I used to think being brave was forging through life with plenty of shields up to make sure that I didn’t get hurt. It was sticking my neck out to do great things, but to share as little of myself as necessary to get them done.

Now I realize that’s bravado. And it doesn’t really serve anyone.

True bravery is learning how to be vulnerable while also maintaining boundaries. It’s a much more challenging way to show up in the world.
Self care. We can’t be brave if we aren’t grounded and feeling cared for ourselves. We need to feel worthy from the inside. We mindfully charge our batteries through self-care, whether it be meditation, prayer, exercise, sleep, a cup of tea. We can’t fully appreciate others for all they can be if we are not honoring ourselves.

To be clear in our intentions, means that we need to stay grounded. Much like a snow globe that gets all shaken up, but we’re not engaging in self care then discernment is very difficult. Everything is cloudy and murky and it’s easy to have a cup overflow with anxiety, worry, and stress. Through mindfulness and breathing and enough self-care, we can stay in a state in which we can consider our intentions. When we are aware that our self-care is not where it needs to be. That her battery needs charged. That we’re not in a place of being grounded, then sometimes will need to step away from difficult conversations until we’re strong again.

Vulnerability. Bravery is taking off the various masks that we wear in life to be honest and real and vulnerable. Being vulnerable when it allows us to make greater connection with others. I’m wearing a strong place and we can find greater meaning through the sharing of our stories. It means that we acknowledge the stories we tell ourselves and recognize that others’ stories of the same experience are valid too, as the writer Brene’ Brown shares. It doesn’t mean sharing our deepest truth with everyone, but a commitment to trying to see the best version of whomever is in front of you, whether it be the store clerk, your child, or yourself in the mirror.
Cleaning up messes. But it does involve addressing discomfort and potential conflict head on. It involves saying sorry when necessary. It involves cleaning up our messes when we screw something up with someone. Taking responsibility for our messes is hard. But it’s much healthier than letting the mess grow.

Taking time outs. Being brave also means that sometimes we need to pause and find faith in non-action. If we are reactive and emotional and not in a place of grounding, then being brave sometimes is walking away. Not engaging. We must wait until we are on solid ground before we try to interact. Hopefully as we get better at this, those needs for timeouts and stepping away grow shorter. But it’s important to honor them. And they may not be the timeline of the person who’s trying to engage you (or pick a fight with you). People sometimes want a reaction out of you, even if it is negative. And that can be tough because it hurts when someone’s angry. That discernment is really about intention.

Written by Dr. Dana Mitra

I am a life coach at Coaching By Dana and tenured academic professor at Penn State.

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