Everyone likes hearing tales and stories of bravery or knowing someone they consider to be brave. In those situations, most people would utter phrases like, “they’re SO brave…” and “I’d never be able to do THAT! I’d be too afraid…” And the latter is particular, because most people seem to associate bravery with the lack of fear and this is about as incorrect a thought as one could have. Being brave or displaying bravery doesn’t mean that one isn’t afraid. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Let’s start with my preferred habit, which is to define what is is I’m talking about. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “bravery” as, “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear or difficulty.” A pretty straightforward definition, but I want to point out a certain aspect of that definition that sticks out and digs to root of what I’m getting at today. The definition by no means indicates the absence of fear. It does, however, define it as being strong enough to confront one’s fears. And THAT is the important difference.
To be brave doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid. fear is a normal and expected response to something that is worrisome, stressful or dangerous. It by no means suggests that if you’re afraid that you can’t be brave. Bravery (or valour) kicks in when you make the decision to confront that danger despite that fear. This can apply to a significant number of aspects of ones life, including work, interpersonal relationships, medical situations… hell, just stepping out the door in the morning. Some folks have something called Agoraphobia, which is the fear of spaces outside the home.
But if one can find it within themselves to do a thing regardless of the fear it incites, this would be bravery. Not the absence of the fear itself but the ability to confront or embrace it. Some good examples I can provide would include in 2015, when I started getting my eye injections. I don’t think I need to explain that the prospect of having someone slide a needle into my eyeball with the intentions of injection a medication into it definitely had my lizard brain saying, “Nope. Not happening. get us the fuck outta here…” Obviously, the prospect of eventually going blind outweighed my fear and I confronted it, and I continue to get these injections every seven to eight weeks.
In the beginning, I had plenty of people commenting and telling me how brave I was for going through that and that they’d never be able to, because they’d be too afraid. Bloody hell, you think I WASN’T afraid??? I sit through something that’s usually reserved as a bad scene out of a horror movie. Of course, I’m afraid. But I confront that fear. The result is that I come out of it with a maintained ability to see clearly, which allows me to do the little everyday things like retain the privilege of operating a motor vehicle and doing my work without special accommodation.
Another good example is testing for black belt. I’ve always trained very hard in karate. I’ve always been confident in my knowledge and abilities in karate. By that logic, testing for black belt shouldn’t have been an issue. But I would be outright lying if I said that I wasn’t scared shitless in the days leading up to the test. But I knew that if I wanted to continue my education in the martial arts that I had to take the added step. The result is that I was able to continue on my martial arts path, start teaching and continue this education, even today.
Granted, the inherent danger associated with those things are passive. Think about a firefighter who rushes into a burning building to save someone trapped inside. Do you think for one second that they aren’t scared? The fear is very real and the danger associated with it is very real, as well. Every time a police officer performs a traffic stop, there’s always a fear that they may be confronting someone violent and dangerous. There’s a CONSTANT fear. But they do it anyway. Now, this is the other end of the stick, of course. But the concept still stands.
Bravery doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid. It simply means that you find the strength within yourself to confront those fears and do it anyway. That’s where you’ll start to notice that you can accomplish far more in life. And you’ll be happier. No one wants to be controlled by their fears. And everyone can be brave. All it takes is the strength to step out that door the first time. And once you do, taking it one step at a time. ☯️