the science of courage

We’re all familiar with those characters in movies who are the absolutely fearless warriors who run towards certain death only to emerge from the rubble victorious, with just enough strength to utter a cheesy one liner and snog the damsel in distress…. *yawn* 🙄

Well, guess what? Hollywood has fictitious tendencies – shock horror, right!?!?

Real life heroes are the everyday people who, whether terrified or not, will go out of their way to help another person. Real life heros are the firefighters, aid workers, nurses and doctors those who, despite self doubt and worry, have a willingness to act in the face of fear. Real life heroes are the everyday people who carry on despite their fears, setbacks and failures.

Psssst: *Anyone who says that they don’t get scared from time to time is probably not telling the whole truth.*

The truth is, there is no courage without fear.

So, what actually is fear?

The Amygdala is your brain’s emergency response unit. It is also the part of our brains responsible for our emotions – we’ve all seen the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out. Those creatures with all their little quirks and personality traits exist inside the main character’s Amygdala.

When a threat comes along, let’s say, a spider… our body reacts in such a way to maximise our survival chances. The Amygdala releases stress hormones which increase the heart rate sending blood coursing through our veins to reach the muscles quicker for flight. Observational senses such as hearing and eyesight are sharpened, and we quickly decide ‘fight or flight’.

Now that humans are no longer living in the wild, the fear of physical threats (like being a lion’s breakfast) are replaced by things like failure, vulnerability, rejection and uncertainty.


Courage is about managing your fear. It can be nurtured and practised until you have the ability to face your fears, whatever they may be. When we are scared we act differently to when we are calm. Studies have shown that a certain part of the brain is activated when we engage in courageous acts called the Subgenual Anterior Cingulate Cortex (sgACC) – keeping this part of your brain well exercised is key to overcoming your fears.

Most importantly, courage is NOT a lack of fear. It can be described as the readiness to act in the face of fear. We don’t eliminate fear, we manage it.
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How can I manage my fear?

Expose yourself to scary things – try to put yourself into situations that may be uncomfortable and slowly take steps to overcome any anxiety that holds you back. We’re not talking about throwing yourself into the lion’s enclosure at the zoo, we mean little things like holding a snake, climbing a ladder or speaking out in assembly. The more you put yourself into scary situations, the more you’ll be able to recognise and deal with the physical effects of being scared – the wobbly knees, the sweaty palms etc…

Consider the outcomes – if you map out every outcome, often you’ll find that they’re never as bad as you first imagine.

Plan – have a clear plan of how you’re going to do something. Let’s say, your fear at this time is talking to your parents about a topic you’re certain they won’t like. You need to have a plan of action. Think about how you’re going to approach the situation and what you’re going to do after it. Plan a place to go  and a way to calm down after it’s done, this will enable you to go into the situation with a little less uncertainty because you’ll be prepared for any outcome.

Talk about it – ask for help. We’re not meant to do life on our own. We’re meant to do it together so share your fears and they will seem a lot less scary when they’re out in the open! Chances are, there are a lot of other people out there who share your fear, what ever it may be!

What’s your biggest fear?

Whether it’s the monster under the bed or the big hairy spider in your bathroom… join the community and spill the beans on what makes you want to hide under the duvet…

overcoming shyness

Some people are shy. Some people are not…

Social anxiety and shyness can be really difficult to overcome. Being shy and suffering with social anxiety can sometimes be the biggest road block when it comes to making new friends, meeting new people and expressing yourself. Some people are born shy, others are shy because things like bullying or a of lack of confidence and sometimes need a lil boost to get them back to top form.

Whatever the reason, shyness can hold you back in so many different ways. Some people don’t feel like they can ever be themselves or only feel relaxed when in a very small group of close mates. Depending on the person, sometimes it means missing out on opportunities and events due to that feeling of dread when faced with a new situation. We came up with some ways to try and boost your confidence when the shyness kicks in…

Tips for Overcoming Shyness

1. Keep on keepin’ on. Shyness sometimes comes about due to a fear of rejection. Rejection is something that we all have faced at some point during our lives. Whether it’s rejection in love, in work or between friends, don’t let that fear hold you back, resilience is key and if at first, you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again. Check out this article to find out the truth about rejection.

2. Push yourself. Overcoming shyness is about coming out of your comfort zone. Even something like answering the phone at work, or knocking next door for a parcel seems like the most daunting thing at the time but with hindsight, you think, ‘well, that was no big deal’. Take a deep breath and push yourself a tiny bit each time, you’ll be surprised what you’re capable of and how quickly it becomes easier.

3. Simply being around people will slowly build up your confidence. You’ll soon find that you trust yourself to speak up in discussions and learn to relax a bit more when around other people.

4. Nurture your talents. If you’re good at something like cooking, running, music or makeup – nurture it. It may not be groundbreaking, prodigious talent but if you channel that nervous energy into an activity, you’ll feel ten times better about yourself when you see it improve. It also provides a great talking point for conversations when you run out of things to say and things get awkward – we all know that feeling!

5. Work on your confidence – check out this article on 10 Things You Need to Know about Confidence. Shyness has a lot to do with lacking self-confidence to get yourself out there.

6. Talk to people about it. Ok, so we’ve established that you might not be the best as talking, but have you noticed how much easier it is to talk to like minded people who share similar experiences? Find out here.

7. Some people are just shy. Some people are just shier than others and that’s ok too. Take our quiz to determine if you’re an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in-between!

If you want to talk to someone about your self-confidence, or shyness or you want to start a conversation with other people about shyness as a result of bullying, do that here and talk to a digital mentor.



What I wish I knew about rejection when I was younger.

Rejection is inevitable.

Splitting up with your partner, failing an exam, being left out by mates, not getting into the college or university you wanted, being dropped from a sports team, being let go at work, failing your driving test and being bullied can leave us all feeling rejected and deflated. No one can live a life free from rejection and we all have our turn at facing it.

Here are 6 things I wish someone had have told me about rejection when I was younger:

No one is keeping count.

Having experienced my own fair share of rejection growing up; I struggled academically, I failed my driving test repeatedly and felt invisible to the opposite sex for most of my teen years to name a few. Somewhere along the line I started to believe that there was an unspoken and invisible number of times I was allowed to fail before I officially became a loser and worse still, someone was keeping count. Turns out unsurprisingly this is total rubbish, yes its true people experience different levels of rejection but no one anywhere is keeping count of yours except for maybe you. Do yourself a favour and stop this right now. You are human and therefore not only entitled to get things wrong, but it is a guarantee that you will – just like the billions of other people in the world.

It happens to all of us.

It is all too easy to feel alone in failure but that is simply not true, when we fail we are in very good company; J.K.Rowling had Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone rejected by twelve major publishers before it was picked up over a year later by Bloomsbury. Stephen Spielberg was turned down twice when trying to get into the USC Cinematic film School. Walt Disney was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star paper by the editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” and his first company went bankrupt. One of the best on-screen dancers of all time Fred Astaire was told by the screen tester at MGM that he “Can’t dance, can’t sing” and was “slightly bald”. Jim Carey was booed off stage during his first stand up gig in Toronto. Next time it happens take a deep breath and remind yourself you are not alone nor will you be the last person to go through it.

Look for the lessons.

Rejection hurts and that will never change. But it doesn’t have to be the only thing you experience from it. Rejection can be a great teacher if we are willing to look for the lessons and grow from it. This changed everything for me when I stopped feeling ashamed by my failings and started to try and learn from them. Rejection has taught me to not give up, that its ok to make mistakes and to stop taking everything so personally. This only happened when I stopped running from it and started facing it.
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It’s good for us.

Even though it feels like the total opposite, getting rejected is actually good for us. It deflates our ego and if we allow it to – helps us develop a bit of humility. Humility is often confused with being a doormat. This isn’t true. Humility is about right sizing ourselves and knowing we are all the same, no one is above us or below us. So let the rejection be a gentle reminder of your humanness and to treat everybody a little kinder.

Share it.

The last thing anyone wants to do when they have been rejected is to share it. It’s human nature to want to save face and keep it to ourselves. But this is the worst thing to do as the secrecy soon turns it into a toxic mix of guilt, shame and embarrassment. By sharing it with someone we trust we stop that happening and get the support and strength we need to carry on and keep trying.

Let it make you fearless.

Don’t let a rejection scare you off future attempts. You are more likely to succeed on your second or third try. And even if you don’t get the results you want, you’ll get feedback so you can keep improving. In my experience when I finally figured out that rejection was as bad as I made it and I always have a choice how I view it, it no longer became this scary monster and I got braver. So in face of rejection what counts is standing up again not how many times you get knocked down.

If you’re struggling with rejection and want to chat, let one of our experts help. Sign up to Community now and start a conversation.

The beauty of hindsight is the realisation that things which seem so obvious now, were totally alien to me back in the day…

Bullying can shatter our confidence to smithereens but however you rate yours, here is what you need to know and what I wish I knew about confidence as a teen:

1. Everyone has things they feel insecure about.

Yes, that’s right everyone, even those people who make life look easy have areas they find challenging. It’s part of being human so don’t let yourself think for one second that they don’t – its bull s**t.

2. What you think of yourself is more important than any other opinion of you out there.

Living a life where other people’s opinion of you comes first before your own is a fragile and heart breaking place to be. Truly confident people are grounded, they have an honest and loving opinion of themselves based on what they know to be true, not what other people think. Do not let others dictate your self-worth.

3. School doesn’t last forever.

School for a lot of people is tough, it takes a toll on our confidence in a thousand and one small ways. So if that’s you reading this, please don’t give up. School will finish and you will be ok.

4. You are always enough.

Regardless of how people treat you, how many friends you have, what you look like, how much money you have, whether you have a disability, whatever your sexuality is, however many followers you have, whether you are single, whether you are not invited to a party, whether you struggle at sports, whether you have a disfigurement, whether you are underweight or over weight, whatever you have been through or are going through: You are enough.

5. It’s ok to be different.

Don’t spend so much time trying to fit in and be like everyone else. A huge part of growing your confidence is embracing who you are, not who you wish you were.

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6. A perfect body will never make you happy.

Shocker I know. I chased this one for years thinking “when I have the perfect body then I will have the perfect life.” This is all a big ruse reinforced by the media, fashion, beauty and diet industry. The future of which depends on all of us striving for perfection. Agreed, it’s easier to feel good about yourself in a healthy body but I said perfect, not healthy. Confidence comes from embracing the body we are in right now, not constantly striving for perfection.

7. You will have to feel pain.

There is no getting around this one. Feeling pain is a crucial part of the process. Because every time we get to the other side of pain, fear and embarrassment is when we know what it means to feel strength and every challenge will help to grow your confidence if you let it.

8. Not everyone will like you.

In exactly the same way that you don’t like everyone, not everyone will like you. What a relief that was to find out. It means that when someone doesn’t like you it’s not a big deal or a question on your character, don’t take it personally and move on. Focus on the people who do like and love you, they are the ones that matter.

9. It takes time.

We all talk a lot about needing more confidence but the truth is, confidence does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort and like anything worth having, there are no shortcuts. So stop stressing if you aren’t where you want to be confidence-wise in your teens – it’s a marathon not a sprint.

10. Be kind.

What does kindness have to do with confidence? Everything. How we treat other people is a reflection of how we really feel about ourselves. If you want to feel more confident and like yourself more, treat others better.

If you’re struggling with issues surrounding your confidence, body image or self-esteem, you’re not alone. Get help now or have a read of our short guide on ‘How to Embrace and Be Yourself’.

We talked body positivity, self-love and naked selfies with three life models who subvert dominant ideologies, and unapologetically bare all to a room full of strangers on a regular basis. Amy, Caitlin and Olivia all make a living posing nude for artists; they tell us what it is really like to be the muse behind a masterpiece.

DTL: What motivated you to become a life model?

Amy: I’ve suffered from disordered eating, most acutely between the ages of about 19 and 22. I started life modelling when I was 20 as a conscious attempt to change my perception of my body, to try to see it as something to be used rather than as just something that was there to look a certain way, to conform to arbitrary beauty standards.

Olivia: I’m pretty disproportionate. I have quite an odd body shape and a life drawing class, I feel, is one of the few places where that’s a good thing. I spoke to other artists and they told me I would be good to draw, so I thought I’d try it out.

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DTL: How did it feel the very first time you stood nude in front of a class? How did you build up enough confidence in order to do that?

Amy: I think when people ask me this they want me to say it was really scary and difficult, but it honestly didn’t bother me because I was so positive that doing it was going to help me love myself. In that moment, it didn’t matter whether or not I was happy with my body, because that wasn’t the point. The point was to do good poses with the body I had. Despite having had a bad relationship with body image, in the context of the life class, getting naked just felt so right.

Olivia: I’ll be honest, it didn’t really bother me. It’s an entirely different context from say, sex or burlesque or some kind of steamy fashion shoot. You’re there to help people and they’re really appreciative of that. People are so kind and grateful that you’re willing to sit for them. I went away from my first session feeling better than I’d ever felt about myself.

“Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial” – Olivia

DTL: Has your perception of your body changed since becoming a life model?

Caitlin: Yes! As a cis-woman bombarded with terrible, unattainable standards, the relationship with your body can be bitter, confused and isolating. To do something, any remarkable thing with your body; whether that is modelling, dancing, swimming or pogo jumping – provides you with a sense of wonder that we should all feel for our incredible, glorious, capable bodies. The body becomes an important part of the self when you model; it’s your instrument of expression and you come to realise the instrument may have some wonky keys and dusty bridges but it’s beautiful and valuable just the way it is.

Amy: My perception of my body has definitely changed since becoming a life model. I can’t say that it was life modelling alone that helped me overcome my fraught relationship with food and my body, but it has played a huge part. Now when I think about the parts of my body that I used to try to shrink and change, I see them as unique shapes and lines and textures that I can use to inspire people.

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DTL: How do you think nudity is perceived in today’s society? And do you think those perceptions vary depending on gender, age, race, disability?

Olivia: I think nudity is pretty normal. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s a very specific kind of nudity; whitewashed, overtly sexual and unrealistic. Nudity seems to be okay as long as you’re skinny and tall but if you’re nude and your body does not comply with those standards, it is seen as controversial. It’s so ridiculous. It needs to change. My friend’s 8-year-old daughter came up to her and asked if she could go on a diet because she thought she was fat. That is not ok!

Caitlin: There are socially acceptable and non-acceptable bodies. There are bodies we should be ashamed to walk around in, and some that we should flaunt. There are things we should do with our bodies and there are things we shouldn’t. And of course those perceptions are rooted in patriarchal, racist, ageist, ableist ideas that have been perpetuated by the whitewashed skinny media. Perpetuated because sex and shame sell. Dash that, and be nude in a safe place. We come as we are! And I think that’s worth celebrating. It’s also worth disregarding the guilt trip that makes you feel like you should be buying another god-damn yogurt product. You don’t need it.

“If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it!” -Amy

Amy: Where do I start?! The way we see nudity is absolutely contextual – women’s bare ankles were once perceived as obscene but now we don’t care about flashing a bit of skin below shin-level. Instagram has recently come under fire for deleting pictures of fat women in underwear under their anti-nudity policy, but not thin ones. And of course, our perception of nudity is gendered, you only have to look at the Free the Nipple campaign or the public breastfeeding debate to see that. What we see as the female body is sexualised in ways that our idea of the male body is not. Because our idea of nudity is so rooted in the sexual, it’s hard for anyone who isn’t young, thin, white and able-bodied – ie. conventionally attractive – to be naked without being shamed, ridiculed or attacked in some way.

There’s a perceived obscenity in naked old bodies, or naked disabled bodies, or naked fat bodies, because of the sex aspect that’s so tied in with nudity, but then when someone conventionally attractive like Kim Kardashian bares all, she’s slut-shamed. No one can win really.

I think life modelling really takes the sex out of nudity. You have to take the sex out before you can put it back in (if necessary)! When you life model, you’re not posing to be sexual, you have a body with breasts, genitalia, a bum – why is showing these things any different from showing your nose or your elbow?

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DTL: What is your opinion on naked selfies?

Olivia: I take a lot of them because they make me feel good about myself. I don’t tend to share them, I just keep them to look at when I feel a bit rubbish about myself. It might sound a bit sad but it works for me! I see no reason why people shouldn’t do something that makes them feel good about themselves. The only worrying thing, is if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s why I don’t share mine, I don’t want them used for anything without my consent. I think that’s what people have to watch out for. If you are going to share them or send them to people, good on you! Just make absolutely sure that they are in the hands of people you trust. Your privacy is important and if someone is privileged enough to see a naked selfie of you they should know to treat you with respect and you should be sure that they’ll do just that.

Amy: This may sound pretentious but I do think selfies are a form of artistic expression, especially when women and girls and non-binary people do it, because in a patriarchal world that strives to tell you you’re not thin or pretty or otherwise conforming enough in order to profit from you, to love yourself is a revolutionary act. People can say it’s vain if they like, so what, I’m vain! Vanity is radical when you don’t fit the aesthetic status quo. I think taking naked selfies can be a great way to have fun with your body and your identity, whether or not the pictures are sexual.

There is a lot to be said for the desexualisation of nudity, but I don’t think it’s productive to demonise naked selfies that have a sexual connotation. As long as the picture is taken for the right reasons – for fun, for self-exploration – and the sharing of that selfie is consensual, I fully support the rise of the naked selfie!

“To love yourself is a revolutionary act” -Amy

DTL:  What tips would you give to our readers who may be struggling to embrace their body?

Amy: I’m privileged to be able-bodied, and to earn enough money to feed myself, and it’s important to be aware of those privileges if you have them. I also think it’s important to realise that a lot of the time, the voices that tell us to hate ourselves aren’t our voices, they’re put in our heads by the diet industry or the fashion industry, the film and magazine industry – capitalism basically. If a company can profit from your self-hatred, you can bet they’ll do anything to incite it! Remembering and resisting that is radical.

Caitlin: Embrace your body as an instrument of fun and adapt your relationship with it. It is not easy to accept the parts of yourself that you do not like, but the effort to do so is worth it.

Olivia: Fake it till you make it. You may not feel wholly confident but if you act like it after a while you’ll start to feel that way too. It takes the same amount of work to hate your body as it does to love it. Body confidence is so important, not just for yourself but if other people see someone who loves themselves unconditionally then it will spur them on to do the same. I’ve found people who are the most confident in themselves to also be the most kind, the most giving and the most supportive. And, the most beautiful. Regardless of their size or age or the colour of their skin – they glow, they radiate goodness. You can’t buy that, no matter what the adverts say. Don’t get me wrong, it takes a hell of a lot of work but it’s so worth it.

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DTL: Final thoughts?

Amy: I think life modelling and life drawing is a good chance to celebrate body diversity. I think any way that more people of colour, disabled people, trans people, fat people and older people – anyone who isn’t the same white, young, thin, able-bodied cisgender person that we already see represented everywhere – can be encouraged to model is a step towards universal body positivity.

Thanks to Olivia Hancock, Caitlin Mckeon, Amy Squirrel, Mary Martin and Draw Brighton.