Choose To Be Brave

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” – Emma Donoghue, Room

Two summers ago, I witnessed a ‘standout’ act of bravery. One of our girls had a hard moment on the ‘pamper pole’, a forty-foot telephone pole that you are supposed to climb up, stand on top of, and jump off. (Yes, you are very well harnessed!)

She had made it to the top. However, rather than standing up, she literally curled herself around the platform, belly and face looking down at the ground 40’ below, and her legs and arms wrapped around the top of the pole. Tears intermittently rained down while her head shook from side to side. It was ‘full stop.’

After a bit of conversation, one of the instructors harnessed up and climbed up next to her. About two minutes later, she was standing wobbly on the top. A minute after that, there was a leap, a scream, lots laughter, cheers and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen slowly returning to earth.

“I was terrified!” she said when I asked her about the experience. “But Sarah got there and promised I’d be ok and that I needed to be brave and trust her that I could do it. Oh my gosh… I’m so happy I did it!”

Fear and Bravery

Here’s the thing about fear: it doesn’t go away. It’s our ability to take the fear we are feeling and move forward with our purpose that makes us brave. And that bravery, the actions we take when feeling fear, is what opens up our world.

Fear affects us all. Going into a situation where we do not know anyone else or don’t have an idea how it will turn out. Putting our knowledge ‘on the line’ by taking a test or playing a recital or joining in tournament. Spending the night out at a friend’s house… or going camp.

When we fear, we focus on ourselves. We get ‘insular.’ And the best way to keep the fear strong? Keep staring at ‘yourself’ – your problems, your fears, your self-perceived short comings.

Want to get through the fear? Try this:

Recognize your fear. Name it and make it the object. (You are the subject.) Rather than ‘I’m afraid’ say, ‘I’m feeling fear about getting out of my comfort zone.’

Once you’ve recognized your fear, say I’m not going to let fear stop me from xxx.” You don’t have to love what you’ve decided to do. But once you’ve decided to write that kind note, speak up about something that should be changed, or try waterskiing, don’t let the fear you are feeling stop you.

Then, get after it! Focus on the end result you want and remain open to other inputs coming in. In other words, rather than constantly focusing on the fear you are feeling, spend your energy and focus on what you want to occur and those around you.

A few things will happen with this approach:

  1. The fear won’t go away and it won’t feel as big any more.
  2. You’ll learn that you can do things that, at first, you don’t think possible.
  3. Those who celebrate your efforts are a lot more important than those who try to tear you down for trying.

As old Winston used to say, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Be brave. It’s a choice and an important one at that.