As a young child, I was a firecracker – brave, confident, determined. But something happened along the path of growing up that trampled my spirit a little (or a lot).
I often look back, remembering my bold and fearless personality, and wonder when and why I decided it was not acceptable to be that way. What caused me to turn inward? Why did I go from being eager to participate in school to refusing to raise my hand for fear of looking stupid? Why did I start questioning myself and my worth?
I’m not sure I know the answers to those questions. I do know, however, that friendships did not come easily for me after my family moved to a new state when I was eight years old. I had a different group of friends almost every year between sixth grade and high school graduation, even though we lived in the same house for that entire period. Through it all, I yearned for social connection with every last inch of my heart.
Things finally clicked during my senior year and, for the first time in what seemed like ages, I felt like I had found my place in the world. But for years before then, I spent a whole lot of time wondering what was wrong with me. I guess that has a way of wounding a young girl’s spirit.
Those feelings followed me to college and beyond. Since most of my life had revolved around people not liking me enough to include me, (or so it seemed) my worry about saying or doing the wrong things was almost tangible. So I learned to be guarded, quiet, controlled. Fear ruled my heart and drained much of the life right out of me.
While I have made progress through the years and am in a much better place now, I recently decided that I was tired of hiding behind layers of past hurts that were keeping me from living a full and authentic life. I wanted to be brave, to stand for something, to kick fear to the curb.
For the past several months, I have been working on that. While I still have a long way to go, I have discovered that living with courage doesn’t equate to a life without fear. It means looking fear in the eye and choosing to proceed anyway.
Some fears have lessened as I have tackled them head on. Others are more complicated and will take longer to master, but I am moving forward one baby step at a time.
My super detailed plan for making progress in this arena goes something like this:
1. Do something that scares you today.
2. And tomorrow.
3. And the next day.
That is what brave looks like for me. It means sharing my story even when it is terrifying to hit the publish button.
It means saying what is in my heart, even when others might not agree.
It means repeatedly pushing myself out of my comfort zone, knowing that discomfort is a catalyst for growth.
It means setting aside thoughts of inadequacy and working hard to make a difference in the world, especially on days when I don’t feel like it.
Hopefully, over time, those things will amount to a life that may not be categorized by fearlessness, but by courage, fortitude, and faith to confront fears rather than hide behind them.
Do you, like me, struggle with being afraid? If so, I invite you to join me on this journey by doing one thing that scares you today. And tomorrow. And the next day.
What do you say?