When people walk into my office, one of the first things they notice is a big sign my office that says “Brave enough”. I created that sign a long time ago, not only for clients, also as a reminder to myself that I am and will always be brave enough. The sign has become a foundation of my practice and the work that I do with my clients. I truly believe that we are all brave enough to do hard things, even when it feels scary or overwhelming.
A few years ago, I started exploring the concept of bravery because I realized that I didn’t have a full grasp of what that meant for myself and others. I did what any great researcher would do, and I googled it. The first definition of brave that I found was this: “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage,”. Other definitions included being bold, heroic, courageous, valiant, fearless, gallant, and enduring threatening situations.
Truth be told, I don’t often find myself in in life-threatening and dangerous situations, but I have come to realize that experiences do not have have to look like that for one to be brave. I believe that having the courage to do hard things in life is what makes us brave –when we step outside of ourselves and do things that we know could hurt us in the end, but we do it anyways because the chance of success overshadows the possibility of failure and heartache. We do brave things because that is how we grow.
To help you on your own brave journey, here are 5 intentions to help you develop your brave self:
Feel your feelings
Your feelings are important. You are allowed to feel what you feel, you do not have to push, hide, or shove it away. Research has shown that suppression of feelings does not work well, despite the fact that people most often choose that form of coping. When you are feeling something uncomfortable, take a moment to name what you are feeling. Is it sadness? Fear? Rejection? Anxiety?. What is that feeling saying? Often times in the face of doing something difficult, we are overwhelmed by feelings that keep us from moving forward and showing our bravery. It is worth it to take some time and try and understand where those feelings are coming from, and what they mean to you. Once you make sense of it, then you can start to move forward on your journey.
Let go of perfectionism
Perfectionism is a lie, and it is vastly different from healthy goal-making and thriving. Perfectionism and shame are best friends, and that duo can hinder your progress. Some people argue “my perfectionism has made me successful!!” This may be true, but it is a good idea to ask yourself the following question: Do you ever feel that where you are and what you have created is good enough? If you say ‘no’ then I think it is worth exploring and maybe letting of those perfect expectations. You can be just as successful, just as creative (maybe even more so), without perfectionism. Letting go of perfectionism breaks down any expectations that may hold you back from taking big creative or worthwhile risks. To learn more about letting go of shame and perfectionism, I would highly recommend reading Brené Brown’s work.
Believe in your worthiness
You are enough, just as you are. My favorite quote (also hanging in my office) is by Carl Rogers: “the curious paradox is, when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”. Too often we dislike ourselves in order to ‘change’. It is not the most effective way to change or grow. Self-acceptance and self-compassion are paramount in discovering your bravery.
Mindfulness has been proven time and time again to help decrease anxiety, improve focus and concentration, and to lower stress levels. When you are feeling something uncomfortable, try this: take deep breath, slowly let it out, and then hold it at the end of the exhale for a few seconds. Notice where you feel the sensation in your body. What is that sensation saying? Can you imagine it releasing on your next exhale?
See a therapist
Sometimes there are things that happen in our lives that keep us blocked or stuck. This could be the result of trauma, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues . A therapist can help walk you through tough issues that may be present in your life. Even if you don’t feel that you have any trauma or past issues, a therapist can help walk with you on your path of self-discovery.
As you embark on your journey, you will find that there will always be an adversary. No matter what you do or what you say, there will be someone telling you that you are doing it wrong. Often times, the loudest and harshest critic of them all may even be yourself—that inner voice that tells you that you are not good enough, that you are not brave, that you are small and weak. I am here to tell you that despite those worries and those fears, you ARE Brave enough. You just have to believe it .
Kylie Chaffin, Licensed Mental Health Counselor.