I thought bravery and fear were incompatible. Like oil and water, I thought you were either brave or fearful. But now I’m convinced it’s a combo pack with bravery coexisting with fear, maybe even handholding it.
It’s no small thing to be brave in the presence of fear.
Fear will try to talk you out of all sorts of opportunities to be brave. Learning to leave it behind is the space where dreams are composed.
Bravery means stepping forward while fear clutches your ankle and attempts to hold you in place. With every step, courage grows, and you gain confidence for the next brave thing. That can be anything from challenging yourself to try a new skill, moving to an unknown city, or—my personal favorite— mingling at a cocktail party full of strangers.
Those who look back on their lives with regret are often those who played it safe by standing still. They listened to the voice of fear, uttering things such as, “You’ll never make it,” “You’ll be rejected,” or “You’ll fail,” instead of overriding it with truths such as, “Every step forward draws me closer to the destination,” “Not everyone will like me, but I can still be a friendly person” or “Mistakes are learning opportunities.”
It’s easy to confuse fear and excitement. When we face fear, we can look closer and ask, “Am I afraid, or am I excited for something new?” It’s natural to feel a little off-kilter when trying something we’ve never done before or facing a new situation. At such times, we can reframe our thinking by embracing the unknown, moving forward with expectation and wonder, and releasing the need to control every detail. We can allow the anticipation to work its magic and help us be sharp for the situation. We can reframe our fear of failure as opportunities for growth.
For many years, I taught drama to youth and adults. Occasionally, a terrified actor would approach me before a performance and declare they couldn’t go on stage. I would help them reframe their fear by telling them that it was natural to feel nervous and that this good stress would quicken their mind. I would remind them that they were well-prepared. Each chose to step on stage even though fear attempted to hold them back.
Preparation is key, isn’t it? The more prepared we walk into a situation, the less fear we experience. Whether a play, an exam, a speaking engagement, leading a team or a meeting, or pitching a book (as I recently experienced), preparation is key to tamping out fear and garnering confidence.
If you’re struggling, give yourself a “brave” pep talk ahead of the event. Tell yourself specifically how you are going to show up. Things such as, “I will not shrink back, “I will take every opportunity to be brave,” “I won’t make excuses,” and “I will not talk myself out of doing the brave thing.” Visualize yourself confidently entering a room, introducing yourself to strangers, striking up conversations, and asking questions.
At times, we need to behave bravely before we feel brave. A fearless posture looks like walking tall with our head up, shoulders back, and arms uncrossed opening our hearts to the world and its possibilities. Make eye contact and smile. Move into the circle. Lean in at the table. Be friendly, and participate in the conversation. Actively listen instead of over-talking out of nervous excitement. Embrace the awkwardness of human interactions and be YOU in all your quirky glory!
Bravery is a sliding scale. In some circumstances, I’m brave with little fear; in others, I’m fearful with little bravery. What is easy for me might be terrifying for someone else, and vice versa. I may appear brave in some capacity to someone who, by contrast, seems unafraid to me in another. But universally, we grow braver every time we choose to be courageous in the moment. We gain more confidence when facing the next challenge.
Tips for Becoming Brave
- Step forward despite the fear.
- Do the hard thing so the next hard thing is easier.
- Turn fear into opportunities to be brave.
- Ask yourself, is this fear or nervous excitement?
- Do the prep work in advance to fuel confidence.
- Visualize yourself being brave and adopt a fearless posture.
- Give yourself a pep talk ahead of the hard thing telling yourself the specific way you will show up brave.
- Embrace the awkward and uncomfortable.
- Be fearlessly YOU, quirks and all!
Verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
May you walk forward bravely in God’s strength.