the shadow of courage, but sometimes it feels that way. Only when you shine a really bright light do you fully notice it, but it’s always there, lurking. And not necessarily desperation as 'rock bottom,’ but more of a final realization that things just can't stay the same.

To me, courage is the desperate need for change. "Why do I keeping picking the same crap boyfriend, over and over?" becomes "Maybe it's not them, maybe it's me." Ouch. "Why is it so hard to pretend everything is fine when Dad drinks?" becomes "I’m done pretending everything is fine when I live with an alcoholic." Change. When things just can’t stay the same anymore, you have to turn it around and look at it from a perspective of momentum. "What can I do to change, because I can’t keep doing this."

That's what brought me to start a poetry company with my best friend. I know, you're thinking a) poetry company? and b) going into business with your best friend? You're not talking courage, you're talking crazy. And maybe so, maybe change tinged with a touch of crazy is exactly what courage is.

We never intended to start a poetry company. All we wanted was a little honesty. At first it was greeting cards, then it became much more. So how to have the courage to do that? You get really comfortable with your own vulnerability and fear, and do it anyway.

The thing is, as soon as we were real—as the words we wrote were honest and true and we scraped the protective covering off of our wounds and worries, and put that to paper, bare for all to see and read and feel, well, people felt. They felt us. They felt the truth to the words and, they responded. With tears, with sighs, they responded. And, they asked for more. So, out of a greeting card company, a poetry company was born. Now, as a company, we bring true emotions to events and fundraising dinners, to conferences and private parties in the form of poemlets.

That’s the funny thing about courage—it lays deep inside right next to the shame and fear you want to keep most hidden away. Everyone has their own version. I can’t tell you what courage looks like for you, I can only tell you what it looked like for me. It was using my voice, inviting people to hear my inner-most musings, taking the spotlight and shining it right on my words as if to think they had weight enough to matter to anyone else but me. It was the most, is the most still, uncomfortable thing I could do.

But that’s courage. Taking the naked part of you and offering it up for someone else’s gaze, to take in, to evaluate, even to judge. Funny, though, when you’re naked, you have nothing left to hide. Yes, you’re open for utter rejection. But, if you're accepted, it’s absolute.

What advice can you offer others who want to be more courageous?
The thing about courage is that, yeah, you may fail if you go out on a limb and let yourself be vulnerable. But you may not fail. And that feeling—inching outside of your comfort zone and succeeding—well, there’s nothing like it. And there is absolutely no chance of succeeding if you don’t even try. Remember, when it feels heavy and scary, that’s just a message from yourself on the importance of your decision to you. Will you be disappointed in yourself if you don’t follow through? If the answer is yes, then the decision is actually already made. Instead of "if" you’ll be facing the bigger question of "when?"

The other thing about courage is that it’s bigger than that naysayer bully in your head. A LOT bigger. Go ahead and stand up with your courage and wallup that bully down!


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Janet Crawford

Describe a time when you felt courageous.
Several years ago, I was beginning to work with a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley who had recently hosted a global conference on innovation. I noted that the percentage of women attending this prestigious by-invite-only event was extremely low (probably less than 10%).  From the inside of the industry, I started to note a number of disturbing trends when it came to including, respecting, listening to, and funding women.

VC is an extremely male culture and at the time, very little attention was being paid to the condition of women in the workplace (it was assumed that the issue was “solved”).  I was the only woman at the firm in a non-support role. I was a newbie to the culture and wanted to be an “insider.” I did NOT want to solidify my first impression as a complaining feminist. I wanted to be known as a leadership and culture strategist, not as the annoying nag constantly playing the gender card.

I’m not sure I would have described the feeling at the time as being courageous.  It was more like a compulsion, but I spoke up strongly and often to point out when women were being left out of the conversation, inaccurate assumptions made about us, etc.  It was simply unacceptable that we were in the 2000’s and this level of marginalization of women from the big conversations shaping the world was still happening, but even worse, happening at the hands of ostensibly well-intentioned men.

What feelings did you have mixed with courage?
Lots of heart-pounding, exhausting fear and anger, sadness, righteous indignation, mixed with hope, resolve, determination, satisfaction and pride.

What happened as a product of your courageous actions?
Two years later, at their subsequent conference, women represented half the speakers AND audience.

What advice can you offer others who want to be more courageous?

  • Do a lot of work on your inner compass.  Know who you are, what you value and what you will and won’t tolerate. Don’t let the outside world define that for you.
  • Know your goals and focus on the end game.
  • Put the situation in perspective. How will you feel about this 10 years from now?  What’s a real threat vs. an imaginary menace? Your mind can cook up some really scary narratives. Pay attention, because it may be giving you good information on how to protect yourself, but don’t let it spin out of control.  The story you tell yourself about what’s happening (or could happen) is often scarier than reality.
  • Take super good care of yourself. A well-cared for body, mind, and spirit are essential.
  • Surround yourself with a posse of support…people who will cheer you on, give you good advice, and reassure you that you’re not taking crazy pills.


Susan Goss Brown, from The Hivery's International Women's Day: What It Means to Be a Courageous Woman


Thank you Dear Hivery Community for your wisdom, for your support, and for opening your hearts to share your stories of courage.

In Kindness, Creativity, and Community,