Lost my courage
Bravery was always a big part of my character, I loved making tough decisions and generally always took the most challenging route, plus I was a big adrenaline seeker in my younger years having trained as an outdoor pursuits instructor. The pang of excitement on choosing a risky path always kept me feeling like I was moving forward – and even if it turned out to be the wrong decision, I felt content knowing I’d given it a go.
Feel the fear...
Since having my little girl, I haven’t recognised bravery much in myself. The new feelings of requiring security for my little girl and our family seemed to conflict badly with that need for a bit of adrenaline. I wrote a blog last week about the internal character conflict new-motherhood can bring, if you’re interested.
In the middle of last year, I felt really lost. Upon taking the VIA Character strengths test, I discovered bravery to be one of my key strengths; so I tried to find ways to exercise that bravery in everyday life. The first thing I did was find a decent hairdresser and have my mid-length hair cut off short – something I’d been too frightened to do for YEARS. I LOVED it, not only did the new ‘do’ suit me and my lifestyle, that feeling of butterflies in my tummy returned.
On my Positive Psychology journey, one thing that has really resonated with me is using your key character strengths every day to keep your energy up. With Bravery being such a strong one for me, I needed to find ways to exercise this strength. However, whilst considering what my next ‘brave’ move would be, I recognised that it didn’t have to be big grand gestures – I WAS exercising bravery, I just needed to acknowledge it when I did.
We don’t always take notice of when we are using parts of our character – like creativity or leadership, in our everyday adventures, and once we do, we can feel more energised doing those simple things. As an example, on the days I would have my daughter on my own, I would get a little nervous that I wouldn’t give her a great experience or cope with a tantrum that day – so I would on occasion, avoid being alone with her, or avoid situations that I thought may cause her to be more stressed. By doing this, I made myself even more anxious.
I realised I had to show bravery to overcome these feelings and literally by acknowledging I had to be brave to take her to new places or spend more alone time with her – I had challenged the inner me to be better. This worked beautifully and I now enjoy that slight feeling of fear so I can use it to my advantage. (Trust me, I still have days where I’d prefer some help!)
If becoming a little braver in your everyday life is on your agenda for 2018, here are a few tips from me to help you exercise it more:
Identify brave role models.
They don’t have to be Bear Grylls or Ellen MacArthur or someone who throws themselves into death-defying events – but they do need to be someone you admire for making those tough decisions or deal with tough situations bravely. If you find fear is getting in your way, look at how they deal with those tough decisions and use that knowledge when you think about what they may do in a particular situation you find yourself in.
Be curious about fear.
Try to understand where your fears are truly coming from. Your self-doubt and inner critic can take over decision making if you let it, so work on FACTS and not over-analysed dialogue in your head. Identify the true cause and work through that.
Remind yourself of bolder moments.
When self-doubt starts to creep in, cut it short by looking back on times when you have been brave and reaped the rewards. Remember those feelings of joy and satisfaction. Do this regularly, celebrate those brave moments with family and friends and remind your child when they’ve been brave too.
Give yourself opportunities to practice in the ‘discomfort zone’.
True personal growth comes from the discomfort zone – the area where bravery really comes into its own. In my case, I stopped planning my days with my daughter weeks in advance in order to put myself in that discomfort zone on the day – I had to come up with activities and things to do. It took courage to do that and now I’m much better at coming up with ‘off the cuff’ stuff to do.
Remember, those who appear ‘fearless’ aren’t.
Those who enjoy that feeling of fear still have it – they just choose to prioritise something else over it, giving them the energy to be brave. I prioritised the experience with my daughter over my fear, so I found something important to be brave for. What will you prioritise?
Create feedback loops in your head.
Tell yourself “I can do this”, I’ve got control” or “I am more than capable” when feeling that fear. Find something that works for you and make it your bravery mantra.
We’ve probably all heard about ‘choosing our attitude’ for the day, so maybe every now and again wake up and choose to be brave that day. What can you do today that might give you those butterflies? Prove to yourself you can overcome your fears and move forward. For example, if you find meeting new people difficult, choose to be brave and try that new class you’ve been wanting to do for a while.
Being brave gives me energy, it makes me grow and feel I’m moving forward – now I recognise my bravery every day and have learned to appreciate the small acts of courage rather than thinking I needed to take big leaps all the time.