Unearthing my Portrait of Bravery

Graphic by Prajwal S D

Bravery can mean a lot of things to different people. It can be something small, like getting out of bed, or even big, like fighting for the rights of another community. This virtue is within us all; it’s in what we do and how we act and how we speak to others and to ourselves.

Most often, people change when they face a crisis or some version of a struggle. Facing the unknown scares us and challenges us to change parts of us to deal with the situation. It might not always have to be a drastic event that influences change in us. There often comes a time in our lives when we realize that we no longer want to be where we are. We find ourselves stuck. Coming out of that comfort bubble can be a challenge because most of us are afraid of change. Not everyone takes the leap of coming to terms with the importance of learning and growing. Many believe that learning ends the minute we step out of school; they don’t consider all that they learn through life – how to manage ourselves, how to communicate our needs, how to be happy, how to be respectful of others – you pick these up along the way. You learn them the hard way; there is no crash course for life. Yet, breaking that bubble of routine and creating change takes most of us on a transformational journey that teaches us so many things we never knew we were capable of. It allows us to accept ourselves. To believe in ourselves. 

Honestly, I’m very privileged. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a dramatic incident in my life that has shaken me to my core. There have been plenty of smaller – but no less insignificant ones – but none so tremendous that they were enough to change who I am completely. So then, going by the common definition of what it means to be brave, I don’t think I’m the bravest of people out there. I’m scared almost all the time. There are times when I feel scared – scared to reveal something about myself, scared to do something with the fear that people might judge me for not being good enough, fear that they might think I’m an imposter, scared to express myself because I’m frightened of what they might think of me and hurt me if they disagree. Of having a tough conversation with a loved one or even a colleague. Of forgiving myself. I’m terrified of failure, of rejection, of criticism. 

Sometimes, it helps to know that there is so much inside you and that there are things that are so easy for you if only you dare to try. It isn’t always easy to accept that for ourselves. It requires a lot of support from our friends and family. Over time, this eternal validation and support go a long way into making you believe in yourself. It helps when you’re brave enough to look within yourself and demand more of yourself well within your capabilities. We are constantly told to put on a brave face and deal with whatever comes our way, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take that face off or feel vulnerable. It’s okay to rest and prioritize your mental health over everything else; doing that and facing the consequences can be very scary.

Something I’ve struggled with for years is being afraid of what people would think of me. No matter how much or how little they knew me, or how involved they were in my life, I would make assumptions about what they thought of me. Teaching myself to question these assumptions that I made for them, without even giving them a chance, changed a lot of things in my life. It truly made me happier. It might seem insignificant, but for some of us, that is a very brave thing to do. For some of us, the bravest and hardest thing to do is simply to love ourselves. To let go of what we condition ourselves with and changing our mindset can be refreshing and can even feel like an immense burden that has been lifted.

One important lesson that I picked up is that you can be brave and still be frightened. They don’t necessarily have to contradict each other. You can be scared to go for that project that you’ve always wanted to do or afraid to confront a situation or a person, yet still find the courage to go through with it. In a lot of ways then, I am quite brave. In presenting a paper in front of different colleges when I doubted my abilities. Moving to another country and living by myself. Accepting myself for who I am. Standing up for myself, and even others, when it crosses a line that I have set for myself. 

For me, braveness is in knowing what I want and sticking to it. It doesn’t matter if people believe in them; it does not mean that they are not valid. You do not have to convince everyone why you believe; it only matters that you do. You at least owe that to yourself. People might not agree with my thoughts or opinions, but as long as they can not sway me, I think I’ll be brave. At the end of the day, it is your life and your thoughts. It is up to you to hold on to what you believe. 

When faced with fear, some of us make radical changes; some leave it for a sunny day, only that day never seems to come. However, it is never too late to change and become better. Tiny steps day by day in the right direction are all it takes. To be more confident about who you are and who you want to be. So if you were to ask me ‘what makes you brave?’, I’d say it’s change. Change that made me the person I am today and my acceptance of myself.

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