Choosing to be BRAVE for just a moment can be so powerful that in just a few seconds the oldest and strongest fears of your life will be defeated.
I met with my friend Ellen the other day and even though I could tell she was very tired from a busy week of traveling, I could also sense how relaxed and relieved she was. In past conversations, she had shared how her relationship with her boss was not ideal. Their communication was forced and Ellen, who I consider to be a great leader, had a hard time accepting working with someone that had such poor leadership skills. But she was different this time, she had taken a leap and shared her thoughts with her boss.
I was impressed, so I asked her: “So, how did you do it?” She said “I don’t know, I just got brave and asked her if I could share some feedback with her. She said yes, so I went for it.”
A tiny moment of bravery can change your life. Forever.
After months of feeling frustrated, upset, even wanting to quit her job, it only took Ellen one very spectacular moment of bravery to eliminate the negative cycle.
You are not alone when it comes to experiencing fear. We all do. Even the most powerful person you can think of goes through it constantly. It is part of being human, but here is what I’ve realized: A moment of bravery usually follows a million moments of fear, but it only takes that little tiny moment of bravery in your life to make a huge difference.
My biggest moment of bravery
I’m my mother’s biggest fan. She raised 6 kids, ran her business and the house while maintaining a great marriage with my dad. She shielded us from anything she considered to be bad for us and by that, I mean: she didn’t talk about it. Please know that this is in no way me passing judgment on her, I honestly believe she did an amazing job and I am forever thankful for that.
She taught me that there was only one clear path towards happiness and success: Go to college, plan to at least have 2 kids after you marry a handsome, intelligent and successful husband. Tough job for anyone! Needless to say: none of my boyfriends met those standards.
At one point though I knew I wanted something different for my life. Somehow, I felt early on I was going to disappoint her and oh yes, that felt terrifying.
That perfect husband was never going to come
When I started my relationship with Juliana I had just come back from a work assignment in Guatemala for what it felt like very long and stressful 9-months. Meeting her was like taking a break from life. I finally felt “normal”, if that could mean anything. I had found what felt best to me. And right there: the fear kicked in. How in the world was I going to be able to enjoy this relationship while keeping my mom happy? Those feelings of fear: fear of disappointing, fear of her finding out! Fear came with capital letters, grabbing me by the hand, day and night, for a very long time.
After years of hiding, cover up stories, and a lot of pretending, I had to tell my mom. And when I say “I had to” I mean it. Juliana and I had bought our first home about 2 miles from my parents’ house. I visited my mom very often, so it’s not that I was avoiding her. I considered the idea of telling her for a while, but the panic was so overwhelming I would lose focus at work, at home and even driving. The moments I asked for my sisters and friends' opinions they would talk me out of it and say: “it was better if she didn’t know”.
But how could I live a life of pretending? Not being true to myself or enjoy peace of mind? I realized THAT was my biggest fear, so I made the decision.
The morning I told her
As I did every Sunday, I went to have breakfast at my parent's house. That morning it was only her and I. As I sat and tried to swallow the breakfast made of stones down my throat, I unlocked every piece of bravery assembled in me, took a breath and pushed the words out of my mouth: “Mom, there is something I have to tell you”.
It only took 5 seconds
This is the thing. I spent so many years being afraid, hiding my personal life, avoiding conversations, being sad and in a very lonely state of mind and it only took 5 seconds to change my life forever. I took charge, no matter how scary that was, I stood up for what felt right to me, choosing the life I wanted.
Her reaction, how she felt and what she thought does not matter here. What matters is that I started to lead my life as it was meant to be led, through my own dreams and wants. Not my mom’s or society.
Worry about what you can control
There is no way Ellen could have predicted how her boss was going to react to her feedback. Same for me and my mother. But here is the deal: It is NOT your job or responsibility to control how others react to your BRAVERY.
Yes, it is true that we all want a reaction from an accepting or understanding point of view, but that is not always the case and it shouldn’t matter. What matters, is how we decide to deliver the message and how we prepare ourselves for the many reactions we could receive back.
Take the leap, Be Brave, often.
If fear (or any feelings deriving from it like: frustration, sadness, anger) has become your consistent friend and is yanking you by the hand because of a situation you have been holding on for what it feels too long already, please know you are not alone. There are people that will support, love, respect and help you no matter what.
After what I have learned through many tiny moments of bravery, here is what I can share with you:
Your feelings are yours to feel. Don’t judge them based on what others think. Give them the respect they deserve and acknowledge they are there with you, I would even ask you to embrace them.
Take time with yourself and your thoughts (go to a park, take a walk, or just put your headsets on wherever you are) and explore this question: What actions do I have to take to release this fear?
Envision yourself taking the action and be open to experience the feelings you get before, during and after taking action. Get familiar with the feelings and your body reactions so on the big day they don’t catch you unprepared.
Run through many scenarios of the type of reactions you might get. This part is very important to get yourself ready.
Plan to come through victorious. Yes, THIS you can plan. Make the decision that no matter what reaction you get, yours will be of acceptance. Acceptance of all kinds of outcomes and opinions, nothing will surprise you.
Take the leap. Look for the opportunity to grab onto just a few seconds of bravery and speak your words, do your dance, sing your song.
Where Bravery originates
Being BRAVE comes from the heart. It comes from a place that knows what’s best. A place that has the power to do things you never thought possible. Have faith that it is there, because it is. Look for it and embrace it just as much as it wants to embrace you. The brave side of you wants to be alive, wants to lead and wants you to let it. Make a commitment to explore it and exploit it.
Before you move on I’d like to leave you with two thoughts:
1. Your feelings are neither good nor bad, they are there to be felt. Don’t judge them, but explore what they are trying to tell you or where they are trying to take you.
2. This is the hardest one, but understand that people have the right to have their own opinion, whether you like it or not. It is not your job to change that opinion. You’ll experience peace when you just apply acceptance to the situation and move on to lead your life.
Now, it is time for you to take charge and be the bravest you have ever been, as often as you can.
Mariana Jaeger is a Leadership Development and Performance Success expert and has successfully trained, mentored and coached hundreds of people in her career. To learn more about Mariana, click here