Can a woman get brave

Courage is good: what makes women courageous

Hosts of books and guides want to show people how to become more successful, smarter, richer, leaner or more beautiful. Hardly anyone wonders how to be more courageous. We went on a search for clues and found that courage has two wonderful qualities: It is contagious and it can be learned! Text: Yvonne Schwarzinger // Photo: Reinhard Reidinger

Ever since people have been challenged to face dangers from their environment, that is, since ancient times, courage has been a quality that each of us strives for. But where does the courage come from? The word comes from the old Germanic »muod« and originally meant state of mind, passion, determination. Only in the course of time did courage become a virtue that is associated with bravery. In ancient times, courage was considered the most outstanding trait of a free man. It is "morally beautiful to stand up to what is or seems terrible for a person," said Aristotle in 322 BC. The Christian church fathers saw in courage an ability to steadfastly defy the hostility of evil. And we modern people admire our heroes like Pippi Longstocking or Harry Potter from childhood, who bravely face all adversities and challenges in comics and on the movie screen.

But how do we manage to become more courageous in real daily life?

Courage is not inherited in humans. And unfortunately it cannot be bought in the supermarket or ordered on the Internet. And yet we need it as an important life energy. And we always need it exactly when we notice that we don't have it! Because life is seldom a long, calm river. It runs in serpentine lines, makes some radical bends and has one or the other shoal ready. And whether we are facing a major change in life or have just decided to finally learn to ski or to go on a trip alone for the first time - these situations have one thing in common: They scare us!

But whoever is afraid is not the same as a rabbit's foot. Fear and courage are only two sides of the same coin. "Being courageous has nothing to do with an absence of fear, on the contrary," says the psychologist Christa Schirl. Even the brave one perceives warning signals and dangers and weighs up the risks. Anything else would be

Recklessness or even stupidity.

“We can be afraid. This is also quite normal, especially when we are breaking new ground and have to venture into the unknown. But I can take my fear by the hand and go ahead anyway. Then I'm brave. ”Or as Martin Luther King put it:“ We have to keep building dams of courage against the flood of fear. ”Easily said. But also done easily? Schirl advises, in situations that scare us, to remember previous similar experiences, such as the first day at work or a crucial conversation. And to call to mind that exhilaration that one had after mastering a difficult situation.

»We are programmed by evolution in such a way that we remember catastrophes and dangers better than positive experiences. That makes perfect sense, because otherwise we would not have survived. But everyone has to counterbalance this negative memory «, says Schirl and recommends keeping a success diary. In it you should enter what you have succeeded in, what successes - even small ones - you have been able to record. Because past victories make us strong for new challenges.

Our courage is not only required when it comes to big, decisive steps in life.

Often, with the courage of desperation or the tailwind of curiosity and a thirst for adventure, these are even easier to cope with than the little tests of courage that everyday life presents us. It starts with saying no to a colleague who is about to put off an unpleasant job. Or to tell the family that this time you will not take part in Christmas together because you finally want to go on your long-awaited vacation in the south. It is “cowardice in front of the friend”, as the writer Ingeborg Bachmann once put it, that sometimes makes it difficult for us to be courageous about ourselves and our opinions and wishes. "Women in particular are often afraid of being devalued or of not being loved," explains Schirl, why many would never have learned to put their own needs before solidarity with others. A strong bond to the family or the group can make a person strong and courageous on the one hand, but on the other hand it creates a pressure of loyalty, which then often prevents the courageous little resistance. "To be completely yourself, that can take some courage," Sophia Loren already knew.

The good news: "Courage can be learned."

Christa Schirl is convinced of that. It's best to start in small steps. »Courage means to be active and able to act. And that can be practiced in a wide variety of everyday situations by breaking habits, ”says the qualified psychologist. Just go to a different coffee house than the regular. Don't always choose the same colors for your clothes. Order something in the restaurant that you have never eaten before. Those who boldly break new ground on a small scale will have more confidence in their own actions when they take big steps. "Courage comes with a lot of experience," says Schirl. And so a little courage grows into a big one.

Those who are brave make decisions and stand up for them.

Often our own perfectionism stands in the way and makes us creeps. “Whoever waits until the conditions are perfect or asks himself to know his goal exactly, will not get a step further,” says Christa Schirl, “courage to make new mistakes”. And she advises you to be positive about possible failure. Let it just be a sign that you've dared to do something. And only those who dare can win. Anyone who dares not has already lost. Perhaps courage is simply to accept that life is both: success and failure. "It is my right to life to try things out!" Is the sentence that the psychologist would like to write on everyone's bathroom mirror. And women in particular, with their strong and mostly good intuition, have a wonderful source from which they can draw courage for new paths, says Schirl. “We should learn to listen more to our inner voice again. Perhaps some ideas that come to mind may seem strange at first. But if something in us tells us: 'Do that!', Then we should courageously trust each other. "

The Berlin economist and management consultant Günter F. Gross, author of the book “Courage and Determination. The multipliers of success «. For him, the key to courage lies above all in positive thinking and active action.

»Avoid negative comments: what a beautiful day! Yes, but tomorrow it should get worse again! There is hardly any other comment that better shows how little most people are able to enjoy the present positive, and how strongly they are already mentally linked to the negative that might come. They are incapable of living serenely and joyfully in the present and thus incapable of living at all. You are on hold. You are constantly waiting for the coming deterioration and announce it during the waiting period. Absurd! «Just a happy exuberance can help us to find inner strength and real courage, says Gross:» With every exuberant remark or action you leave the territory of the threat. In times of high spirits you are immune to any feeling of threat. The island of exuberance is a far cry from the mainland of worry and danger. "

The courage hormone

Tests on chicks want to have it proven: testosterone makes you brave! Researchers at the University of Vienna have found that the more testosterone the mother hen has released into the egg, the bolder, more curious and dominant chicks are. On the other hand, more fearful and less sensitive chicks hatched from eggs with less testosterone. It is also known from mice and horses that a high testosterone level strengthens the display and the will to fight. But these results cannot be transferred to humans. So men are not automatically more courageous than women. A study carried out on women by the Universities of Zurich and London came to the conclusion that the one-time dose of testosterone mainly resulted in more fairness. The researchers explain this with the fact that reckless and aggressive behavior in people's social environment leads to disadvantages, while fair and social behavior, on the other hand, promotes status. The study also showed that belief in the supposedly aggressive effect of testosterone alone influences behavior. Participants who had only received a placebo acted more selfish and more willing to take risks, in line with the hormone's anticipatory reputation.


Aikido gives courage

Courage is also a question of self-confidence. A question of making people aware of their own abilities and possibilities. There are many ways to do this. One of them is Aikido. Japanese martial arts is a gentle form of self-defense. From the origin of the word, Ai-Ki-Do is a way (Do) to bring the life energy (Ki) into harmony (Ai). As a martial art, Aikido teaches mindful interaction with others who serve us as partners for our own development and vice versa. The training partner (Uke) brings in his energy in the form of an attack. The defender (Tori) passes this energy on and guides it in circular and spiral movements, the center of which is formed by the defender himself. The techniques of Aikido show the attacker that the energy directed against the other is being neutralized. At the same time, it is a matter of taking a point of view and representing it clearly. Experienced Aikido trainers swear that this Japanese sport, which is more than 1,000 years old, not only leads to an increase in physical well-being, Aikido should also make the mind more flexible and thus give us the ability to adapt to the circumstances of our environment and to be in harmony with it to live. A flexible mind is able to develop dreams and visions and to put them into practice. Anton Enzenhofer from the Aikido Union Linz is convinced that dealing with an attacker shows fearful people that you don't have to be intimidated by the energy that comes your way, but that there are ways to steer it into controllable paths. And people who are used to achieving their goals with a lot of effort and have to overcome resistance will find a way to use their energy more sparingly and avoid unnecessary conflicts. Above all, Aikido shows that we gain a lot if we do not have the goal of defeating others.
  • Embrace your fears

    This is the only way to defeat them. And courage and fear are only two sides of the same coin. You can train courage by trying things that you are afraid of. In the beginning small things that give you courage to master - to be able to say with Seneca: “We don't dare to do it because it's difficult. But because we don't dare, it's difficult. "

  • Allow yourself to make mistakes

    Often our perfectionism gets in the way. Those who boldly break new ground are also allowed to make mistakes. Daring to do something brave also means the possibility of failure. Only those who allow themselves to make a mistake or a failure and can forgive themselves will find the courage to try something at all.

  • Pay attention to your feelings

    The brave listen to their guts. They say it clearly when they feel uncomfortable with a particular situation or behavior. "It is important to me that" could be a formula for it.

  • Look for role models

    Courage is contagious. Everyone can be a role model if they are aware of their strengths. Too often we focus on what we can't.

  • Trust your actions

    Courage takes self-confidence. The confidence that our actions can make a difference. Those who keep looking back at past successes will find courage for new ones.

  • Define your goals

    When we have a clear goal in mind, obstacles become hurdles that can be overcome. It doesn't always have to be big goals. Even if the goals are small, achieving them gives us satisfaction and motivation. We are much more enthusiastic and more willing to overcome difficulties. The general rule is: Look at the solution, not the problem!

“Courage has many facets. Just as many as people have faces. And stories. Courage has nothing to do with the absence of fear. And courage can be learned. Also in the stories of courage from others.

We introduce you to five women whose courage can give you courage! These women may not have much in common, except for one thing: daring trust in their own strength! " The world belongs to the courageous

Roswitha Tscheliesnig, goat cheese farmer:

When Roswitha Tscheliesnig was 42 years old, "the worst thing I could think of" happened to her. In 2006, the mother of two had just found the courage to set up an agricultural business in Upper Styria after her parental leave - planned as a family business. The former university lecturer lost her husband, also a company partner and support, almost overnight, because he confessed to his homosexuality and to life with his new boyfriend. Alone with two children, she was faced with a huge task with an uncertain outcome. “Somehow my naivety gave me the courage to keep going. I feel like a cat that keeps falling on my feet and I haven't taken into account real failure. In addition, it kept me responsible for my children to carry on, ”Roswitha Tscheliesnig recalls of her“ state of shock, which lasted for two years ”. Today, six years later, the farmer can smile freely again. Your goat dairy is doing very well. Her husband has returned to the farm with his friend. Your new significant other will soon join, so that responsibility and work will then rest on eight shoulders instead of just your two. And Roswitha Tscheliesnig has gained something besides her professional self-fulfillment: »An unbelievable freedom. Because now I know I can do anything! "

Hanna Schwarz, Greenpeace activist:

She climbs onto balconies and roofs and sits down on rails at night and in the cold and in the face of a mounted police force armed with water cannons and tear gas to stop the "Castor" transport of nuclear waste. Former elementary school teacher Hanna Schwarz brought her commitment to the environment and against nuclear power to Greenpeace in 2006. At that time, she camped in the winter in the freezing cold in the Lobau to prevent the planned motorway construction there. Since then, the 32-year-old has been involved in some dangerous actions. “Of course that also scares you sometimes. But seeing how many different people get involved, and the community with them, always gives me courage, «says Hanna Schwarz. In addition, she attests to a fundamentally positive attitude and a "basic trust in the world" that her parents would have given her. »To me, courage means that I get involved in the new and the unknown. But there is always a calculable risk, and I can estimate what I can trust myself, ”says the Viennese with Carinthian roots, who likes to use role models as a guide. Hannah Arendt and Maria Montessori come to mind spontaneously: "Women who have not made it easy for themselves, have broken new ground and fought for it."

Sabrina Grillitsch, South Pole conqueror:

Sabrina Grillitsch is 28 and a soldier. A year ago, she marched 400 kilometers over eight days at minus 40 degrees through an ice desert to the South Pole - as the only woman in the victorious Austrian team in the race to the South Pole. If you ask her where she got the courage from, she shrugs her shoulders: “Of course I was tense beforehand, but I was well prepared. And I'm used to alpine training. ”One of the reasons why this is so is that the distinctive Tyrolean is the first and so far only woman in the Austrian armed forces who has successfully completed her hunting command training. And in retrospect, this penetration into an absolute male domain was the greater challenge for the determined young woman than a TV-ready forced march through ice and snow. “It is difficult for some men to see that a woman can do something that is difficult for them to do themselves. There was real bullying there. That was not an easy time. «Back then, Sabrina Grillitsch said that the support of family and friends was particularly important to her. But when talking to the lively woman, it quickly becomes clear that she has other qualities that give her the courage to succeed: self-reflection, a strong will and a good dose of humor! Sabrina Grillitsch likes to laugh.And one thing she has just learned as a female trainer from male recruits in the armed forces: »Recognize and use your strengths. Nobody will beat you with the weapons you have chosen! "

Lina Ben Mhenni, blogger of the Tunisian revolution:

Lina Ben Mhenni became known as the voice of the revolution. With her internet blog, the 28-year-old was one of the first protagonists of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia in 2010, with which the Arab Spring began. From the beginning she participated in the uprising and informed the outside world on her blog about the protests of the youth and the violence of the security forces. Places where cruel things happened - Lina was there. Your equipment for the Jasmine Revolution? A mobile phone for the picture, a laptop for the text, the SIM card for mobile data transfer. Enough to secure "evidence," as she calls it, before the propaganda of the overthrown dictator Ben Ali could obliterate such a thing. Until early 2011, Lina's blog was censored by the regime, the old government. Her camera was stolen, her parents' home ransacked, her boyfriend locked up for several weeks, perhaps even tortured. For her courage, Mhenni was being talked about for the Nobel Peace Prize. Today she travels across Europe to report on what happened. And she is convinced that she must keep fighting to achieve real democracy for her country. But above all she wants one thing: to remember! So that the names of those shot in the riots are not forgotten.

Hermine Reisinger, author on my own behalf:

Hermine Reisinger has had the bitter experience that in life you are often twice a victim. She is born as the sixth child to an unmarried mother. She came to the home at 32 days and to a foster family at seven months. The foster father does the most severe sexual violence to her in the first years of life. When he was twelve, he became pregnant and forced her to have an abortion. At 14, she "flees" to a reformatory. But when her "case" became public and pending in court, she received no help, only the feeling that she was to blame for her "dirty, sex-obsessed world of thoughts" and that she was "really that bad". At the age of 23, after being raped, Hermine Reisinger had a daughter who grew up with adoptive parents. She herself slips into prostitution and severe drug and alcohol addiction. At 42, Hermine Reisinger found the way to a new, better life.
In her book "Tote Kinderseele" she tells her story with courageous, relentless openness. And she lives to encourage other victims of violence with her courage to learn the truth. Courage to go on living, courage to accuse the perpetrators, courage to be open. With her initiative “Against Sexual Violence” she wants to “be a voice for those affected”. Hermine Reisinger has redirected her dismay, her anger towards the perpetrators into creativity and strength: "The anger in me that drives me and makes me do what I see as my human duty to all child victims is far from over!"

Published in “Welt der Frau” 3/2012 - by Yvonne Schwarzinger