In the past few weeks I have been more brave than I have been in a long time. My heart races, my palms get sweaty and my investment is palpable. I have spoken up, written my opinion and processed heavy, hearted issues which I have decided matter to me. This has produced a different kind of anxiety.
Growing up with little experience in verbalizing an opinion, I had to learn that I had a voice my freshman year of college. One of my professors asked for opinion paper and I wrote essays with one sentence of opinion. She would circle the sentence and hand it back. “Write an opinion paper around this sentence” she would say. It took guts to rewrite it for a better grade. To be honest, I wanted a better grade, but over the first year I learned I did have an opinion.
A few years ago Brene Brown, one of my mentors as I work through shame and wholehearted living, taught me that the courageous thing thing to do is often the opposite of what I would normally do. I generally go quiet and hide. I would rather just smolder in my own opinion than risk hurting someone else’s feelings. If being courageous is doing the opposite, I am compelled to speak up in the moments where staying silent does more emotional harm than good for my mind, heart and soul.
Bravery, or the feelings around an action, I believe can look like anxiety. My physical reaction can often parallel to my anxiety response. Here is an example, my daughter was nervous to make a decision yesterday. She seemed almost panicked by it. I asked her what she was feeling and she said “I am feeling how I feel right before I would get into the water at my swim meets”. I loved how my 7-years-old could describe what she was feelings. She was making a decision which was for her about being brave and she was weighing the odds.
I read an article this week about children and anxiety. It talked about how parents hope to not impart anxiety or fear into our children’s lives. It dialoged about watching the patterns we parents have so children might carry fewer of those same patterns. When I was a child I heard about “stress” not anxiety, and it was deemed to not play a part in my life since I exposed to fewer of the normal stressors my peers were exposed to. Looking back, I was anxious. I can’t identify that there were patterns developed from my parents. It was just who I was. I do agree with not wanting to pass patterns of anxiety to my children, thus this year’s project to overcome more of my own.
Some anxiety, in the form of bravery, is good. When we decide that speaking up is more doable than staying silent, when we make a decision because not making one is harder to live with, and when we move past disappointment because being disappointed was better than staying where we were, we show up and it’s a win. I believe when we really care about something we can have heightened clinical elements to our physical response. We put up with the feelings and the “stress” because being brave is good and it is right for that time and that place.
Keep being brave, my friends!