I can remember, as if it were yesterday, walking into my very first day of kindergarten. Clasping tightly to my mother’s leg, crying uncontrollably and begging her not to make me go. One of my older, teenage sisters was there too, also begging my mom not to make me go. She was as heartbroken for me as I was. The baby of the family after all, with four older sisters to help protect me from anything that could disrupt my world.
Needless to say, I eventually overcame the fear of school and settled nicely into a solid group of friends, whom I remain in loose contact with to this day, albeit primarily via social media.
Brave is about the furthest term from my mind when it comes to describing my adolescent years. Quite frankly, I lived in fear a great deal of the time. Fear of being alone, fear of my parents arguing, fear of heights and fear of drowning. Coupled with fears of such things as: big dogs, cows, horses and generally any animal at least half my size. Looking back, I was clearly anything BUT brave!
So when I received this card from my daughter a few weeks back for Mother’s Day, there was one word she used to describe me that caused me to pause, and reflect closely at when I acquired the bravery I now possess and she recognizes.
My teenage years, although full of friends, sports, socializing and academic achievement, always left me feeling lonely. To the outside world this would make no sense, nor did it to me at the time. This loneliness made me difficult to please, with a constant sense of discontent. Instead of using my vivacious spirit to draw others in, I pushed them further away.
As I moved into my early married years, I continued to feel like nothing was quite “as it should be”. I bounced from career to career, yet still creating success in the eyes of the outside world. Constantly seeking the perfect career and social setting that would allow me to settle into my life. Yet inside, I was the same lonely, disconnected woman I had known from my early childhood.
But as life does, it began to hand me some serious real life heartaches. It was during these times I realized the strength and bravery I had possessed all along. Maybe the reason I felt alone and afraid is because I WAS brave and therefore always had a sense of being on the outside. The fact is, most people need to lean on others, or feel like they need to fit in. I was different. Fitting in only made me feel more lonely. As I look back now, it was my sense of not belonging to anything that was evidence, I was brave all along.
I will never forget the feelings I felt of comfort in my own solidarity as I read Brene’ Brown’s book titled “Braving the Wilderness” . As she described her own sense of feeling alone in a room full of people, I was astounded by how closely our stories of youth resembled one another’s. I began to realize I felt lonely because I was born to stand alone.
I am no longer afraid to be alone but cherish it. I care very little what other’s think of me and do not shy away from walking into a room of strangers out of fear someone may not like me. I have changed careers, sold businesses and taken risks because I realize failure is a part of life and life is meant to be lived. Rather than living in fear, I am living brave.
Although this is a trait I now realize I possessed all along, it still involves fear and requires practice. Physically I practice getting out of my comfort zone by competing in the sport of functional fitness. Professionally, I help people who desire to improve their lives by providing them honesty and challenge, rather than gratuitous support.
As a parent, I work hard to relinquish a sense of control of my daughter’s life and instead, help her find her own way. Passing onto her the lessons I have learned about embracing struggle to find a sense of pride in herself. Just this week she had her first Royal Conservatory of Music exam, for which she was riddled with fear. Both of us hesitating upon whether this was the right decision for her. As she walked out of the examiner’s room, tears of self pride rolling down her face, she had an early experience of how fulfilling life can be when you are brave!
As a wife, I strive to avoid taking the person I chose to spend my life with for granted. It is easy in a relationship to get lazy, to find all the fault in the other and settle into the mindset that marriage is just one more part of life that isn’t fulfilling. Relationships take honesty, humility and braving the work involved.
Amongst friends, I draw boundaries and work only authentically. People can trust I will tell them the truth and decide for themselves whether that works for them or not. I will not lie or make excuses but merely say “no” when “no” feels right. I have joked with friends for years that if they ask me over for dinner, most likely I will say no. It turns some people away, but the authentic friendships remain tight and closer than ever.
All of these practices require standing alone in who I am but I will always choose brave over easy.
Are you living brave or allowing fear to rule your life? What does your voice inside whisper to you, but your fears tell it to go away? Whatever it is in life you want, it is only possible through truth and bravery.
Walk into that gym for the first time and hold your head high.
Let go of the foods that feed you comfort yet keep you from living healthy and confidently.
Have those difficult conversations that are holding you back in relationships.
Set boundaries with others and start saying “no”.
Let go of control of your child’s life because you fear what will happen to them if you don’t.
Speak out loud the dreams your mind whispers inside your deepest thoughts.
There is so much more to you and to your life than you realize. Choose Brave!
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