11/08/2013 06:50 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014


Natalie Thomas

On the eve of my daughter's arrival, I began to make a musical compilation. If I could create my wish list of her life through song, what would it say? Discouraged by all the cheesy baby tunes out there, I turned to my own tastes. In what became my most important playlist to date, were songs by both legends and new discoveries, tracks about being loved and dreaming big, melodies about finding your passion, friends and going after what you want in life and ones about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously. And then there was this...

A song by Sara Bareilles that struck a particular chord (pun intended) that I knew needed to be included.

...You can be the outcast or be the backlash of somebody's lack of love
Or you can start speaking up...

Nothing's gonna hurt you the way that words do when they settle 'neath your skin
Kept in the inside with no sunlight sometimes a shadow wins...

...Everybody's been there, everybody's been stared down by the enemy
Falling for the fear, want to disappear and bow down to the mighty
Don't run, stop holding your tongue

I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say and let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.

It was almost two years ago when I made the choice to finally be brave myself.

I've done things that have scared me my whole life. Going abroad at 16 and living with a foreign family, riding in a hot air balloon and a helicopter, quitting my well-paying, good titled job at 26 to become an unpaid intern in hopes to land my dream job, interviewing A-list celebrities at said job, moving cross-country away from all my family and most of my friends, appearing on live national television, changing my career three times and counting...

I'm the one that jumps first and freaks later. But speaking my mind? Finally fessing up to all that was wrong in my life, being a voice for those who hadn't, wouldn't or couldn't? Now that was terrifying.

While I take risks in my own life, I'm a people pleaser in others'. I'm an over-apologizing, portrait of appropriateness, PC and HR approved. A team player until the last second of the rigged and bloodied game.

But, finally, after years of letting others win, I took myself out. After witnessing corruption in my corporate world for entirely too long, I decided to leave but not before speaking up.

Unfortunately, that proclamation sparked a fairly hurtful and damaging character assassination, which left me two choices: I could go, as intended, with my mouth, once again, shut and reputation tarnished or I could stand up for myself.

The former would have been easiest and, according to some, best. I wrestled with it for weeks. But, ultimately, I didn't know if I could cope with cowering.

Is remaining silent taking the high road or following someone else's (dangerous) path? Is it dignified or detrimental?

Whether it's a dysfunctional relationship, parents' disapproval, fake friends or an abusive work environment, we've all been there. We've all had those moments of I wish I'd done this or said that. Well, not this time. This time, I was leaving with no regrets.

I knew my decision would mean more gossip, loss of friendships, connections and, ironically, a further sullied image. It may even have future career implications depending on who people choose to listen to. But I had to have faith in myself. And others. Faith that some day, when the noise quieted, they'd discover -- and accept -- the real story for what it was. They'd stop being brainwashed and bullied, consider the source(s) and start thinking for themselves. Some day, they'd learn the truth.

And, so, I did it. And it was amazing. And awful. And admittedly, over the last year or so, at times, I've questioned my decision.

But, since my daughter was born, I've never been more certain of anything. Now that she's here, we have daily dance parties. And "Brave" has become our anthem. I know she'll live up to it and, one day, be proud her mom did too.