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A client said on one of our calls recently, “I’m just not that brave.”
I smiled. I knew why she said it, and I could relate. Brave doesn’t come easily to her. I would also describe myself as “not that brave.” I’m risk averse, much preferring to play it safe. I look admiringly (and a little jealously) at my friends who travel solo to foreign countries, who swim in the ocean, who sing in front of other people. (All things I would like to do but am afraid of.) How I wish I were daring!
In many ways, being brave goes against our hardwired risk-aversion. Your lizard brain wants you to stay safe, so it preferences the things that are already known and established. For our cave-dwelling ancestors, eating the same berries as yesterday and drinking from the same stream was life or death. One bad bunch of berries could signal your imminent demise.
Bravery isn’t innate. Brave is a muscle.
Perhaps some of us are born with more of it than others, but all of us can build it. All of us can exercise our brave and it will get stronger. When we practice doing things that once seemed impossible, they start to seem simply difficult. And once you do the difficult thing for awhile, it might become mundane. And once it’s mundane, it might become EASY.
But we have to start with brave.
I have a friend who’s been travelling alone in Southeast Asia for six weeks. As I jealously scroll through his Facebook posts, I remind myself: he’s been practicing for this for awhile. First he travelled with friends to places where he spoke the language for a week or so. He’s didn’t jump into the deep end, but each of those prior trips required of him a leap of faith.
AND! You’re already braver than you know. There are things I do that seem banal to me now that seem enormously brave to others. I was with some yoga teachers-in-training recently and got to recall how I once did not know how to lead a yoga class, how I stumbled through my words, how my hands trembled, how I constantly mixed up left and right. (Who am I kidding? I STILL mix up left and right). But I was brave once. I got up in front of a room of people and taught even though it was scary.
So give yourself some credit for the acts of courage you’ve already made. And then ask yourself: Where’s my next leap of faith? How am I building up my brave muscle?