Did you find yourself in an uncomfortable position lately?
Did you feel like you could have done better, be more courageous, or not react the way you had?
I often hear people talking about this country being the country of the brave. But what does that mean?
If your image of bravery is one of strong men and women, looking like the Avengers bunch, with muscle power and superficial heroism saving the day, well, let’s consider another aspect you might be missing.
To me, that type of bravery is only a show of force and resilience with a macho outward display rather than inner emotional strength, courage, adaptability, and compassion. When we present ourselves that way, we fail to face and prioritize a more critical aspect of ourselves: bravery facing our emotional discomfort.
It is in this discomfort, with all the facets that might represent the intricacies of our human texture, that we will see what we are made of. And it’s in that vulnerability that we show leadership and courage.
I was listening to a recent podcast from Brené Brown, where someone asked the question: “Why are we so vulnerable to propaganda and susceptible to misinformation?” She explains that psychological research shows that on one side, people are susceptible because they want information that proves their own beliefs. On the other hand, it reveals that it stems from a lack of intellectual curiosity or a lack of skills in critical thinking. People don’t know how, or they are not willing to challenge the information because it takes much effort.
She continuous by saying that when people are afraid, if you can give them someone to blame for their fear and sell them the “snake oil of certainty” in times of deep vulnerability and ambiguity, people will consume and believe almost anything that they hear.
That resonated with me. I remember facing distressful situations in my life and being at a complete loss in how to deal with my pain and uncertainty. When I was in that space, I didn’t know how to be productive. And my only way out of that pain was to seek normality and resist anything that would get me stuck in my discomfort.
I was facing emotional scarcity and was thirsty for anything that would deliver me from that anguish.
In a few words, I was avoiding vulnerability and instead focused on outward relief to appease my pain, not having the courage to look in the mirror and face my grief. Meeting the source of that discomfort would require even more bravery.
Eventually, I faced it. With humility, I had to admit my shortcomings. It took work; this is not an overnight transformation. But it’s where I am now that makes it all worth it.
Being brave for me now is not about heroism, but it’s about how we can absorb what is happening around us and to us; feel it, observe it, and without attachment, reframe, and then move it along.
What does that mean? I had no clue then, but I understand it now. To me, it means two things:
1) Asking myself why? For whatever experience, if it is difficult for me, I question why? I question what triggers me, understand its source, and how it is affecting me. Then I want to see if this is something that I have to own and heal or something I can pass through. And as I move it through, how can I reframe it?
2) Reframing it: That means reframing the experience from something that could be negatively affecting me, to something that could bring joy, light, opportunities, hope, and action. I ask myself, what am I missing because I’m so focused on my pain? What’s another way to use this right now?
Here is an example:
Losing a job, a client, or failing an interview:
Understand the why: What’s the feeling I’m experiencing? Why is it difficult right now? What can I do to overcome it? What have I done in the past in similar situations? What is at risk?
Reframing: Not having this client or job means it created a space in my life that I can fill with something new. I wonder what will come in. What opportunities will fit in this space? What can I bring in that I would love to do? Then I create a plan and take action.
Running away from the anxiety that your emotions will bring or seeking external relief will train your brain to be afraid of being anxious, sad, grieving, or stressed. When you teach yourself to fear these emotions, you end up compounding your emotional pains and add layers of negativity to your experience.
By understanding your emotions and what triggers them, and by cultivating a new attitude toward the relationship with your feelings, with practice, you won’t be needing external “snake oil” and will build bravery.
When you have that, you are more capable of becoming a leader in addressing issues with more critical thinking and analyze them instead of falling for misinformation that can exacerbate your life.
Imagine what being brave could look like instead:
You don’t avoid stressful situations; instead, you approach them with curiosity
You don’t fight change; instead, you explore what the opportunities could bring to you
You don’t retrieve when someone is different from you; instead, you ask questions and explore other points of view
You don’t judge others, as you accept and understand without concerns or fears about how it would affect you
Your relationships would improve as you effectively manage your defensiveness
Your productivity would be much higher if you bravely confronted self-doubt, discomfort, or procrastination
You become more resilient as you know you have the capacity to face diversity
So now it’s up to you. Are you brave enough to do the work, to think critically, to shift away from continually fearing for yourself and be in protection, and instead have a growth mindset, with compassion and inclusiveness?
We often forget to celebrate what is right in the world. When we focus so much on ourselves, we live in a tunnel and miss on so many positive opportunities available to us.
By being brave, you can discover something outside of yourself that demonstrates the incredible beauty in our humanity and the world we live in.
So, rather than absorbing all the light for self-concerns, you can be a hero by sharing it and being a light for others.