When we think of bravery, we often think of heroism first. It’s a grandiose idea made for people who, frankly, are not normal like the rest of us.
It’s unlikely (but possible) that you will do some brave act that miraculously gets filmed for TV and gets shared by millions of people on social media. And that’s okay.
I want you to think about bravery in a different way — a way that is more attainable and gives you more opportunities to be brave. Why?
Being brave is one of the hardest things you will ever do and it’s also the most rewarding act a human being can commit.
Acts of bravery show us who we can be, not who we currently are.
They take our present results and allow us to believe that maybe something more is possible or achievable.
Bravery creates those moments where you believe anything is possible and that’s far more important than getting short-term attention for being a hero.
The quote that sums up bravery best is from a young singer named Kellie-Marie:
Bravery isn’t just saving a cat from a burning building, it’s also about believing in yourself and accepting that it’s fine to have days where you’re ‘not ok’.
Believing in yourself
People can be so obsessed with their own life that they are quick to tell you that your hopes and dreams are stupid without realizing the consequences of those remarks.
It’s easy to dish out opinions and tell people how the world should be. It takes no effort or thought at all. All of the noise that people tell you can make you do something terrible: not believe in yourself.
You can fall victim to the lie that you’re not enough or you’ll never amount to anything. How do you move past it? By being brave.
Bravery to me is being yourself when everybody tells you that you’re nuts for taking a risk or continuing to pour countless hours into your life’s work without anything to show for it. Screw having anything to show for your work.
You commit an act of bravery when you back yourself and keep going despite not knowing what’s going to happen. If you work hard enough and long enough, your moment will come. From experience, it won’t be what you expect. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results you achieve when you believe in yourself.
What I realized was this: Who you become through bravery is the best part, not what you get.
Days when you’re not okay
These are the days when it takes everything you’ve got. Being brave on these days is how you stop yourself from giving up.
Bravery tells us the following:
- You got this
- Things will be okay again
- This is short-term
- You’ve kept going before
- You can get up again
Bravery is that little voice inside your head that tells you to never give up.
You can choose to listen to that voice of bravery or ignore it. When you listen, you open yourself up to the possibility of an empowering alternative.
There will be days when your negative thoughts win. There will be days when you simply don’t care at all and hope to make it to bedtime quickly. There will be days where the rejection is embarrassing and humiliating. There are days that won’t make sense and become puzzles that can’t be solved.
“Every day is not a winner baby!” as the song goes. Some days will be hard and other days will feel like air that you don’t realize you’re breathing.
Labeling your current self as ‘not okay’ and then continuing to live despite it, is the truest form of bravery that exists.
Speaking the truth
It takes bravery to speak your truth. What is that truth? Your values.
Once you know what you’re values are, the hardest part is following them and speaking the truth when you’re not. When a person gives you an opportunity, it takes bravery to say no because it doesn’t align with your values.
It takes bravery to tell someone they are out of line and that you’re not going to let their behavior continue.
It takes bravery to walk out on your family with the possibility of never coming home again.
It took bravery for Amanda Palmer to sit in a hotel room all by herself and give birth to a stillborn with blood all over the floor — and then to recount the entire gruesome story on one of the most popular podcasts in the world.
It took bravery for Tim Ferriss to admit that with all of his success, for a part of his life, he wanted to end it all — and he even life hacked his suicide plan using his meticulous planning methods.
It took bravery for a speaker I watched stutter his way through an entire speech without speaking more than a few sentences in seven minutes while the audience suffered and then felt reborn at the conclusion of his speech because of his sheer bravery.
None of these stories are heroic acts; they’re just life defined by small decisions.
Bravery is different
Human beings worship many things in life: holiday destinations, football teams, fashion, cars, movies, famous people.
Bravery is different and it can’t be compared to anything else. True bravery is both desirable and indescribable at the same time.
Bravery, at its core, makes you feel something and that is the energy that keeps humans going when there is every reason to stop, stand still, and do nothing.
To view bravery as heroism is to only look at the surface level.
Heroism is about notoriety and casting a spotlight. Bravery is quiet, silent, unspoken, and occurs inside the head of someone who is feeling fear that can’t be seen and marching against the resistance.
You can tell someone to be brave but you can’t force them. Bravery is a decision and a deeply personal one at that.
You don’t wake up being brave; you practice it.
Your bravery muscle gets a little bit stronger every time you use it and exert energy towards something you believe in — or in my case, something that is bigger than myself.
On the rare occasions we witness true bravery in others, we’re moved to tears inspired, deeply emotional, motivated and able to see the power of humanity all in one.
Bravery is holding a mirror up and showing us the human experience.
If you don’t know what to do, be brave
Maybe you have no idea what to do next. Your life might seem awful or miraculous.
Just like the men who landed on the moon for the first time, huge moments and gigantic wins can become detrimental later on because they may not be able to be topped.
The strategy is the same. Whatever stage of life you are at and whatever you have accomplished to date, if you don’t know what to do, be brave. Not brave on the outside for others to see — brave on the inside. Be brave for yourself.
You don’t have to be a hero to be brave. Bravery is about the small decisions you make when you’re not okay and you decide to keep going anyway.