What would you do today if you knew you could not fail?
This question for me is a liberating question to ponder…it helps me to consider the possibilities that lay beyond what I have considered myself capable of up until now!
There’s a fabulous song by Jana Stanfield which contains the words “I’d never lose faith, even when losing my way…What step would I take today, if I were brave?”
We seem to have been trained to fear failure – in fact it’s one of our main fears, up there with fear of rejection and fear of death! It’s ridiculous to expect that in life we will always be 100% successful in everything we undertake. Yet we put pressure on ourselves to ‘get it right’ to make sure everything’s perfect…and this creates so much anxiety within the ego mind, which is focused on survival, and will do whatever it takes to support ‘success’ as it defines it…
I can remember doing an exercise once at a workshop on fear – having to state in front of a large group of women what I was most afraid of. I can remember hearing all of the fears – flying, spiders, heights etc and thinking to myself… ‘those things don’t scare me – perhaps I’m not afraid of anything’…and then it hit me ‘I’m afraid that if people knew who I really was they wouldn’t like me’! Realising this with such clarity was huge, and somewhat disintegrating, (and there were a few tears!!) yet it paved the way for me to put myself back together in a new way, with a new understanding of what it is to be me…
I realised that much of my life up until then I had invested in saying what I needed to say, doing what I needed to do, and achieving what I needed to achieve for others, sometimes at the expense of my own well-being, not allowing myself to tell the truth about how I felt (even to myself at times). I kept myself small, believing that it wasn’t my place to speak up. I was afraid of them finding out who I really was! I was hiding, and neither I nor the world would get to see what was there, my authentic self.
Today I am posting this note to encourage everyone to be Brave – whatever that means to you – because I have learned that the world needs what we have to share when we are being our brave selves – our authentic selves – this is how we truly connect, and consequently how we build trust and unity as humanity.
Brené Brown, author of Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone states ‘To brave the wilderness…we must learn how to trust ourselves and trust others.’ In order to do this we need to be willing to be vulnerable, to share our truth – without fear. Speaking the truth takes courage. Living our lives with integrity to our values takes courage sometimes too.
There’s a banner hanging on our pergola in our backyard which has various words and descriptions of them on it – one reads Courage: not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them.
So…it seems that in order to be brave we need to be able to trust, and reveal ourselves, yet in order to do that most people need to know that they can trust those to whom they are revealing themselves! A Paradox!
Following my revelation at the workshop I was guided to read a book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. This was just the book I needed, and I recommend it to anyone grappling with overcoming any fears in their life. The most profound part for me was when she spoke about the inner chatterbox in our minds which is the voice of fear – the voice of the ego. When I tune into this voice: I doubt myself; I am tense; I try to control; I am blocked; I am in inner turmoil.
Susan reminded me to instead listen to the voice of my Brave Self, my inner cheerleader – my Higher Self. When I tune into this voice: I am confident; I relax; I trust; I let go and let come; I am creative, and I am at peace.
I actually put those statements up as affirmations in my bedroom at the time to remind me of the truth…and to allow the chatterbox to fade into the background as white noise!
[For those of you who are familiar with ANTs and PETs – Automatic Negative Thoughts and Positive Enhancing Thoughts this is a similar approach – to deal with an ANT infestation we need the PETS!]
I had to choose my thoughts, and continue to need to choose thoughts which encourage me to be Brave, each day of my life.
Being Brave, as I have said earlier, is relative. It depends what your own comfort zone looks like. It might include speaking up more regularly when it would be easier to be quiet and stay under the radar. It might include taking action on things which you can’t control the outcome of. It might include choosing to learn something new, to change jobs, or relationships – change can induce fear for some.
I have a beautiful friend who I know will be reading this, who is dealing with change that has been thrust onto her by the passing of her husband…she expressed that she has patches where anxiety seems to rule the emotions. This is completely natural – she has found herself in a new situation with unknown outcomes, requiring a new set of skills and a reframing of life as a whole. We spoke about acknowledging the fear/anxiety, and coming back to present time, in order to maintain constructive thoughts and responses to each moment. I honour her honesty in this new and confronting place she finds herself, and her ability to reach out as we all do from time to time. That willingness to be vulnerable keeps her connected, as opposed to isolated in her grief, which will help the healing process. She will indeed need to find her Brave Self.
So, the need to find our Brave Self may vary from person to person…it is important to encourage each other to find it though…as it is this part of ourselves which will help us to connect with others and live our authentic lives, our Real Self will shine through.
It may not always seem the most popular move – it may be met with disapproval initially! As Oprah said: Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.
This is when the best stuff comes out to play! And the world has the most to gain from it!
Tibetan Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron: The Places that Scare You – a Guide to Fearlessness challenges us to live our lives beyond fear. ‘All too frequently we relate like timid birds who don’t dare to leave the nest. Here we sit in a nest that’s getting pretty smelly and that hasn’t served its function for a very long time. We could do ourselves the ultimate favour and finally get out of that nest. We can ask ourselves the question: “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly or do I choose to live and die in fear?”’
Even choosing to write this blog and post it publicly each week feels brave for me – to share my innermost thoughts, and risk rejection, or whatever my ego thinks will happen feels out of my comfort zone to some extent. But the discomfort of sitting with my thoughts, afraid to reveal them out of fear is greater than the discomfort of imagined negative repercussions, and the belief that we are all teachers in each other’s lives encourages me to share.
Thank you for listening – I acknowledge the Brave in You!
What would I do today, if I were brave? Jana Stanfield
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway: Susan Jeffers
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone: Brené Brown
The Places that Scare You – A Guide to Fearlessness: Pema Chodron
As a part of my own spiritual and personal practice, I chose 52 words to reflect on over the course of a year.