There are 2 words in the English language that, when strung together, actually make my skin crawl. Want to know what they are?
UGH just typing them out gave me that instant shot of annoyance you feel when someone changes lanes in front of you only to slow down, times your wifi is being crazy slow, or when you see someone get seated at a restaurant before you even though you’ve been waiting WAY longer.
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I really do get extremely peeved when I see those words in a hashtag, on a shirt, or in an Instagram caption because being fearless all the time is impractical, impossible, and flat-out unrealistic.
Also I don’t know about you, but fear actually has helped me a time or two (or 1,000).
Like the time I was afraid of the mole on my leg that turned out to be pre-cancerous.
Like the time I was afraid of a dark alley in LA where people had been murdered.
Like the time I was afraid of driving too fast during a crazy Florida rainstorm.
Like the time I was afraid of that creepy guy in a hostel in Europe.
Fear has a function: It’s a clue that maybe you shouldn’t be doing that thing or going down that alley. It’s also an opportunity to grow yourself personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically through choosing courage despite feeling like you’d rather run the other way.
Fear has its purpose, so why in the world do we tell people to be fearless?!
Here’s the deal, I know that sometimes fear gets out of hand and sometimes it’s uncalled for or all in our heads, but instead of being fearless, I propose that we encourage people to be brave. Fear should be viewed less like a mountain to be conquered and more like a road sign saying, “Hey, there MAY be some cool things for you to check out, overcome, or learn at this exit, so you’ve got the next mile and a half to figure out if this is the stop for you!” Sometimes we need to get off at the nearest exit to stretch our legs and try some new things out, and other times it’s best if we avoided the creepy gas station with the outdoor bathroom.
Elizabeth Gilbert has a quote that I would LOVE to tattoo on my body about fear but, alas, it’s too long. Here’s what she has to say:
“Dearest Fear…I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps or suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Neat, huh? Fear will ALWAYS be there with you in your life…but maybe you should listen to your courage instead. Here are 20 ways to do that.
20 Ways to Be Brave [Even If You’re Afraid]
Let’s start easy…
#1 GO TO LUNCH BY YOURSELF
…and don’t sit on your phone the whole time. Hitting up a lunch spot solo and sans phone can be a scary thing! Especially if you’re forced to interact with GASP! total strangers. Make a new friend, invite someone to sit with you, or just simply sit with your thoughts. It’s a brave move, trust me.
#2 CHECK AN ITEM OFF YOUR BUCKET LIST.
We all have a bucket list, but usually it’s holding hands with our excuses list if we’re being honest. Be brave enough to set aside the million reasons why you can’t, say, go skydiving this weekend, and actually do it.
#3 TAKE A SELFIE + POST THE FIRST ONE…WITHOUT EDITING!
“But what if it’s bad?! Or if it messes up my feed! Or…or…or…” This one goes without saying, but posting that first take of any shot and without an edit is SO brave in today’s world. If you want, tag me @theartofbravery on Instagram, and I’ll celebrate your brave move!
#4 WEAR A SCARY ITEM OF CLOTHING.
Crop top, skinny jeans, bikini, white pants…you do you, gurrrr. Get that brave on.
#5 TAKE A 24 HOUR TRUTH VOW.
There’s nothing more courageous sometimes than the truth. Even if you aren’t a little white lie kind of person, the truth requires FULL disclosure and honesty. That’s brave if you think about it.
#6 COMPLIMENT A RANDOM STRANGER.
My mom used to compliment strangers CONSTANTLY and I would always get so embarrassed. What if they thought we were weird or too forward? What if we really DID look weird or too forward?! Complimenting is brave because A. it forces you to interact and B. you have to see beauty in yourself to see beauty in others.
Which brings me to….
#7 CELEBRATE YOUR STRENGTHS + SUCCESSES.
This is going to seem weird, but I want you to write a list of your strengths or your successes and share with someone close to you. You can explain why you’re doing it (I read this stupid article about ways to be brave and, welp, this is it), but I want you to ACTUALLY write the list and ACTUALLY share. It’s brave to celebrate yourself, especially in a world where you’re supposed to “be smart but not too smart”, “be funny, but don’t call attention to yourself”. You get the picture.
#8 DRESS UP IN YOUR BEST FOR A DAY AND ACCEPT ALL COMPLIMENTS WITHOUT PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN.
Have you ever noticed that when we receive compliments, we usually find reasons why the compliment is invalid? “You look great! Did you lose weight?!” “Yeah, but I still need to lose like another 10 pounds…” It’s brave to simply say thank you because it’s acknowledging that you are worthy of compliments.
#9 MAKE A NEW FRIEND.
Can we just admit that making friends in kindergarten was WAY easier than as an adult?! You have to….actually put yourself out there….and it’s weird….and vulnerable feeling. Dare you to be brave and make a new friend today. Bonus points if you invite him/her to hang out sometime.
#10 MAKE AMENDS.
Everyone – I don’t care WHO they are – can think of something they regret, feel sorry about, or dropped the ball on. I encourage you to be brave, reach out, and say sorry. It could be a letter. It could be a call. It could be a text. Just do it.
#11 STICK UP FOR YOURSELF.
Whether it’s hard for you to suggest a restaurant, share your opinion, or stand up to the water cooler bully who puts you down, it’s extremely brave to stick up for yourself. Remember…speak your truth, even if your voice shakes….just like the shirt says.
#12 STICK UP FOR SOMEONE ELSE.
Be the person on the adult playground who says, “enough is enough”. It could be an in person event or even a post on Instagram sharing your support for someone who doesn’t have a voice. Anything helps, and it’s all brave in my book.
#13 GET REALLY HONEST WITH YOURSELF + ANSWER THIS QUESTION >> “WHAT’S WORTH DOING IN LIFE, EVEN IF I FAIL? ….AND AM I DOING IT?”
#14 REACH OUT FOR HELP.
If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Reaching out, asking for help, and admitting you don’t have all the answers is so brave…but it’s also a great way to get ahead in life.
#15 SAY NO.
How many times have you wanted to say no – to taking on that extra project, to over exerting yourself for that volunteer thing, to putting yourself in the middle of awkward family or friend fights? My guess is lots of times. Say no, Brave One.
If the thought of a particular person or group of people makes you angry, sick to your stomach, or any other negative emotion, it’s time to let that baggage GO, Sister. Forgiveness isn’t about letting someone off the hook – it’s about letting yourself off the hook. It’s oh-so-brave to just drop it.
#17 REACH OUT TO SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.
Feel weird about telling someone how much they mean to you or have impacted your life? Feel awkward putting yourself out there like that? Good! That means you can be brave and share anyway!
#18 WRITE A LETTER.
Not just ANY letter…write a letter to someone who hurt you, who you need to have “that” conversation with, or who doesn’t know the full story. Brené Brown calls this your “shitty first draft”, but get all of your emotions out, what you want to say, and why you’re feeling hurt. Don’t worry, you don’t (and probably shouldn’t) send this, but it’s brave to finally let it all out instead of bottling it in. Who knows, maybe your second draft will be worth sending.
#19 DECIDE TO DO SOMETHING FOR 30 DAYS.
“Something” could be a new workout program, a social media detox, or even mastering a new skill you haven’t tried before for 30 days! So often we get too far ahead of ourselves and determine all of the reasons why we’ll fail before we even get going. It’s brave to set your mind to it and try.
#20 WRITE A LIST OF ALL THE TIMES YOU’VE BEEN BRAVE.
This last one on the list is to remind you of all the times that you’ve been scared and pushed on anyway. Why is this brave? Well, you’re taking away all the excuses you have as to why you can’t push forward and create a life where you refuse to settle…and I don’t know what’s scarier than realizing you’re fully capable…you just have to give yourself permission. Trippy, huh?
You’ve got this, Brave One. Be brave, never fearless, and remember that you were created for great things.