Whatever you're anxious about, don't let anyone down play its importance to you. No one knows what path you've taken to this point.
So don't waste time trying to convince naysayers. Instead, look for past flashes of bravery in your life.
There's a belief that bravery means you're never afraid. That's a myth.
Bravery is acknowledging the fear. And acting any way. Whether the act is a leap or a series of small steps.
And the kicker?
Bravery is a habit.
The more you do it; the more second nature it becomes. And the more second nature it becomes the more you underestimate how hard it might be for someone else to do what you did.
So start with something small. Say you have a fear of spiders. Observe a spider in a terrarium then work your way up to handling a tarantula.
Knock off your small fears until all you have left are things you've never thought you could do in a million years. Like driving solo across the United States. Traveling alone to a country that speaks a language other than the one you speak.
In college, I had this belief that I couldn't drive across the United States by myself. I'd also thought it was unsafe to travel by myself--especially if I wasn't fluent in the language.
Driving Solo Cross the United States
I drove cross-country not once, not twice, but three times alone. First through a region of the U.S. with no cell coverage. Second with a car that had just been rear-ended and had a compromised exhaust system.
Third with just a destination in mind.
Each time I didn't have specific places I'd be staying or a set agenda. I never thought any of those actions were brave. The first two trips were to escape. The third to start over. In context they were necessary. I couldn't see doing anything differently.
Traveling Solo to Non-English Speaking Countries
I traveled outside the U.S. alone to non-English countries.
I wouldn't have ever thought to travel solo until I was vocally envious of a friend interning in Bangkok, Thailand--a place I had on my travel bucket list after working with a Thai restaurant.
My friend asked simply, what's holding you back?
I had a laundry list of reasons.
After they asked the question again, I realized the only thing holding me back was me.
Two weeks later I was in Bangkok for three days.
The first day I went sightseeing while my friend worked, and ended up on the wrong waterway traveling who knows where outside the tourist area. I discovered myself in what looked like the equivalent of San Francisco's Financial District. In broken Spanish, I was able to chat with another traveler and get my bearings.
After the adrenaline rush wore off, the shaking began. The OMG I could have been killed, I should never have gone sightseeing by myself, you name it anxiety took over.
And then I stopped it.
None of those things had happened and OMG I was in Thailand. I could choose to have the best adventure of my life and I did (concussion and all!).
A year later I would book a 10-day trip to Costa Rica with less than three-week notice.
In Spanish I am less than fluent. Where I was traveling, outside the big cities, this could potentially be a problem.
I booked anyway.
Waiting at the gate the OMG what was I thinking, this isn't safe, this isn't smart, I'm going to die, and more doubts kicked in.
I almost threw up on the spot.
So I did the only thing I knew how to: I willed my feet forward and I boarded that plane.
What followed was one of my most memorable vacations ever. Got a manual-transmission rental car stuck in a ditch and had to rely on two European tourists to free the car and drive me back to civilization. Was an extra in a spy movie spoof film that went straight to Internet. Learned how to dance from the locals. Shared breakfast with a goat. Finally realized that OMG this is my life 8-days into the trip. Had one of the best adventures of my life.
Bravery happens when you decide you want a life without regrets.
1997. A year of at least two misdiagnoses. One who didn't have cancer but was told they did (and didn't have insurance that would cover a second opinion). Another who had cancer but was told they didn't.
At the end of the year one would be gone. And the other (that would be me if you hadn't guessed) would start to live as if they were dying.
I began by tackling a fear of college campuses. I enrolled in an undergraduate business class at UT Austin. Heart pounding. Feet as if made of lead I got out of Gypsy. Put one foot in front of the other and made it to class. Then I reversed course back to Gypsy. And repeated again and again until college campuses were no longer scary. But that's a story for another day.
Bravery is a 4+ step process.
Want to learn how to be braver in your everyday life? Joel Runyon breaks it down:
- Be terrified of something.
- Do it anyways.
- Be less scared of the something.
- Do it again.
You can do it.
You are enough.
You deserve happiness.
You'll find allies along the way.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.