This is not a word I would normally be quick to use when describing myself. For years I’ve allowed fear and timidity to hold me back from pursuing many opportunities and relationships. Fear is paralyzing, stunting and controlling.
“I can’t do _________, it terrifies me.” How many times have I said that sentence?
The buzz phrase of late is “Do it afraid,” and it basically means, “You’re scared? Do it anyway.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about fear, bravery and vulnerability in the past year. I was challenged to read Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and what a challenge it was. It’s an intense book about the process of opening oneself up to being truly vulnerable (which is not the same thing as weakness) and shining a light on shame so that it can’t control us in the darkness anymore. It changed my life and spurred me forward into some things I’d been allowing fear and shame to keep me from. “Do it afraid” seems to fit well in this book.
The thing is, I don’t think that phrase sends the right message. From my perspective, doing it afraid looks a lot more like bravery than anything else.
I read through the story of David and Goliath this morning, looking for any kind of clue that David was ‘doing it afraid.’ There isn’t an ounce of fear communicated in that passage — at least not from David. Everyone around him was reacting in fear but David stood up with confidence and said, “I’ll take care of that Philistine.” I’m sure he had some moments of weakness, and God had to remind him whose strength would cause victory because David was human and not a superhero, but we don’t see any of those moments in the recounting of the story in the Bible.
David did it brave.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
I believe that the very movement of taking a step toward whatever it is we are striving for, is the act of shedding fear. It is the act of bravery.
“Fear is just a call to exercise courage.” — Ed Litton
Admitting your fear is where bravery begins. Shining a light on fear exposes it and gives us better perspective. Being vulnerable with our fears and sharing them with others helps us to see whether or not they are rational or not, and allows others to speak to the courage they see in us.
When I got the letter and gift from my friend a few months ago that spoke to my courage, I was in the midst of a fear meltdown. I struggle greatly with fear at the thought of pursuing a traditional writing career. It is debilitating some days and steals the words from my heart so that I can’t even write a blog post. Whenever I confess this fear to someone who loves me, they always tell me how ridiculous it is. This writing gig is my dream job. Why in the world would I let fear stand in the way?
I have to say no to fear and instead yes to bravery on a regular basis. Am I still nervous and anxious about certain things? Sure. But as I continue to put one foot in front of the other toward my goal, the words that other people have spoken over me suddenly become true.
“I can do this. This isn’t so bad. A little nerve wracking, but not worth the sleepless nights and chewed off finger nails . . .”
The simple act of changing out one word in a buzz phrase completely changes the message. Instead of seeing a woman cowering in fear, hunched over with her head drooped, hair hanging in front of her face as she takes timid steps toward her dreams, I see a woman standing tall, with her head held high in spite of a shaking in her knees. She breathes deeply and plants each step firmly in front of the other. Her heart pounds in her chest because she knows she is moving forward courageously. This is who I want to be.
The act of doing something that scares you is the definition of bravery, and lately, I’ve been stepping out into things that terrify me. Instead of looking at those steps and saying, “I’m just doing it afraid,” I now see the truth:
I’m doing it brave.
What are you scared of right this moment? What would it take for you to do it brave?