Skydiving? Freestyle rock climbing? Saving a baby from a burning building?
Joining the military to defend our country? Quitting a stable job to stay at home with your kids?
Giving unrealistic expectations and social norms the middle finger and living your own life?
Bravery comes in different forms, but sometimes the scariest things in this world have nothing to do with physical danger.
Instead of fighting dragons, we might be standing up for ourselves and what we believe in, choosing to love ourselves the way we are, or deciding to live according to our own values despite society’s relentless messages that we are not good enough, that we always have to change, buy something, or do something to make us worthwhile.
I used to think I was a ‘fraidy cat because I’m afraid of doing anything that involves being towed behind a speedboat, or because I’ve crossed skydiving off my Handprint List, or because I dated some guys or had friends who were really bad for me because I didn’t think I could get anything better.
I feared rejection, failure and most of all, hurting other people’s feelings and being a “bad person”. Over the last few months though, I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to be willing to disappoint someone, or get rejected, or even piss someone off. Sometimes you have to just accept that some people will think badly of you, that you’re a wingnut or too outspoken or even selfish. While you don’t want everyone to think of you this way, do the right thing.
Leave. Or stay.
Do it. Or don’t.
Make a decision. Change your mind. Even if someone disapproves. You know what’s right. Do it.
Say no. Take time to think about it.
Listen to your body.
Wear the damn swimsuit.
I think one of our deepest fears is the disapproval of others, but this fear is rooted in the deepest fear of all: That without the approval of our peers, we are nothing. We are only worthwhile if everyone else things we are.
This is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Deep in our hearts, in our very souls, we know who we are, what we were sent here to do and what is right for us. We might forget this sometimes, but we know our own worth. Living authentically means eliminating the sway of “What will everyone else think?” and accepting our own worth and uniqueness.
Accepting our worth takes courage. Living our purpose takes courage. We can never accomplish these things we feel we need to look, act, or be a certain way.
Be brave. Be yourself.
This post is part of Self-Discovery Word-by-Word. This month’s host is Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner at The Body and the Brood. The word for June 2011 is “Bravery”.
Ok, let’s back up for a second. I participated in last month’s Self-Discovery Word-by-Word, and I loved it so much I wanted to contribute to this month’s too. When I realized that this month’s word is “Anger”, I almost decided to skip it. “What do I know about anger?” I thought. “I hardly ever get angry.”
That was two weeks ago, and since then I’ve realized that there are two kinds of people in this world that don’t get angry: People like my Uncle Rhett, who never take crap from people but deal with it in a low-key way, and people who get walked all over and pushed around until they finally explode.
How did I never see it?
I’ve never been good at standing up for myself. My mom often says that when I was little, I never got candy when the pinata broke because I wouldn’t dive in and fight for it like the other kids. I cry when people get mad at me. I avoid conflict of any sort and when someone pisses me off, I keep my mouth shut.
I’ve lived this way all my life, afraid to express any emotion I considered negative or inconvenient for other people and those corked-up feelings manifested in my body though weight gain, adrenal fatigue, compulsive and restrictive eating, depression and anxiety.
When I discovered Intuitive Eating a few years ago, I realized that I had a whole underground chamber of emotions to sort through before I could ever be free of eating problems, and I’ve only recently reached the point where I can deal with these emotions without gorging myself on chocolate chip cookies. I’ve slowly let my suppressed anger bubble to the surface so I can experience it and then let it go.
I’ve learned that emotions aren’t good or bad, they’re just emotions, and I’ve finally…finally…given myself permission to experience them. I’m not a bad person for feeling angry or sad or competitive. With this kind of emotional freedom comes a greater ability to experience feelings and understand their roots, to go deeper and deeper and fully understand why I hurt in the first place. With this understanding comes freedom of choice: “Should I really let this bother me?” or “Is this really a big deal?”. It’s like a ladder to greater mindfulness, and embracing my anger was the first step.
Now, emotions allow me to gauge how I’m doing and how I need to take care of myself. They’re like pressure gauges and thermometers. Pissed off? Time to get some space. Overwhelmed? Time for self-care. Resentful? There’s a misunderstanding somewhere and we’d better work it out.
In this sense, anger is a gift for self-awareness. When used properly, it’s a tool for self-improvement. Learn from it, experience it, use it. It’s a beautiful thing.
This post was written as part of the Self -Discovery Word-by-Word series. The May series is hosted by Jules at Big Girl Bomshell. Get details here to participate!
Life is a series of changes, but I’ve always had a hard time accepting that and it tends to get me into trouble. I don’t like taking risks and whenever I have something good, I’m terrified of losing it, but I think most people are like that. The seasons of life come and go, bringing new lessons and opportunities with them, but they pass just as quickly to make way for the new lessons. This is how we learn and grow.
I think an inability to gracefully deal with change is the root of the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced. It all started when my life did a 180 in a single year and left my head spinning for years after. In one year, I left a toxic relationship of two years, changed my major, changed jobs, got engaged to my friend of four years, went on birth control, moved out of my parent’s house, got married, changed jobs again, moved, and changed jobs again, and started my upper-division coursework. Whew! That’s a lot for anyone to experience it, but should I still be reeling from it years later? Shouldn’t I have gotten used to it by now?
Another change I’ve had a hard time letting go of is my experience with theater in high school. I had a tight-knit group of friends whom I worked with in a creative environment, and I thrived in that situation. I was so happy in high school even though I had my fair share of boy problems and homework related stress. I haven’t been in a show since and I barely see my old friends. I graduated five years ago, I should definitely be over that, right?
How about graduating college, changing homes and jobs twice in the last year, and experiencing health problems for the first time in my life? Ok, that one I’m still dealing with, the loss of my student-status and of being around like-minded people all day, having that cushion of school to protect me from having to be a grownup. This one takes everyone awhile, but no reason to be upset, right?
The thing is, all of these changes brought with them lessons that I needed to learn, so if I’m still struggling with them, I obviously haven’t learned the lessons, have I? Instead of staying stuck in the past, why not examine each situation for what it had to teach me and move on? Learn to be a grownup. Seek out that tight-knit, creative environment I had in high school because it was obviously good for me. Learn what I really want to do with life so I’m not stuck in the throws of graduate depression forever.
Change never stops; the lessons never stop. Live each season as it passes; grow from each one. That’s the beauty of life; it’s never stagnant, even when it feels like you’re not progressing. Something will change either on it’s own or because of a choice you make. Life, like people, is always dynamic and evolving. Learn, let go, and enjoy the ride.
This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. This month’s series is hosted by Mara Glatzel at Medicinal Marzipan, who has chosen the word CHANGE. Please go check out the details and take part!
Have you experienced any difficult change lately?