How to be brave even when you’re feeling afraid
I often think about how to be brave, and this quote has been stuck in my head since I heard Jon Acuff say it on John Lee Dumas’ podcast, “Entrepreneur on Fire”:
“Bravery is a choice, not a feeling.”
When I think about the act of bravery, I always imagine a warrior on a horse with a giant spear going off to fight for the greater good of mankind. (It just occurred to me that this is the iconic image of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart.” I never saw the movie but I do remember Mel’s half painted face and him screaming Freeeedommm!) But I digress.
The quote wouldn’t leave my mind. I then did something I don’t often do; I looked up “brave” in the dictionary. The dictionary says that to be brave is to “defy; challenge; dare.”
So what does all this mean? For me, it means we have to remember that bravery is a mindset. You choose to be brave. We tend to think that we are born to be brave or not.
We are all faced with times when we want to do something that will take us out of our comfort zone — that will require us to be brave. It would be easy to say to yourself, “I can’t do this because I just don’t feel brave enough.”
Yet, no one wakes up in the morning thinking, I want to do something that is going to possibly make me look like a fool. You can’t wait until you “feel brave,” you just have to make the choice to do it. If you wait around to feel brave… well you are going to be waiting forever.
Why am I talking to you about being brave?
Well, the 20s are the ideal time to start working on your bravery skills. You need to defy, challenge and dare. This is not the time to sit back, relax and think, “I’ve got all the time in the world to pursue this or that; I don’t need to be brave and possibly do something that could fail.”
This is what your 20s are all about — they’re about learning how to be brave. This is the time to trying things on: jobs, cities, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends, hairstyles, roommates and the list goes on and on. You have to try all different kinds of things to understand what you like and what you dislike in order to create the kind of life you want.
So, how do you do this?
Ready to learn how to be brave? Here are 3 simple steps you can take today to start building your bravery skills:
1. Change your mindset
We tend to have a pretty narrow view of ourselves. Without even knowing it we make assumptions about ourselves that we never bother to challenge. Some of these assumptions about ourselves are leftover from childhood and some we adopted along the way.
Regardless of where they came from, it’s your job now to challenge the assumptions.
Let’s say you were the reserved kid in school but now you want to pursue stand-up comedy. You are probably saying to yourself, “I can’t do that because I’m shy.” Says who? The kids at your high school? The people at work? Are you going to let them determine your entire life? I hope not.
If you want to be a comedian then you need to start saying to yourself, “I’m a comedian.” Not, well…hum…uh, I work as an assistant but…uh…maybe sometimes I like to write jokes and well…hum I think I might go to this open mike night.” You need to shift your mindset and start envisioning yourself as a comedian. You need to be the first one to believe you can do something.
2. Don’t let their “stuff” get in your head.
To quote Taylor Swift, “hater’s gonna hate.” Anytime you put yourself out there, there will be people who are going to criticize you. They will tell you that you’re going to fall flat on your face. They are not entirely wrong… you may fall flat on your face but you also may not.
Anytime you are brave you are taking a risk. There are a lot of people who are so afraid to take a risk that your bravery triggered them in some way. Instead of looking inward of why they are criticizing your brave act, they project it outward to make you second-guess your choice to be brave. Bravery requires tunnel vision. Do not let someone else’s fears become your fears.
3. Baby steps, my friend, baby steps.
You’ve been walking around saying to yourself, “I’m a comedian, I’m a comedian.” Now it’s time to take action. What is one step you can take to make this a reality? If you are ready to jump up and get on stage, then go for it, but for others that may seem too scary. While bravery is a choice, not a feeling, you can be brave in small increments. Any step – big or small – is brave. So ask yourself what is the next thing I can do that is scary but doable? That should be your go to phrase: “scary but doable.” If it’s too scary you won’t do it. If it doesn’t scare you, then it’s not a big enough step.
Remember there is no one in this world that is “fear free.” We all have that little voice in our head telling us to, “go home, don’t do this, sit down, shut your mouth,” and on and on. You can choose not to listen to that voice because that is your fear talking. You may feel afraid and that’s OK, but then need to choose to be brave.
So go out there and be bold, dare, risk, defy, challenge and most of all be brave.