Being Brave Everyday
More often than not, people let fear take control and prevent them from achieving their full potential. Letting fear get the better, people often miss out on great opportunities that come by. The fear of the unknown can be terrifying, surely, but giving in to fear could make one miss out on a dream job, overlook a possible love interest, or even start one’s own business.
Margie Warrell’s Brave (2015) is a guide to being brave. It delves into strategies that one can apply to take day-to-day actions more courageously, and tap into ones full potential to thrive, succeed, and achieve. It discusses how fear stops people from living a fulfilled life, and how each individual can use certain tools to have the courage to get what they want to make their life better.
Face Your Fears
Facing one’s fears and taking action despite feeling fear makes a person stronger.
At the age of 13, when Warrell asked her son Ben what he wanted to do, he excitedly replied, “Sky-jumping.” While Warrell was scared for her son, and so was Ben, he did jump, putting aside his fear. This got Warrell thinking that the fact her son was able to overcome his fear was beneficial for his personality development.
Simply overcoming fear helps in strengthening one’s courage muscles. The trick to increase and strengthen one’s bravery and courage levels is to start small, with day-to-day actions.
For example, a socially awkward person who fears cooking can start small by inviting a few friends for dinner.
Every time one is reluctant to do something or take a particular action, one should note it down. Accepting and being aware that one is fearful of something is the first step towards building confidence and strength. It means one is accepting of the fact that they are afraid of the fear of rejection or failure.
Once the fear is identified, one should immediately take action, practically, without dilly-dallying. So one can begin by thinking about what one would want to do in the next few months if they felt really brave. Next, break down the associated fears with each challenge.
For example, a person who is afraid of public speaking might realize that it is not the act of speaking that is scary, but the possibility of failure, or others judgement that actually gives them the jitters.
The next step is to apply positive thinking. The person can then imagine what giving a successful speech looks and feel like. By imagining a positive outcome of what the person fears, he will be able to understand how it feels to move out of the comfort zone and will help in promoting the person to make a move towards facing fears.
Resist Conformity And Being True To Oneself
Being true to oneself and fighting off conformity pays.
A friend of the author, Carly Findlay, had a skin condition called ichthyosis, which resulted in her having a reddish skin tone, and no eyelashes or eyebrows. As a teen, this condition would often make her feel awkward around people, as she would stand out in a crowd.
Findlay learned to embrace her condition, made her differences her strength, and today, she is an advocate for those who do not fit into what people consider ‘normal’. Findlay learned to accept her differences and to not fear rejection.
Many people face a fear of rejection because they might be different from the normal, either due to their sexuality, appearance, or interests. But being true to oneself results in others accepting a person’s uniqueness. Moreover, one can truly be happy without needing to hide oneself.
This is especially true for children who do not conform to the stereotyped gender roles. If a boy has an interest in fashion, repressing his passion just so that he fits with the other boys around him, will result not only in hiding his talents but also making the boy unhappy deep down. Trying to fit within the norm, will lead to failure.
Acceptance of one’s own uniqueness leads to more natural behaviour, and more often than not others respond more positively to a true person.
Speak Out About What Matters
Fear keeps one from saying out loud the things that matter most.
Consider the life of Malala Yousafzai. Born in Pakistan in 1997, she was an advocate for girls’ education from a very young age. However, the influence of the Taliban in her region prevented women from being educated. By 2012, Yousafzai’s resistance to the Taliban, and her advocacy made her a target. A Taliban gunman shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived, continued her fight for education, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yousafzai spoke for what mattered most to her, despite the danger to her life. People often are afraid to speak their minds, especially when in a group. Later, they regret not speaking up when they had the chance to. While they are not brave enough to stand up for their own beliefs at that moment, in the long run, they feel as if they have betrayed their own values.
This sense of betrayal is the cost of keeping silent, and it can be avoided. It is as simple as standing up for what one believes in. However, first, one has to be absolutely clear about what they believe in.
People often miss out on knowing and understanding their own beliefs clearly. If they articulate their crystal clear beliefs to themselves, they will be better at defending those beliefs.
For example, a person who finds racist and homophobic jokes distasteful, might not speak up against them because they have not clearly articulated to themselves, or dissected what amounts to discrimination in their dictionary.
The person can read more about the subject of why discrimination is on race, gender, or sexuality is unforgivable. This will prepare the person to defend their point of view and become more confident to express their views when the time comes.
The Basic Rules Of Speaking Up
Speaking up is difficult and needs bravery.
A few years ago, the author had the opportunity to work with a US Army colonel. Experiencing the battlefield, the colonel knew what courage is. However, when he was later dispatched to a pentagon office job, he realised that his job needed a different type of courage. He needed the courage to communicate clearly or even question his superiors.
Most people tend to avoid topics that touch a nerve in conversations, out of the fear of rejection. Speaking up about such topics needs bravery and courage too.
Consider an employee who is afraid to speak up about the fact she has been overlooked repeatedly for a promotion, despite her excellent work history. While her fear of approaching her boss keeps her silent, not being able to speak up honestly will make her resentful in the longer run.
She has a simple solution – to speak up honestly, and share her thoughts and feelings. However, this needs to be done properly. Blurting out or blasting off the pent up feelings will get her nowhere.
She needs to strategize and clarify first that she is putting forth a perspective, and not demanding a promotion. She needs to calmly communicate her feelings, make room for empathy and be open to hearing others perspectives as well.
Furthermore, she will need to understand the importance of keeping a person’s actions separate from the individual itself.
That said, she couldn’t say that it is ‘unfair’ that she has been overlooked for a promotion. That would imply that she thinks her employer is unfair, and that she won’t be able to see any decision taken by the employer as anything but unfair. This would be counterproductive and she would never be able to shake off her feeling of uneasiness.
Hence it is vital to not be judgemental of an individual but to be able to separate their actions from the individual.
Advocate For One’s Own Abilities
It is important for one to be one’s own advocate in order to succeed in today’s harsh, modern world.
Competition is rife in these modern times, and while humility is a valued virtue, it doesn’t always pay. Whether it is being the best at school, being the best dancer in class, or vying for the topmost position at work, people are pitted against each other to prove they are the best.
Those who cannot advocate themselves, or their abilities, get left behind. Even a qualified person, with the best abilities, gets trampled over if another less qualified person can show himself in a good light.
Advocating for oneself doesn’t mean that one has to be a braggart or resort to lying. However, it is important that one has the ability to present their skills and accomplishments in an appropriate way. One has to be professional about it while conveying the information to the right people at the right time.
Broadcasting ones own abilities might feel self-centred or egotistical, however, it is important to be able to tell others what one brings to the table. One has to think about what one can offer and research companies or jobs that can best use those skills to their fullest. The train of thought should run towards – how can these skills and abilities best help others, and where.
Thinking about oneself in these terms will make it easier and less uncomfortable about conveying and praise one’s own skills.
It is also important that one clearly understands which field they can work in best. Thus, when the time comes, advocating one’s own skills in that field is a passionate and genuine endeavour. This genuineness will enable others to view one in the good light that they wish people to see them in.
Make A Decision And Stick To It
Making a decision and sticking to it is important, especially during uncertain times.
The times we live in today are very uncertain. For example, while it was easier to keep a job for decades earlier, today the uncertainty of times makes it difficult for anyone to stick to one job for long. On average, a person moves through 6 to 7 jobs in a career span instead of 2 or 3.
Moreover, change isn’t predictable. Who could have predicted two decades ago that that salary margins would be so huge today? This flux makes it tough to predict the future and make decisions.
During the early years of their marriage, the author, and her husband Andrew, would spend a lot of time trying to figure out what direction Andrew could take his career in. They even thought that Margie could look for a second career in order to be able to look after the children. Eventually, they realised that there were too many unpredictable factors to forecast their lives and make a sound decision. It took time for them to accept it, but they gave up the futile exercise.
Decision-making is stressful, however, trudging through it, making a decision in an unpredictable future can be productive and brave. Counterintuitive as it may seem, the stress that arises out of indecisiveness is far worse than making an informed decision.
Additionally, it is important that when faced with a conundrum of decision-making, one has to find a common ground, rather than overdoing it and letting it consume you, or simply putting hands up in the air and giving up. For example, while trying to decide between a new job offer and one’s current position, it is surely important to think about it, weigh in the pros and cons, and make a final decision.
Finally, once the decision is made, it is as important to stick with it. Perfection doesn’t exist in this flawed world. Attempting to pursue perfection could only lead to a horde of missed opportunities.
Seeking Help Is A Sign Of Bravery
Seeking help from others is a sign of strength and bravery.
A friend of the author, Mona, worked in a high-power job in Dallas. As a working mother, she would pull all-nighters and be accustomed to others needing her help. She was, unfortunately, diagnosed with breast cancer.
Battling her condition, she now needed help from others. While as an independent, strong woman, she had difficulty accepting it initially; she learned that when in need of support from others, it is important to be able to ask for it. She also understood that it was futile to feel guilty about seeking help.
We are brought up to be strong individuals, and to be as self-reliant as we can, and seeking help is often seen as a weakness. But the real strength lies in asking for help, accepting one’s fragility, and showing one’s vulnerability to others.
The other benefit of accepting is that one needs help in understanding how the power of community works towards making an individual success as a part of a collective. After all, no one is alone, and one succeeds only when one accepts that there are others too, who have contributed to one’s success.
Accept Grief And Sadness
Grief, loss, and sadness are a part of life. It is best to accept it and make efforts to move on.
Trying to hide the pain of loss, or sadness, doesn’t get one anywhere. It is a difficult process, yes, but trying to mask the pain only leads one down the path of destruction. There are numerous instances where people resort to drugs, or alcohol abuse simply to hide from the pain they feel.
Such behaviours are mere distractions that seem to numb the pain for the short term. But in the longer run, letting oneself experience grief, helps one truly overcome it, rather than being stuck in a state of denial and doing more harm than help.
Letting grief take its time, helps one accept the situation and be able to deal with it better. It is thus important to give sadness full attention, take time to process those feelings and eventually, be able to move past it and let it go.
Many cancer survivors, in fact, state that getting cancer was the best thing that happened to them. Many have been able to get a new, fresh perspective in life, value friends, family, and life itself more, and even understand what is most important in their life. Acceptance of grief and the ability to emerge stronger on the other side makes one braver.
Being brave isn’t about taking risks or making huge decisions. It is about how one is able to handle simple day-to-day problems and issues, and come out stronger on the other side.
Being brave begins with stepping out of one comfort bubble, and exercising one courage muscles. Bravery comes in many different forms, whether it is accepting grief and loss, accepting that one needs help, advocating for oneself, speaking up, or sticking with a decision made in tough times.