On Being Brave

Have you ever had a sinking feeling in your stomach? There are butterflies and then there is the big one; it is the moment your stomach drops on a rollercoaster or the feeling you get before a test. It lies dormant for a while and then slowly awakens as you become aware of a task or a situation you have to face. It festers and then in a single moment it explodes like a super nova in your stomach. That feeling is called fear and like many other people, I hate it.

We all experience fear on some level. Some people are afraid of heights, others of failure. There are people who are afraid of wide open spaces and others afraid of having their heart broken. We are all afraid of something. When I was younger I was afraid of lots of things. Having an anxiety disorder meant that anything involving people, action or some form of matter would cause a super nova of fear to go off in my belly. I hated going to school (it involved popular kids and sport); I was terrified of walking anywhere (what if someone attacked me?); and I disliked thinking because it inevitably brought up a set of circumstances that never would happen (but what if they did?). I was ruled by fear and because of this I felt lonely, scared and useless.

I felt brave the day I first entered a psychiatric nurse’s office for counselling. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling. People talk about bravery like it is something you possess. While I think this is somewhat true as we all have the capacity to face our fears, I tend to believe that bravery is more than a character trait. Bravery is the decision to dig deep and do something important, even when you are afraid of the consequences. Bravery is the decision to ignore the voices screaming inside your head that tell you you’re unable to speak up for yourself or a friend. Bravery is the decision to keep on living even though you can’t see the light yet. Bravery is a choice.

To be brave is awfully uncomfortable because even though we dislike fear, it is far easier to accept than overcome. Yet the only way to conquer fear is to be brave and fight it. We have many reasons to be fearful in life; we each carry stories and experiences that have taught us what it is to be afraid. Yet when we continually succumb to fear, we give it the power to write our story.

When I first entered that office, I felt as though fear had consumed my body. Yet deep inside of me, I knew there was an anchor of courage. When I held onto that anchor and chose to sit through the counselling session, I was brave. Because I was brave once, I was able to walk with my head a little higher. Each time I chose to defy my fears, I learnt that I was far more than a product of anxiety. I was boldly, bravely, beautifully, courageously and wonderfully me.

What are you afraid of? No matter how gripping your fear is, you have the capacity to be brave. When you choose to speak up for yourself, you are brave. When you end a relationship that is unhealthy for you, you are being brave. When you choose to believe that perhaps this feeling of fear could be overcome, you are being brave. Bravery is a choice, it is a leap into the unknown hope that things could change for the better. You’re not alone in this leap. It is a decision I still make on a daily basis and as challenging as it is, I can promise you this: it will be worth it. The something you are afraid of doesn’t have to control you anymore. You are able to live a life ruled by hope, strength and love. Friend, today let’s choose to be brave together.