Do we have Imperfect Courage?

Fear is holding women back all across the world: fear of trying new things, fear of failure or even success, and what it would imply for them and their families. They are concerned about how others view them and are battling the nagging beliefs that they are inconsequential and that their voice is unimportant.

Jessica Honegger, author of Imperfect Courage, is living proof that you should overcome your anxieties, venture outside of your comfort zone, and live a meaningful and purposeful life. Honegger once held a jewelry auction to raise money for her goal of adopting a Rwandan orphan while also providing income to Ugandan craftsmen. Her home jewelry sale would grow into a $17-million business run by 4,000 Noonday ambassadors, supporting thousands of craftspeople, many of them women, in countries all over the world, she had no idea at the time.

Honegger ventured outside of her comfort zone with little business experience but a strong Christian faith, a little fear, and a lot of tenacity. She realized her dream of adoption, developed a socially responsible business, and discovered a life of meaning in the process.

Jessica Honegger had no intention of starting Noonday, her jewelry and fashion company; it all happened by chance. She had originally hoped to adopt a child. Years before, on a trip to Africa, she cradled a tiny kid in her arms who had been orphaned after her parents died of AIDS. She knew in her heart from that moment forward that the next step for her family would be adoption.

Unfortunately, international adoption is costly, and the housing market fell just as their adoption plan was coming together. Her and her husband’s income dropped as well, because they made a living by renovating and reselling homes. Honegger really needed a second job, and she needed it quickly.

She recalled her Ugandan friends bemoaning the fact that two wonderful local artists, Jalia and Daniel Matovu, a husband and wife team, had no way of selling their handcrafted items for the fair market value their work warranted. Honegger had made a choice. She planned to sell Matovus products to friends and family in Austin, along with clothes from her own closet and whatever else she could locate. She wasn’t sure if it would work; in fact, she was worried that none of her friends would show up for the sale, and that others would judge her.

It did, however, work. Her buddies arrived. They were attracted by the linkages between fashion and effect, style and history, profit and purpose that came together in the selling of these exquisite Ugandan things, and they cared about her adoption process. Honegger had practically sold everything in an hour.

She realized she was onto something that night. Her initial sale was followed by a second and then a third. She sent an email to the Matovus, requesting additional shares and wiring money back to them. Honegger lacked commercial expertise, but she possessed a great deal of guts – the courage to speak up for what she believed in. She transformed her side hustle into an international business with the help of friends and a little common sense, employing and supporting thousands of women in the United States and around the world. And what began as a wish for adoption became a reality when the Honeggers welcomed Rwandan orphan Jack Honegger into their household the following year.

Comfort is an easy option for those of us who come from fortunate circumstances. Staying in your familiar surroundings is, well, familiar. For most of us, curling up on the couch with a cup of hot tea or a bottle of wine and binge-watching Netflix sounds like the perfect plan. It provides a sense of security, comfort, and a pleasant feeling that everything is well — after all, not much can go wrong during a Netflix marathon.

Many of us crave comfort in our lives, preferring a pizza night on the couch than going out and learning something new or meeting new people. It appears that remaining home and sticking with what we know won’t harm us. But what exactly does this comfort provide for us? A mundane existence in which we have no influence and exist in a spiritual vacuum.

Choosing boldness above comfort is a superior strategy. Courage had always meant full fearlessness to the author. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered for his courage in standing up for what he believed in despite threats to his life. On 9/11, think of the firefighters who raced toward danger while everyone else fled away.

The truth is that most of us think of courage as something a little less risky. It meant continuing her adoption process despite an almost depleted financial account for the author, and it meant opening her home for a jewelry sale while not knowing whether any of her friends would come up. It was a defective form of courage, but it was the only one she had.

And her decision to embrace risk rather than accept her current circumstances, to run fearfully toward her goal, had a huge impact on her life. As a house flipper and educator with no business experience, it led to her successful adoption and the beginnings of a business career she never imagined she could have. She was able to connect with thousands of exceptional women at the company’s US offices and throughout the world as a result of her work, many of whom were discovering their own courage on a daily basis.

Do you have life goals that you haven’t been able to fulfill due of your fears? According to a recent study by political scientists at Brigham Young University, when women are the minority in a group trying to solve a problem, they speak up to 75% less than men. Girls and women are taught to be gentle, courteous, and modest, and not to speak up in society. However, if you want to realize your best potential and achieve your goals, you must speak up.

When the Honeggers’ adoption of their son, Jack, was nearly complete, one final, crucial step remained. They required official approval from a Rwandan judge as soon as possible. Rwanda’s foreign adoption regulations were being revised on short notice, and any delay could mean losing the opportunity to adopt Jack. Their lawyers advised them, however, that quick authorization was almost never obtained.

As a result, Honegger, her husband, and other prospective adoptive parents went to the judge’s office to wait. Faced with the possibility of losing her new baby, the author recognized she couldn’t wait for fate to decide their fate.

She was apprehensive since she was unfamiliar with Rwandan decorum in such a setting. However, she stood up, took a step forward, and addressed the judge. She thanked him for giving her the chance to visit his nation and meet with him. And she told him that everyone present would be grateful if they were allowed to take their children out of the orphanage that day.

To the surprise of the attorneys and the judges’ staff, he agreed. Everyone’s adoptions were approved on that day. If Honegger hadn’t had the courage to speak up, the procedure could have continued, jeopardizing all of the planned adoptions. When Honegger is tempted to remain silent, she remembers that event and is reminded of the power of conquering her fear, rising up, and speaking up. So, if you ever have a nagging feeling in your gut that you should speak up in life, pay attention to it. Allowing your fear to stop you from responding to such thoughts is a mistake.

If you’re willing to stand up, step out, and reach for it, there’s a world of potential waiting for you. However, far too many women have absorbed the notion that they must keep up with their peers. When it comes to body image, this is especially true. According to one international study, 98 percent of women wish to improve at least one aspect of their physical appearance. So, unless you’re one of the really fortunate 2%, you’re probably seeking what you think is a better version of yourself rather than embracing who you are.

So, how can we improve our ability to recognize our genuine worth? Take a step back and look at the situation from afar. Thinness is highly valued in the United States. However, many African women, according to the author, think large hips are attractive since they signify you’ve had a good life. Many Latin Americans, she adds, regard gold front teeth as both attractive and an indication that you can afford dental treatment.

So, whatever flaws you have, from frizzy hair to a little extra cushion in your bones, keep in mind that there is a culture out there that considers these characteristics as attractive. Recognizing that standards are subjective is one thing; speaking and thinking positively to yourself is another. Reconsidering the labels you use to yourself and others is one practical strategy to improve at this.

Replace the word “unstylish” with “I’m a person who struggles with style on sometimes.” If you catch yourself saying something like “I’m flat-chested,” change it to “a person with lesser breasts.” Why? You may battle with your style, breast size, weight, or any other aspect of your personality, but this does not define you. Place yourself at the center of your own discourse as a whole person with dignity.

We all have aspects of ourselves that we want to keep to ourselves, particularly those portions that carry our worries and anxieties. The fact is, we can only fully connect with others, encourage support, understanding, and compassion, and develop deep and meaningful connections, if we share those elements.

It’s not always simple to admit our flaws, but doing so can have a significant impact. It could even save a life, as in the instance of Hope, a little Ugandan girl. HIV has a major stigma in Uganda, and many people hide their positive diagnoses as a result. Hope’s mother had been infected with HIV and passed it on to Hope while she was pregnant. Hope was ashamed when she learned her affliction as a child. She became iller by denying the realities of her situation. Hope’s mother begged with Honegger’s artisan friend Jalia Matovu to urge Hope to get therapy.

The first stage in Hope’s treatment was disclosing her vulnerability — in this case, her HIV diagnosis – to Matovu, and it was almost too much for her to take. Matovu, on the other hand, not only listened to Hope’s narrative, but also embraced it with empathy and compassion. Hope’s humiliation vanished, and she realized that the only way she could get out of her misery was to own her vulnerability. Hope now lives as if she has nothing to be ashamed of. She is both joyful and healthy while in therapy and upfront about her illness.

Honegger spent a lot of time early in her career masking her vulnerability: her fear that she wasn’t the genuine deal when it came to business. She was afraid that if people learned the truth about her business that it all started in a spare room in her house and that she muddled her way through, they would dismiss her as a true entrepreneur.

Honegger began to recognize the benefits of exercising vulnerability and accepting the truth of her life and business after working with other women and listening to their tales. She’d be honest whenever she was invited to appear on a panel with super-successful business leaders.

She’d declare she didn’t want to pretend it any longer, and she’d publicly admit that she had no experience managing an executive team, only a lot of hustling experience. And the more open she was about her flaws, the more genuine connection she felt with others, because she was able to show her complete, authentic self. Try it out for yourself, and accept your own insecurities. What, after all, is more valuable to communicate than the truth about who you are?

Check out my related post: How can you get most from your network?

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