There are many alternative words for “being brave”: spirited, bold, courageous, daring, gritty. There is also a synonym that we sometimes use: reckless. Upon my recent session with my therapist, among other intelligent and ohwhydidInotthinkaboutthisearlier words of wisdom she uses (and I am not saying that just because she might read here 🙂 ), she mentioned something that really got me thinking a bit.
Just a side note, I really had no idea about the power of words for a long time in my life and I have to thank my courage (see what I did here? 🙂 ) of starting seeing a therapist for the wonderful acknowledgement that words matter so incredibly much. I guess the ones that matter the most are just the ones we tend to ignore, that is the words we tell ourselves.
Back to the point: what was shared by my therapist was an example of 2 children in an amusement park, 1 being overwhelmed by the occasion and denying by all means his attendance in a crazy roller-coaster ride and the other just blooming with enthusiasm for that upcoming ride. What we generally think is that we see there a brave child and a scared one. But is that really the case?
And that is when I was surprised to hear something that was so obvious: brave is the one that is scared of doing something and still does it.
By no means do I intend to write weak coaching mantras here :), but I think that is so true and meaningful. We all have fears (except the fearless persons, which contrary to our beliefs do not live that happily, as you can understand if you listen to the Invisibilia podcast episode I recommended two weeks ago).
So, the point my therapist was making was that we are brave if we face OUR fears, but we are sometimes considered brave if we seem to face the fears of OTHERS.
Maybe you now think, oh wow, that is so obvious, why did she find it out just now? Good for you, but I for one always had a very difficult relationship with fear and sometimes it overtook my life so intensely that I was not able to see things clear.
I think we live enclosed in patterns which rarely allow us to be who we truly are. If you are one that does not fit in those patterns, you are automatically labelled and in some way excluded or judged. There is a lot to debate on this, but focusing on fear: Yes, being afraid is such a negative label we put on others, while being brave is one of the strongest positive things we tend to link to others´ actions.
There is a Ted Talk which I absolutely adore and it addresses exactly what I am trying to say here (in such concise and beautiful words, but also more detailed, as exceptional people are able to present their work):
So, what she says: vulnerability is not weakness. And I fully agree.
On another plan, I think that maybe we all understand what being brave means. We tend to say this a lot to people who are experiencing devastating loss or who are facing personal tragedies: “Be brave!”. I think these are words that are equally important to the one saying it and I strongly believe that we say them when we are the ones who are actually scared of the whatifthishappenstome thoughts. Some call it empathy and this is how it all gets so tangled we all need a therapist in the end 🙂
To conclude, in my opinion to be brave actually means to own being scared. We are all brave and we are all weak. We do not all fit in the same pattern or judging lens. We should stop labeling people admitting their weaknesses (or owning their fears, or describing their traumas) as “scared”, “not brave enough” or “weak”.
You just be you! Brave or not. 🙂