If I asked you ~
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
How would you answer it?
Your first instinct might be to tell me about the biggest, badass, most terrifying thing you’ve ever done; skydiving, abseiling, giving the eulogy at a funeral etc. Something that made you feel sick to your stomach with anxiety and sheer terror (the upcoming SpartaChicks podcast come to my mind).
But you’re underestimating yourself.
You see I think the word “brave” has an image problem.
It’s often reserved for people who run into burning buildings, attempt to stop violent crime or racist behaviour on public transport or who perform other heroic acts. Yes, they are brave and I honour them all.
But because of this perception, “brave” probably isn’t high on the list of words you use to describe yourself.
“Other people” are brave. I’m not.
Here’s what I’ve come to realise over the last few years of coaching women (and more than a decade of dabbling in endurance sports myself) ~
What holds you back from achieving your dreams is NOT how fast you can run, how far you can ride, how long you can swim before your arms fall off, how many sets of stairs you can climb without collapsing, how much weight you can carry in a pack or how many hours you can go without sleep.
Yes, this is me! Scary? Perhaps. But brave? Not really.
Fear shows up in different ways for different women. For me, it shows up in procrastination and perfectionism. If you’re close to me, you’ve probably heard me mention wanting to write a book. Suffice to say it remains unwritten - but if you know a book agent, send them my way! 😉
For you, it might be worrying about what other people think, not starting because you’re afraid of ‘failing’, feeling like you’re a fraud and that you don’t belong. Or perhaps it’s because you don’t think of yourself as a “runner” or that you’re secretly worried that you might come last.
The only way to combat or challenge that fear is not to wait until you’re fearless - because pigs will fly before than happens. But to pull up your big girl panties, be brave and take a step forward towards your goals - despite feeling afraid.
To apply for that job you desperately want but doubt whether you’re capable of it, to put your hand up for a speaking opportunity, to press “submit” on the race entry, to speak up in a meeting, to say yes to an opportunity, to live in and enjoy the moment rather than worrying about whether you belong on that start line surrounded by women who look so much fitter than you.
It’s why you are brave - in fact, braver than you realise.
It shows up every time you reject the expectations that others have of you - or you have of yourself. Every time you do what’s important to you and your family (rather than what you think you should). Every time you enter a race you aren’t sure you can do but want to try. Every time you say yes to an opportunity or invitation that scares the crap out of you. Every time you accept that something may not work out the way you want - but you do it anyway.
It takes real bravery to put yourself in a situation where you feel like an “outsider”. After all, women have been conditioned for thousands of years to seek acceptance, to be part of a community and not to rock the boat (and thankfully your female ancestors did so - otherwise you may not be here today).
The word “Brave” is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as possessing courage.
“The root of the word courage is for - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word "courage" meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart”.
Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences - good and bad.
Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”
Brené Brown - I Thought It was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame.
And bonus points if you say don’t let it hit you on the arse on your way out 🙂
Here’s an activity you can use to prove exactly how brave you are:
Take 5 minutes right now and write down 10 everyday acts of bravery you’ve done over the last 3 months.
The races you finished when you weren’t sure you would.
The races you entered that scare you.
The difficult conversations you had with your spouse, boss, friends or family.
The emails that were difficult to write.
The times you said no (especially when it left you feeling guilty).
The presentation to the Board at work that made you sick-to-your-stomach.
The hard questions you asked.
The truly honest (opening-your-soul) answers you gave.
Write them all on a piece of paper or the note section in your phone. Don’t stop until you get 10 on your list. No-one ever needs to see it so be honest and dig deep.
I know you are braver than you realise. It’s time you knew it too.