Taking A Left-Turn Past Fear, Straight Towards Brave

09/14/2016 10:27 am ET

My friend called me “brave” the other day. At first, I thought it was a mistake. Perhaps she said “Let’s go to a rave? Haha. A rave! But, my bedtime is 10pm. After I asked her to repeat herself, I realized that I heard her correctly the first time. Brave.

Weird. I never thought of myself as brave. After becoming a mom and reading one-too-many accounts of the inhumane aspects of humanity, I feel like I’ve actually navigated towards the other end of the “brave” spectrum… a right-turn past “confident” at a safe speed of 45 mph, straight towards “wimp.” Or “sissy.” Or “scaredy-cat.” Whatever other people call it, I know it well as the anxiety-laden land of “fear.”

Sara Zimmerman/ Unearthed Comics
by Sara Zimmerman @ http://UnearthedComics.com

But no, my friend said I was brave. BRRRR-AAAAAVE. Maybe she was being sarcastic? No, she clarified, saying she’s always appreciated the way I see something I want to do and go for it. Funny because, to me, I feel like half the time I’m the star in my own Broadway performance of “Fear and Anxiety.” That’s cool. I guess I’m a better actress than I thought.

I’m pretty sensitive, which I manipulate to my benefit to help me produce art. But, my heightened sensitivity can back-fire on me when I get a glimpse of morbid mutilation on the news, or someone posts some kidnapping atrocity on Facebook, or I get sneezed on when passing by a stranger while simultaneously hearing their buddy murmur something about “Ebola.” I haven’t yet mastered how I allow that all to affect me and sometimes my bravery short-circuits. My “I-strive-to-see-the-goodness-in-all” self instantly withers into one of those anxiety-ridden people I used to hear about who washes their hands a lot, seduced by the “what if’s,” and prefers the lifestyle of a Brown Recluse spider holed up in a dark cave to that of a bouncy, blonde extrovert.

I think it just proves that everything comes down to perspective. OK, so yes, I love to rock climb, and yep, camping in 15 degrees Fahrenheit is cold, but it ain’t so bad. And, yes I love snowboarding on stormy powder days, and surfing overhead waves didn’t used to divert me, and yeah, I put my comics online which has attracted negative commentary, and yes, I chose to have a home-birth and yep, I run my own business and put my name out there again and again and again, etc., etc… She proves my point that, to her, I’m brave. That’s because she sees my actions, not the mess of anxiety and fear commandeering my thoughts. No one does. And I guess that’s ok. Let me suffer alone.

But, her comment made an impression on me; she made me realize that, hey, if she can think that I, Girl-Who-Cowers-Upon-Hearing-Corporate-Sponsored-News, am brave, then all those other people who I think are brave are probably having these moments of weakness, too.

OMG! What a revelation! Vulnerabilities? Yes! Frailties? Sure! Weaknesses? You betcha!

Wow. I have held so many people in such high regard, escalated into an almost god-like status lightyears beyond Softy and Freak-out. Illness? Possibly, but they rest and heal! Trolls? Maybe those negative comments hurt, but they keep doing their thing. Economy? Employment? Politics? Obstacles, but not over-whelming dilemmas that keep these people from chasing their dreams. What was I thinking? These people are just as human as I am. And, perhaps they’re not just a little bit scared; perhaps they, too, are sometimes on the verge of breath-taking panic-attacks and freaking out behind their masks of “Everything is ok” just as often as I am.

I think that when it comes down to it, “brave” depends on our own definition of it. To me, I haven’t felt brave lately… I’ve just focused on visualizing my goals, noticed my fears, and despite how intimidating my worries are, I’ve continued forward reaching for the stars with my sidekicks of Nervousness and Trepidation kicking and screaming all the way. And, funny thing: more often than not, I’m moving towards my goal faster than I would have had I let Fear talk me out of goal-setting and instead into binge-watching the next series in my Netflix queue.

Yes, I still get waves of uneasiness when hanging from a boulder by my fingertips despite my years of climbing experience and, yep, some vicious comments from internet trolls still sting and, yes, worrying about the state of the world shatters my hopes more often than I’d like. But, to someone, I am brave. And maybe that notion of external encouragement is just the little nudge I needed to change my adverse, counteractive habit of repeating self-defeating thoughts and shift them to acknowledging and celebrating the baby-steps I AM taking today towards my goals. And tomorrow. Maybe not the “I can’t’s” nor the “See, they can’s!” Maybe, I can just work one step at a time to continue on the path I’ve been on to see myself and my strengths from a new perspective: a world that has less “not good-enough’s” and more “Holy crap! I just did that’s!”

If I can be brave to someone, than why not harness that strength and ride it into the sunset of my dreams? Why not shed my snakeskin of self-sabotage and don a new outfit of bravery in its finest regalia? I mean, I already look goofy and awkward and have made many, many mistakes… what’s one (or a thousand) more failures as I aim with best-intention for my goals?

I love that my friend took the time to point out what I’m doing so I could get out of my own head of personalized torment and see my actions for what they are: being brave by attempting my dreams. And, if that requires me to stumble numerous times, over and over and over (did I mention how many times I have stumbled?), then that is just what my path looks like as I go for it. At least that way, the journey makes for an exciting ride and one hell of a story.

Sara Zimmerman / Unearthed Comics
Sara Zimmerman @ http://unearthedcomics.com

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