BRAVERY. The word conjures such imagery as soldiers charging into battle or firefighters rushing into a burning building. However bravery can also be found in every person when they use inner strength, confidence and courage to make life changes.
Being brave is not always so dramatic, and it does not have to be extraordinary. Simply, it is facing something that is threatening, whether it is physical, emotional or moralistic. At times, it is the ability to celebrate the small triumphs and the strength to keep going. It is knowing limitations and boundaries and recognizing that one is only human. This can be as simple as remembering to breathe when all else seems helpless. Or perhaps putting on a brave face while quaking inside. It can be having insight into when to speak or restraint to just listen. It is the willingness to look at different points of view. Bravery is moving forward despite obstacles.
Sally was brave enough to change her life. “I knew that I was in a rut,” she remembers. “It took a long time to get up the courage because things were okay, just okay. I wanted more. I wanted to live and enjoy life, but I was just going through the motions.” She enrolled in online courses, switched jobs and joined a dating site. “It was hard,” she admits. “I had failures and rejections, but after a while, ironically, the more I got pushed down, the stronger I became. I got tough skin and strength to finally gain control.”
“You’re going to know failure if you are brave with your life,” says motivational speaker and renowned author Dr. Brené Brown. Her research in the field of social psychology has addressed difficult topics such as shame, empathy, courage and vulnerability. By promoting bravery and courage, she has inspired many to evaluate their lives. She shares, “Courage equals vulnerability, and you really cannot be brave without vulnerability.” She defines vulnerability as “the feeling that we get when facing uncertainty, risk or emotional exposure.” Her daily mantra is, “Today I will choose courage over comfort, and I will choose to be brave.”
Some might say bravery is jumping off of a cliff. However, bravery is an expression of doing something even when faced with opposition or criticism. It is not about being foolhardy but, rather, introspective. “Not jumping off of the cliff might actually be the act of bravery when everyone around you is jumping,” Dr. Brown uses as an example. She adds, “Brave leaders are never silent around hard things.”
“A lot of my inspiration came from the idea that to be a really good leader, you have to be very authentic,” says Rochester Women Magazine owner, Emily Watkins. She also points out, “Vulnerability and authenticity go hand in hand. Perfection is another part of this because it is so pervasive in our society, and many of us get caught up in its pursuit. But perfection only leads to disappointment.” Watkins stresses, “Admitting that we are not perfect is an act of true bravery.”
To quote “Harry Potter” character Dumbledore, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” Ernest Hemingway defined the concept as “courage is grace under pressure.” Life is full of uncertainty, but brave individuals learn how to cope with the risks. The rewards are joy, success and positivity. In “10 Ways to Live a More Courageous Life,” Rhett Power writes, “Aristotle believed that courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.”
“The pandemic has been especially hard for our family,” says Emma. Her son is immunocompromised, and they have had to be isolated from many. “My coworkers, friends and family don’t quite understand that any exposure to the virus could be very harmful and affect everyone differently. It is hard to be brave sometimes, and I get so frustrated standing up to others. Yet I know I must continue to be protective and advocate for him. He is the true hero and never complains. I gain my strength from him,” she declares.
Rae gained the courage to come out as bisexual last year. “I saw a TikTok video of someone that had so many similarities to me. I really could relate to their line of thinking and feelings,” she says. “I was always subconsciously suppressing my true being because it did not meet the norm standards of society. I always felt like an outcast despite trying to act normal. As I was nearing my 30th birthday, I finally wanted to be true to myself.” Rae adds, “I wish I had been brave earlier. The love and support of family and friends has now given me so much confidence.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear,” Nelson Mandela famously said. Learning how to be courageous despite fear takes practice and persistence. Mastering this can be liberating. It is important to remember that everyone has failures and weaknesses. By practicing positive self-talk, plus gaining strength and support from others, change is really possible. Therefore bravery can be cultivated and become a habit. Indian writer Munshi Premchand stated, “Like timidity, bravery is also contagious.”
Starting with kindness
Over a decade ago, a random act of kindness inspired local community advocate Danielle Teal to pay it forward and then later start Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere, or CAKE. “I was financially strapped and literally on fumes at the station, and then a total stranger paid for my gas,” she recalls. Teal points out, “Being kind is being of generous character, while being nice is just being agreeable. We must be more than nice. We must advocate even in difficult and uncomfortable situations.”
Teal notes that with all of the division and polarization in society today, being kind is being brave. “Right now caring is what is truly needed. People are hurting and getting sick, so they need comfort.” She emphasizes, “We must do what is best for everybody. This means being brave enough to speak up for the truth and not attacking one another. We must confront the issues, take action and lead by example.” She adds, “Teachers, health care providers and all essential workers are so brave, and we owe them our deepest thanks and support. Being kind is the pathway to bravery.”
Bravery is very individualized and completely relative. Showing gratitude, patience, compassion and sensitivity are so necessary these days. The absence of judgment is also important. Being brave is having humility. Each person knows their comfort zone, and small changes can have huge impacts. Having fortitude and perseverance, plus motivation and attitude are key. Bravery is not just about valor during special circumstances but rather the courage to do the right thing in everyday life.