“We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong.”
Theodore Roosevelt (American President)
“He was just a coward and that was the worst luck any many could have.”
Ernest Hemingway (American Novelist, For Whom The Bell Tolls)
“Cowards die many times before their actual deaths.”
Julius Caesar (Roman Leader)
I remember the day I looked in the mirror and saw a coward.
I was working for a large company and things were going well, financially.
I was part of a team and spent most of my days in meetings and answering emails.
Things were easy.
I was unsatisfied, but any restlessness I felt was buried under a mountain of triple caramel lattes, afternoon martinis, happy hours, and endless pats on the back for doing a “good job”.
Greatness had become a distant memory.
I was sooooooo cozy.
I remember washing my hands in the office bathroom one day and looking up to see nothing but a chubby coward.
What had I become?
Someone who laughed at all my boss’s jokes because it might lead to a $1 raise some day?
Someone who went to meetings, and smiled and nodded, because he didn’t care about what was being discussed?
Some sap who just accepted mediocrity in every aspect of his professional and personal life?
Yep, that was me.
Hi, I’m Isaiah and I’m a coward.
I was on my way to full-blown cowardice.
It was a close call, but I recognized the warning signs and quickly transitioned into a new career and radically reorganized my life.
I stepped away from my cozy pod and got uncomfortable.
It wasn’t easy, but it felt great and it lead to a much fuller life.
What Is A Coward And How Do They Live?
By default, human beings become more cautious and stop taking risks as they get older.
This is okay.
Some of it is even normal and expected as our hormones, energy levels, and sense of responsibility or obligation change over predictable life stages.
Sometimes we become cautious because we’ve actually just become complacent in our lives.
Very often, this cautious behavior turns into cowardly behavior.
Very often, people learn to be helpless as they get older.
This learned helplessness makes you dependent on others for direction or rescue, and creates an automatic target for manipulators.
The opposite of cowardice is courage.
It assumes the absence of fear, or the ability to act in spite of fear, regardless of consequences.
A person of courage has backbone.
They don’t allow someone else to push them around, belittle them, or hold them back.
This aligns with research in Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology on courage in all three areas: physical courage, moral courage, and psychological courage.
Courage is essential to our overall well-being and allows us to remain confident and determined in the face of fear of being injured, fear of being ostracized, and fear of emotional and mental instability.
Courage is what allows us to move forward in our lives into anything uncertain.
The Journal of Humanistic Counseling describes courage as “choosing growth over safety.”
When you become cautious and overprotective, you start to live small.
Your life becomes safe but stagnant.
When you give into fear by holding back or not retaliating in the face of abuse, you increase your cowardice and decrease your courage.
Your self-esteem takes a crushing blow with each event, until cowardice becomes a habit.
Caution becomes a habit.
Giving up power becomes a habit.
Living small, meaningless, mediocre lives becomes your standard.
Over time, you’ll start rationalizing your wimpy maneuvers while daydreaming about how you actually want to act.
Don’t let this happen to you.
How To Protect Yourself From Becoming A Coward
The trend towards caution is usually an avoidance tactic.
If you stand up for yourself in a relationship, it might mean the beginning of the end, and you don’t want to go there.
If you stand up for yourself to your boss, it might mean you lose your job.
And then what?
The end of the world?
Stop being so dramatic.
The truth is, you can’t control how other people are going to react.
The more you hold back and act like a coward, the more resentment you’ll feel.
Your life will stop moving forward and you’ll wonder why you never achieved your biggest goals.
Because you became a coward, that’s why.
Bit by bit, with every concession you made for another person’s temperament, for speculated consequences, for someone else’s goals.
Stop living your life for other people, and being afraid of your own shadow.
Instead, pay attention to these 3 warning signs that you might slowly be turning into a coward.
1. You rationalize other people’s bad behavior.
The first warning sign that you’re turning into a coward is that you’ve started to rationalize taking verbal abuse by telling yourself it’s only temporary.
Or rationalizing any inappropriate behavior in general, to keep the peace and avoid confrontation.
How many times have you let a family member or friend treat you poorly and told yourself that it’s only temporary, and the overall relationship is more important than this moment?
How many times have you let a boss or manager yell at you like you were a little kid while you justified it by telling yourself that you’re going to quit soon anyway?
Or maybe you told yourself that you’re being the bigger person by taking the abuse?
The truth is, you’re being a coward.
Any time you let someone walk all over you and treat you like dirt, you give part of yourself away.
It’s impossible to take this kind of abuse without it slowly turning into a habit.
Every time you tolerate someone cutting you down you give them power over your self-worth.
You make excuses for someone to deflect the pain of their words, and you shrink.
That shrinking is the posture of a coward.
The more you let things slide by telling yourself it’s only temporary, the more you learn to be helpless, and the more of a coward you become.
The more abuse you allow, the more abuse that will follow.
Psychologist Adam Galinsky refers to the abuses that we allow into our lives as our “acceptable range of behavior.”
Each of us has our own determination of acceptable treatment and our sense of power determines what that range is.
When we lack power, our range narrows — we accept poor behavior and increase our coward quotient because we get trapped in a position that he calls the low-power bind whereby, “if we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, but if we do speak up, we get punished.”
It’s a lose-lose scenario.
The longer you accept mistreatment, the more powerful those abusers feel and the more of an easy target you’ll become.
2. You habitually make apologies for things that are not your fault.
The second warning sign that you’re turning into a coward is that you start saying “I’m sorry” for the smallest things, without realizing it.
Do you ever catch yourself saying you’re sorry when you know you shouldn’t?
Maybe someone bumps into you on the street, or in a crowded restaurant. It’s their fault, but you say you’re sorry out of habit.
Or maybe someone close to you gets upset over something you say, or how you said it, and you apologize just to calm them down.
Apology is the pathway to cowardice.
Studies show that people who constantly apologize for themselves have low levels of self-esteem.
If you have low self-esteem, you’ll believe that everything is your fault.
It’ll become your crutch.
The excuse you use to avoid growth.
When you apologize for things when you don’t need to, you choose safety and shrinkage over growth.
Build your own self-esteem and stop conceding your life so easily.
If you’re in a situation where you have to apologize or face someone else’s nightmarish behavior, get out of that situation.
Leave that person.
Quit that job.
Eliminate the problem.
Don’t just keep saying, “I’m sorry.”
Don’t just become a bigger and bigger coward.
3. You sacrifice yourself and your goals to other people.
The third warning sign that you’re turning into a coward is that you’ve started sacrificing your happiness and your goals to other people’s happiness and goals.
Nothing is more common than people giving up their happiness, or giving up their goals, under the false guise of caring more about other people than themselves.
This happens in relationships all the time.
One person sacrifices what they really want to someone else.
They sacrifice what they want to keep someone else happy.
This happens in business too.
An employee gives up their entrepreneurial dreams for the sake of the needs of the company, or the demands of their boss.
Over time, you give away more and more of your goals and aspirations to your friends, family, partners, and employers.
But, for what?
For a pat on the head as a dutiful servant?
To feel safe?
What a waste.
The people who would let you sacrifice your biggest dreams for them are not the kind of people you should keep in your life.
These people are users.
They are manipulators who are happy to reap the benefits of your sacrifices for their success.
Stop being a crutch for them.
Stop being their chewtoy.
The truth is, these people are either scared of achieving their goals, or too lazy to do the work necessary to achieve them.
Or, they enjoy the significance of having other people rely on them.
They enjoy making other people dependent on them, because then they can use guilt and obligation to make these dependents take care of them.
The only way to avoid becoming a dependent is to commit to never sacrificing yourself or your goals to others.
At the same time, you must commit to never asking anyone else to sacrifice themselves or their goals to you.
Remember, both you and other people can achieve big things at the same time.
Both you and other people can be happy and successful at the same time.
If you have big goals, you need to have big courage. If you’re letting people walk on you, if you’re weakening yourself by always apologizing to appease others, you’ll never move forward toward your goals. You’ll get stuck in a trap of sacrificing your goals for others forever. These are signs that you’re becoming more cowardly. Stop rationalizing bad behavior. Stop staying silent to avoid rocking the boat and upsetting others. Stop sacrificing what’s important to your purpose in life for anyone else. Set some non-negotiables, build your self-esteem, and create some boundaries around what’s important to you to avoid becoming a coward.
To learn more about how mediocre living can turn you into a coward, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.