April 7, 2017

Being Brave: It’s Not what we Think.

Others look at my life, see me traveling around the world alone and think I am fearless.

So, they conclude that I must be very courageous as they feel they would not have the guts to do the same. I hear them say, “You’re brave. Courageous.”

Courage is the strength to overcome one’s fears. I have never been scared of wandering in the most foreign places on my own. In fact, it has always felt comfortable and normal to me.

So am I really courageous?

I am scared of commitment. That’s why I always have an escape plan.
I am afraid of staying in one place, so I haven’t had a real home in five years.
I am frightened of snakes. That’s why I go on walks in the woods with snake-bite-proof boots.
I am terrified of the depth and uncertainty of the ocean, so I never go swimming in deep waters alone.

But most of all, I am scared of showing my fears to others. Showing fears means showing weakness, in my mind. Early on in my life, I learned that weak people get crushed in this world. This isn’t true for everyone, but it used to be true for me.

My biggest act of courage is to expose my fears; to show people that I do not have everything together and that I am sometimes scared to death. My personal act of bravery is to share my true emotions, show my shivering body, and release the tears that I am holding back.

I look at people who verbally express their fears openly, and I wish I had the courage to do the same.

Maybe what I long for is your strength—and you don’t recognize it because expressing your fears is so natural to you. Maybe we all tend to focus on the things that we cannot do, instead of what we can do.

I look at people who are willing to commit to a place, a home, and a partnership. I try to figure out how to do the same, rarely succeeding. I travel the world out of fear of commitment. I leave people behind, so that they don’t get the chance to leave me, because I’m so afraid of getting hurt.

So you see, I am not more courageous than you are.

We’ve all had different upbringings that shaped the way we perceive the world, it formed our fears and that created our identities.

We all are scared, just of different things and situations—and that’s okay.

Courage is to know our fears, acknowledge them and take our scared inner child by the hand. Bravery is to express our insecurities and then leave them behind us—to let them go.

Courage is to embrace our suppressed aspects of the self and invite them back into our being.

Courage for you might be to take a train to another city by yourself. Courage for me is to openly share these words.

Author: Alice Dea Smeets 

Image: distelfliege/ Flickr and Courtesy of author

Editor: Deb Jarrett

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