“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was part of the first wave of the women’s right movement which began during the nineteenth century in the United States. Working with Susan B. Anthony, Stanton not only fought for women’s enfranchisement, but for women’s custody, parental and property rights, employment and income rights, divorce rights and birth control. The most historically remembered document she wrote and first shared at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions purposefully paralleled Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to bear reflection that the demands of equality and independence of women were no different from Americas demands to be free from King George III.
Had she and so many other women chosen not to stand up for what they knew to be their rights, not privileges, the women’s movement would look drastically different. And it is in decisions such as these that bravery is exhibited. Bravery does not occur when times are easy, when everything is going smoothly, but instead when justice has been denied, when a lie has been perpetuated and considered fact, or when the life we wish to live has crashed down around our ankles. It is in such disheartening, sickening, heart-wrenching moments that our true character is revealed. The easy decision in the moment is the choice of cowards – to turn and run. The difficult, yet the right decision, is to stand up, speak up and take action.
So if you are someone who is willing to make the difficult decision, and ultimately the decision that will contribute positively to the world and community you live in and wish to create for yourself, here are eight tips on how to be brave.
1. Realize that without fear, courage and bravery wouldn’t exist. As the definition of being brave states, “ready to face and endure danger or pain”, unless we feel we are going to lose someone/something we care about or become injured either emotionally or physically, we will never get the opportunity to be brave.
2. Understand your fears, confront them, don’t run from them. Believe it or not, your fears are actually your guideposts. As human beings, we are able to sense fear so that we may be better able to protect ourselves and not be caught off-guard. Often the media and the culture we live in prey upon this natural instinct, so for some, our fear detector needs to be recalibrated. But once we’re able to discern between which fears are worthy of our time, we then need to dive deep into them instead of running from them. What are they trying to tell you? Often our fears are instincts telling us who someone truly is rather than who they show themselves to be, and even better, our fears are also trying to direct us to where we want to go. You see, if we want something, we fear not being able to attain it because of the uncertainty, but if we look at it as a grand picture, the only direction to move in is towards what we wish to attain. In other words, our fears are our compass. Running from them is certain to cause them to keep following us until we finally face them head on.
3. Seek out a role model that can help give you direction. Whatever you might be afraid of – not being able to discover your passion, not attaining the job you have worked so long for, not being able to [insert your desire here], seek out someone who has achieved what you wish to in a way that inspires you and you wish to model.
4. Strengthen your “change” muscle. Change can be scary, and it can be even scarier if we never allow it to be part of our everyday lives. While adhering to a routine is a good idea, adding doses of new experiences to our daily routines is a wonderful way to exercise our ability to handle new experiences. For example, be willing to try new cuisine whenever you have the opportunity, be willing to strike up a conversation with a stranger while waiting for the train/subway/bus/etc, be willing to put yourself in new situations (in small doses or shorts amount of time) to learn how to respond to unknown stimuli. By exercising your “change” muscle not only will you broaden your perspectives and knowledge base, but you will also be far less likely to be shocked and frozen when change is expected of you.
5. Rise above the judgments and opinions of others. There are so many things in this world we have no control over, but there are so many other things we do that we often forget about them and let them slip through our fingers. While we may not be able to alter someone’s opinion of us or our actions, we can choose to let their judgments bounce off us and be a reflection of who they are, not allowing ourselves to be swayed unnecessarily.
6. Master your mind. Do the hard work of getting to know yourself. Come to understand what makes you tick, what makes you smile, what stresses you out and why, so that when frightening situations occur you know how to best respond according to your knowledge of your strongest capabilities.
7. Educate yourself. Refuse to be ignorant. Often it is ignorance that cultivates and fans the flames of fear. When we don’t know, the unknown can be frightening, but once we understand how something works – global warming, health conditions, government, taxes, how to get a job, how to buy a house, etc. – we eliminate the unknown and then are better able to tackle the problem with a common sense solution.
8. Don’t put the cart before the horse. As Mark Twain reminds us, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” ― C. JoyBell C.
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