I want to tell you a story about learning to be brave. (You’ll have to stick with me for a minute, because it sounds like it’s a story about lipstick, but TRUST ME. It’s going to be about learning to be brave in the end.)
It can’t be a story about lipstick anyway, because I know nothing about lipstick. No things. If I am going to wear anything on my lips on a regular Tuesday, it’s lip balm. You know, the stuff made of beeswax and peppermint oil? That is my zone of genius when it comes to makeup: lip balm.
A few months ago, though, I thought maybe I would buy a lipstick to wear to a fancy event I was attending. I asked my friend Janelle for help, because she knows things.
What I wanted to know, basically, was: Is there a magical trick for finding the right lipstick, the one that doesn’t look like a preschooler accidentally painted on you with clown paint?
Bad news, friends: there is no magic trick.
You just have to go to the store and try some on and see what you like. So that is what I did. (Janelle told me what store to go to and I did what she said. When you ask someone who knows more than you for advice, it works best if you then TRY THE ADVICE.)
I tried on 642 lipsticks, and finally found one I could live with. ONE. It was called… Nude. As in, no color. As in, lip-balm-but-in-a-shiny-tube, basically.
We have found my comfort zone, people, and I am IN IT.
But then a few weeks ago, Dane and I and the kids were going to a little get-together with a bunch of friends, and it was at night, and we were dressing up, and I thought AGAIN: oh, lipstick would match this kind of get-together! I could wear lipstick! (Already you are shaking your head at me.)
I had the Nude one, but then I remembered that my sister had given me a lipstick that had a name like “Flaming Sunset,” or something. Something that didn’t mean “invisible.” So on the way to this party, I grabbed the lipstick from my sister, I dropped it in my purse, and off we went.
Dane was driving, so I put on the lipstick in the car. In the dark. This is not the recommended method for lipstick application but I feel like we’ve already covered the fact that I am not an expert here.
Anyway, we arrived at the party, we said hello, we hugged a bunch of people. So far so good. Then my littlest daughter asked me to take her to the bathroom.
I don’t know if you know this, but in bathrooms there are often LIGHTS. And MIRRORS. Where you can SEE THINGS. Things like, Oh my gosh there is actual COLOR on my face, what is happening here, this is not usual, ABANDON LIPSTICK MISSION. ABANDON MISSION.
I grabbed a tissue and tried to rub it off but it would not COME OFF, because THAT IS A FEATURE OF SOME LIPSTICKS. They don’t come off. ON PURPOSE.
Life lesson: Pay attention to the freakout.
Even as I was freaking out, I realized that my level of freakout and the level of importance of lipstick… did not exactly match. Like, at all. The lipstick registered about 1.2 on the Importance Scale and the freakout was at level six million.
That is because I wasn’t freaked out about the lipstick. (It was just doing its lipstick JOB, really.) I was freaked out about what I was making the lipstick MEAN.
The lipstick meant that people might notice me. People might see me. The lipstick meant choosing not to be invisible, and THAT felt scary.
It is easier to slide through the day being there-but-not-quite-there, present but not quite seen, so no one will ask you the hard questions like, “No, but how are you really?”
Which is interesting, because I think being seen—not by everyone, necessarily, but by your own safe people—is important. It’s hard to feel fully alive if you aren’t letting yourself be fully known. Hiding isn’t really in alignment with what I believe.
And ALSO, I want to practice being brave.
This is what brave looks like:
Brave looks like doing what you know you need to do, even when you don’t know what will happen next.
You don’t know what people will think, or say, or do. You don’t know what will happen in the world. You don’t know what will shift or break or fall away. But you know what you need to do—and doing that anyway is brave.
It’s scary and uncomfortable and REALLY IMPORTANT.
And I know I need to practice that in little ways every day, when the stakes are low. That way when the big things come along, when the stakes are high and I need to be brave, I already know what to do.
If we’ve been practicing, we know what to do.
If we’re practicing all the time, we already know what being brave feels like.
We know how to move into our own discomfort. We know to turn toward our fear instead of away from it. We already know what to do because we’ve been practicing.
When the big stuff comes along, we know how to be brave—and we know we WILL be brave, because we’ve given ourselves that habit and practiced it every single day in the small stuff.
So I decided to challenge myself to wear the lipstick every day for a month. (Okay so I guess it was a story about lipstick after all.) That’s my Everyday Bravery challenge.
Not because the lipstick matters. It doesn’t. But because putting it on reminds me that I want to be braver every day, and it gives me a chance to have my little freakout, to feel the feelings, and do it anyway.
Choose YOUR Everyday Bravery Challenge
There are about a million ways you could practice your bravery every day.
- Maybe you wear the bold lipstick and let yourself be seen.
- Maybe you wear no makeup at all, and let your natural self be at home in the world.
- Maybe you start a conversation with your neighbor every day.
- Maybe you say one true thing, one real thing about yourself or about life or about the world, to a coworker or a friend or your barista.
- Maybe you ask one hard question every day.
- Maybe you admit to not knowing something every day.
It doesn’t really matter what you pick, as long as you get to practice feeling super uncomfortable and awkward and nervous because you don’t know what will happen when you do the thing—and then you do it anyway.
Because we can do hard things.
We can. We just might need to practice.