On Being Brave

Fearless. To face the unknown and feel exhilaration.

People start out pretty much fearless. There are only 3 inborn fears: fear of falling, fear of loud noises, and fear of abandonment. The rest of it, we acquire. Young people haven’t experienced enough to feel fear and apprehension. They haven’t yet learned that something can be hot and that hot things can burn your finger and that burnt fingers hurt. For a very young person, every experience is fresh and new. And so they are fearless! And then in time, experiences chip away at the fearlessness.  Exhilaration turns into apprehension. The fears accumulate. There is fear of being hurt, fear of disappointment, fear of spiders, and more. And from there it’s the slow descent into sticking to what you know, staying with the tried and tested, and reluctance to try anything new. So what’s the older, experienced,  fear-filled person  to do? Crawl into a cave and bury himself in his fears? The answer is: Be Brave!

Brave. To face your fears and overcome them.

Fear can paralyze. It can prevent you from trying new things. But that’s just one reaction. You can feel fear and choose to overcome it. You can feel nervousness, apprehension and worry at the thought of doing something new or different and then still go ahead and do it. That’s being brave. Even if what you are overcoming is something that only you find scary, that is still being brave. It’s brave for you! Bravery is relative to the amount of fear you had to overcome. So if you are very frightened of  cockroaches and you kill one, then one could say to you, “That was brave of you, to kill that cockroach”. But if you aren’t scared of cockroaches at all and you kill one, then you weren’t being brave because no bravery was required. And not related to this topic, but if you were a Buddhist and you didn’t believe in harming living things, then you would think something entirely different.

When the husband told me only one day in advance that we were going to sleep over in the farm for the first time, I got really nervous. The house wasn’t ready! I wasn’t ready! There was no running water or electricity yet. There was dust and dirt all over from the ongoing construction. How could I clean it all without running water? I needed more time to prepare for this! I also felt a little silly. What a strange thing to feel nervous about — sleeping in my own house! But there it was. The husband says it stems from my childhood growing up in a very clean and organized house. Probably. I told myself that it would be just like camping. It’s not all clean and perfect when you camp, but it’s fun. And so in spite of my worries, I packed up my things and had a great first night at the farm!

Farm at night. Photo by the husband.
Farm at night. Photo by the husband.
And then when we woke up to this! Photo by the husband.
And then we woke up to this! Photo by the husband.

It was the same with bringing home the horses. The horses were already reserved, but I didn’t want to pick them up yet. I thought it was too soon. I wanted to wait until the house was done so I could stay in the farm for at least 3 days at a time.  My DVD horse training guru said that it’s better to train a horses for 3 consecutive days than 3 times a week every other day. Becoming a first time horse owner and being responsible for such huge living things were scary to me. I wanted to stack the odds in my favor by making sure I had as ideal horse-keeping conditions as possible. But the husband insisted on getting the horses as soon as the paddock fence and shed were up! So, I went along. It turned out to be a good thing because it turns out you learn a lot about horse-keeping by doing it!

That fear in your gut can also be a good thing. I should have taken heed to the alarm bells that went off when I decided to ride Batman for the first time. It turned out to be a very short ride. I got thrown off! He wasn’t ready to be ridden and I wasn’t ready to ride him. Did my guru not say do at least a week of  groundwork first? I hadn’t done any groundwork at all. Zero. Well no wonder I was scared to ride him! I really should have been scared! That was a stupid move. Being brave, facing your fear and all that still need to be coupled with common sense and some logic. There are times when you should be cautious. There’s a fine line between being brave and being reckless.

Sometimes you are able to figure out these fears by yourself. Sometimes you need a bravery booster. That’s someone who can push you out of your comfort zone because that person has different ideas from you. What for you is paralyzingly scary could be nothing of consequence to him. It helps if the person is very close to you that you trust. Otherwise, you might not listen to the person. Or you might have feelings of persecution and “he just doesn’t understand me”. You also get to be a bravery booster at those moments when your bravery booster is fazed by something that you can handle. And then both of you get to do more things than you would on your own. When I look at the things the husband and I have gotten into over the years, a Push Me Pull You comes to mind. He pushes me to do things. “Go! Train the horses! You’ve already watched the DVD and bought all the gear!”  I pull him to try new things. “Come! Let’s sign up for this birdwatching trip! It will be fun!”

Push Me Pull You by Colinscreatures on Etsy. So I guess you could also call the husband a pusher.
"Sit"  (no, just kidding)
Horse training 101: “Sit”  ..  kidding!

Permission to feel scared.

My old fearless days are over. Nowadays I get nervous at the thought of sleeping in dirty house! But it’s ok. It’s not the end of the world to feel nervous or apprehensive as long as I recognize that I don’t have to let my fear paralyze me. There are other choices. While my initial choice might be to just freeze, I can also choose to be scared and still go ahead and do that scary thing. I can be brave. Yes it’s being brave even when all you have to overcome is sleeping in a dirty house!

Do you agree that as you grow older your fears increase? Do you worry about more things now than before? Do more things make you nervous?

6 thoughts on “On Being Brave”

  1. To answer your closing questions, for me, no, my fears have not increased as I grow grey with age. In fact, they have become less. Of course I have my concerns and a few things that cause some anxiety (mostly a result of being a parent…).
    A long time ago I made a conscious choice that I would not make any decisions out of fear. That does not mean throwing caution to the wind by any means but if one makes that choice to be brave then the fear becomes a challenge to overcome not a suffocating and oppressive force. I look out in the world and see so much fear being used to manipulate and control peoples lives – watch out! terrorists! violence, crime, take your pick from any number of horrible things in our world. Meanwhile some genuinely scary things like climate change, the poisoning of water, soil, and air are either largely ignored or just a topic of conversation not action- oh, the economic impact is too great to do anything substantial, it’s just not feasible, it’s too complex, whatever.

    I believe that on a personal, societal, and global level, we can make a new reality – all we have to do is change our mind and act upon it. I/we can make a choice to be brave, engage our will forces to overcome that which squashes the creative forces within every one of us. But of course that takes a lot of effort and we all succumb to the temptations of staying in our comfort zone which really at the root is a form of laziness. When we make that choice to be brave, to overcome our fears, we must do it in a realistic way. Yes, in your heart be idealistic please but in our actions be practical for there are usually some compromises involved. No, I can’t stop or reverse climate change, bring about world peace, solve the problem of pervasive poverty, etc. but I can make choices in my life, within my immediate sphere that contribute to possible solutions- and yes that can be very inconvenient and even involve some kind of sacrifice. So be it – what’s more important? what’s my priority? being cozy and comfy or making a morally sound choice and trying to be a part of a solution?
    So, thanks for putting it out there – let’s all make the choice to be brave. I have a friend who says that fear should actually read f.e.a.r. , meaning False Evidence Appearing Real – and in my experience he’s right – most of my fears have, in my assumptions, been way out of proportion to the reality but only once I choose to confront them.
    Many Blessings

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply! You made a lot of very good points. I like what you said about making a conscious choice to not make decisions out of fear. I’d like to keep that in mind too.

      Also, I posted this blog on my Facebook page and said that perhaps a more interesting question to ask is “Have you challenged yourself in the past year?” I also said that I find there’s a tendency to stick to the same old same old because you’re comfortable with how things are and are scared to rock the boat. After we got the farm, I was questioning whether or not we should still get the horses. I told myself, hey this is already so great, I might just mess it up with all the additional work i’d have to put in because the horses. I really think that was fear talking, disguised as being practical and logical. F.E.A.R!

    1. Thanks Cel! Have you heard the Baz Luhrman song “Always Wear Sunblock”? He says, among other things, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

      Sent from my iPhone

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