You know what every kid on earth says eighty-five times a day? “Look at me! Look at me! Look what I made! Look what I can do!”
Do you know how often the average adult says the same thing? I don’t have an EXACT measurement, but based on experience I would say, like, less than one percent as often as a kid.
I can remember saying it, can’t you?
And then at some point, we stop. We become convinced that it’s safer or more polite or somehow more appropriate to step to the side, out of the spotlight and into the shadows.
And for awhile, I was feeling pretty freaking comfortable out of sight, thank you very much. Letting people see me had started to feel scary; choosing to be invisible was so much easier. But I don’t think that’s where we’re supposed to live our lives.
So I decided to give myself an Everyday Bravery Challenge.
An Everyday Bravery Challenge means you have to find a way to move toward bravery every day. You have to practice in the low-stakes stuff.
I knew I needed to quit making myself invisible, so I decided to wear lipstick every single day for a month. Not because wearing lipstick is particularly brave—it isn’t—but because wearing lipstick felt to me like choosing to be seen, and THAT felt like a chance to practice bravery in the little things.
(You can get the whole story on that here: Why you need an Everyday Bravery Challenge.)
Here’s what I learned.
1. Being brave might not FEEL brave.
I did not feel BRAVE every time I put on my lipstick and walked out the front door. I felt RIDICULOUS every time I put on my lipstick and walked out the front door. That same old alarm bell kept going off in my head: You can’t hide! You aren’t safe!
What I learned was, the feelings might not change. You might feel ridiculous forever. Or for a long time, anyway.
That’s because being brave doesn’t FEEL like bravery. It feels silly or embarrassing or uncomfortable or confusing or pointless or terrifying. These are all your brain’s ways of trying to talk you out of doing the brave thing. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. That’s just part of the deal.
You feel the feeling, and you do it anyway. Brave isn’t always a feeling. It’s a choice.
2. Being brave ANYWAY kicks off a cycle of more bravery.
Wearing lipstick day after day meant that by about day 12, trying another one, and then another one, and then maybe a bolder color, or a brighter one—it didn’t feel so scary.
If you’ve done it once, it’s easier to do it again.
The more you practice being brave, the easier it feels to do the next thing. And when you do the next thing, you get a little bit braver. See how that works? It’s a neat little circle that keeps on growing. You just have to step into it.
3. Skills can absolutely boost your confidence.
You know what happens when you experiment, in life? When you just TRY? You learn things.
But when we’re afraid of something, when something makes us anxious, most of us avoid that something. Which means we don’t know much about the things we’re scared of. We haven’t learned about them by trying and failing and experimenting and seeing what happens.
So even if we WANT to try the things that scare us, we don’t have the skills to do it.
But OH HI, skills can be learned! We can Google things! (And YES I DID Google “How to wear red lipstick” and THANK GOODNESS because it turns out there is a METHOD for that.) Knowing how a thing is done can boost your confidence enough to get you into the game.
4. Doing it YOUR way makes it happen.
This one might sound like cheating, but I vote that it’s not.
When you’re practicing moving out of your comfort zone, you can choose to do that in a way that feels true to you.
While I was trying to learn some lipstick skills (because I had none), I heard Rachel Hollis explain that she owned a handful of favorite lipsticks, and that she would put on a little of this and a little of that every day until she liked the color she’d created. She made it her own.
I owned approximately two lipsticks before this challenge, and one of them was called “Nude,” so I had to do some shopping before I could try that out—but she was right. The straight-out-of-the-tube color might not work for me, but I wasn’t married to that color. I could tone it down or blend it up or whatever you call it when you smoosh up different colors on your lips. (There’s probably a technical term for that.)
Same goes for ANY new thing you’re trying. You don’t have to do it the way everyone tells you to do it, or the way someone else would, or the way you saw on TV that one time. Think about what makes sense for you.
For example: If you want to practice having deeper conversations, you could start by sharing something vulnerable—or you could start by asking good questions and really listening. Both make space for deeper relationships, but I bet one appeals to you more than the other. Make it your own.
5. Anything can become a habit.
You already have a zillion habits. (Mine look like: making a green smoothie for breakfast, and brewing a morning cup of tea, and checking Instagram when I probably should be doing something else, and reading before bed, and on and on.)
For something to become a habit, you just need a cue—something that reminds you to do the new habit. (A reward after doing the habit helps, too.)
For a month, every time I was tempted to shrink or hide or keep quiet, I practiced doing the opposite. I let the temptation be my cue to practice moving TOWARD my discomfort and being brave, until it started happening without my having to TRY every time. Anything can become a habit.
6. You will survive the scary thing.
I started my Everyday Bravery Challenge because choosing not to be invisible felt scary. Being SEEN felt scary. So I started doing the thing that made me feel not-invisible every day.
And you know what? The thing I was afraid of? People noticing me and seeing me, and me not being able to kinda slide through the day under the radar? THAT HAPPENED. That KEEPS happening.
But it has not killed me, as it turns out. I am not dead yet.
So what I want you to know is this: the thing you’re afraid of? Yeah, that might happen. It might. Worrying and hiding and avoiding can’t actually stop the things we’re freaked a out by, anyway.
But it will be okay. YOU will be okay. You’re braver than you know. You might just need a chance to find out.
So did I become braver?
Did my Everyday Bravery Challenge work? Well… yes. At least little. I stopped trying to be invisible.
I stopped feeling weird reaching for the lipstick and seeing it in the mirror.
But it wasn’t ever really about the lipstick.
It was about the practice.
Instead of asking: “Does this feel scary? Does this make me uncomfortable?” And then defaulting to: “OKAY LET’S NOT DO THAT,” I have been asking: “What do I know I need to do next?”
And then I DO IT, even if there’s a tiny vortex of FEELINGS in my chest when I do.
Because the things we’re scared of—they might happen, or they might not. We can’t really control that. (I mean, I’d like to THINK I can, but… )
What we can control is how we react when the scary things happen. That’s why we have to practice in the small stuff, so that when the big stuff comes along, we already know how to react.
Brave isn’t a feeling. Brave is a choice.
Which means you get to be as brave as you want to be, one choice at a time. Every. Day.