Does it evoke heroic images of courageous acts done by special people?
Is it a word that you use to describe yourself at times?
At a recent Wholistic Woman Retreat® we explored the topic of bravery. We learned that it occurs in the little moments of life as well as in more pivotal moments.
Bravery occurs each time we step out of our comfort zones. When we overcome our fears enough to try a new activity or have a difficult conversation, we are being brave.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed there is a dance that we do between fear and doubt and trust and faith. Much like a dance, whether we move gracefully or awkwardly between them depends upon how much practice we’ve had. Learning how to replace my doubts with trust becomes a key factor in my ability to be brave and try new ways of being or thinking.
One arena where I have had the opportunity to practice these dance moves repeatedly was when writing my book. Like many others, I always thought I would write a book one day, but I really didn’t know how or when I would do it. Upon returning from a transformative trip to Europe, however, I suddenly knew it was time to write my book.
Uncertainty and self-doubt arose with thoughts of… I don’t know how. Who will read it? Who am I to write a book? Others are more qualified than me.
When I listened to these inner voices of doubt, I could feel my courage shrinking and a strong urge to play it safe grew within me.
I knew that the way to move from fear to trust would be through loving-kindness. As Brene’ Brown teaches in the Daring Way™, the two most important seats in any life arena are empathy and self-compassion. When we change our inner voice from ‘the critic’ to one of a friend, we shift our energy and create forward movement.
I changed my inner tape to one of encouragement with…who am I to ignore my call to write? If I only touch one person with my book it will be worth it. Normal people like me have stories worth telling.
This new perspective released the hold fear had upon me and I began to write my story. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but trusted that if I did my part the purpose of my work would be revealed.
Doubts soon re-surfaced, however, and I began to see that this dance between fear and trust is repeated continuously when we are being brave. Moving away from fear is not a one-time activity. We have the opportunity to practice it over and over again.
While in the midst of writing my book one day my fingers raced across the keyboard and the words poured out of me. I paused to review what I had just written and was surprised to see ‘three beliefs for faith-based living’. I was so intent on letting the words flow out of me that I hadn’t consciously constructed these beliefs. They were a culmination of many thoughts within me, yet I also felt that they had come through me from a source bigger than myself. My heart resonated with these beliefs, but doubt and fear once again appeared in my mind.
The inner critic questioned the 3 beliefs with thoughts of…what will people think? I’m not an expert. Who am I to write this? It’s too simple. People will laugh…or ridicule…or judge me. Don’t be a fool and let people know what you believe.
As these thoughts swirled within me I could feel the enthusiasm for writing my story starting to shrink. The urge to play it safe returned, and I was tempted to revise the beliefs or even to take them out of the book entirely. It felt vulnerable to include them and I was frightened to voice my perspectives so boldly and risk being judged.
Feeling stuck in uncertainty, I once again knew that the way to move from self-limiting fear into action was through trust and faith. The dance move needed to replace my self-defeating thinking was self-compassion.
I began with…you can do this. You don’t have to be an expert to others; you are an expert about your own beliefs. And, if you don’t say it…who will?
This new perspective released the logjam of my self-doubt and I resumed writing.
This pattern continued to repeat itself throughout the entire project. I seemed to do a daily dance between doubt and trust and subsequently practiced overcoming limiting thoughts in many small ways. It was the large fears, however, that would stop me in my tracks and freeze my forward momentum.
Such as when I invited feedback on my manuscript from people who knew me, as well as from cold readers (people who had never met me). I bravely reviewed their comments each time in an effort to improve the book. There were times that the critical voices from others resonated with my inner critic and the two seemed to have a field day inside my head.
Such thoughts deteriorated my physical and emotional energy and I would be tempted to give up thinking…this is just too hard.
At times I couldn’t hear my own voice of self-compassion and I needed to hear words of kindness and encouragement from others. I welcomed positive feedback from loved ones, and even more so when the feedback came from strangers whose honest encouragement wasn’t driven by a concern for my feelings.
Statements such as…I can relate to your story. I couldn’t put the book down. I’ve been through similar experiences. I’m thinking about the questions you ask and have been growing because of them.
These affirmations lifted my spirit and helped me to be brave enough to take an honest look at the critical feedback, and use it to revise and improve the work overall.
Today, because I have learned this dance between fear/doubt and trust/faith, I have a finished book and its companion journal. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for the courage to continually practice the dance moves of loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy rather than doubt and fear.
Fear is such an integral part of life that I know I will always be involved in this waltz. With each rendition I recognize feelings of vulnerability more readily, and the subsequent urge to shrink and play it safe, quiet, and small. I hear my inner critic and then consciously choose to counter it with self-compassionate thoughts of encouragement. And if my attempts to talk to myself like a dear friend are not enough to change my energy, then I remember that I can rely on the compassion of others, and on a loving God, to rebalance my perspective.
What arena of your life is beckoning you to be brave and to move beyond your fear?
As you seek to overcome those doubts, try being compassionate with yourself.
Won’t you join me in this dance of being brave?
Carol deLaski is an author, speaker, and professional coach. Her books, Lost and Found: Discovering Strength in Love and Faith and the Lost and Found Companion Journal are available at www.caroldelaski.com. If you would like information on retreats, workshops, or coaching groups based on the book contact Carol via email: email@example.com
The Be Brave Retreat based on Dr. Brene’ Brown’s Daring Way program was recently sponsored by Wholistic Woman Retreats. If you would like information on bringing this retreat, or others, to your group or area please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.