What does it mean to be brave?

I have been told that I’ve been very brave in my journey through divorce and as a single mother. I’ve also been given feedback on how brave it is for me to be open and vulnerable sharing my journey through my blog. What does this really mean? Being brave doesn’t mean I’m NOT afraid. I have been afraid of nearly every step of my divorce process. I have been afraid of being criticized publicly for my blog posts. The reality is while I am not looking for attention, I knew that despite my fears, there was a bigger reason for all of this. So I was brave. I took the steps I needed to make my life better, and I opened up about my feelings and the process very publicly. Now I’m living my better life.

So what it means to me to be brave is despite my fear, I am going to move forward anyways. To me being brave means I face my fears head on. This means bravery lives along side fear. I’m going to lean into my fear. I’m going to face it. I’m occasionally going to challenge myself to find a fear, and learn the bravery it takes to work through it so I can grow. The point of this whole thing is that I want to continue to be better, and the best way to grow is to face my fears that hold me back.

I have faced a variety of fear in my life. I have come across fear that is necessary to teach me to avoid something in my life. I have been afraid of change, which has caused me to stay in a situation that was only getting worse. I have also been in situations where I was terrified, but excited because I knew a real opportunity for growth was ahead. Fear does not always look alike in different situations, and I’ve learned it is important to know which version of fear I’m are facing, and how I need to respond.

For me, fear is good in the face of real physical danger, for instance the fear that jumping off my roof may cause me to break multiple bones. Because of this fear, I avoid jumping off my roof. I consider this a reasonable fear, while other people may consider this a fear they need to overcome, this fear is not one that I find necessary to experience growth.

I’ve been afraid of change. I lived in an unhappy and emotionally abusive marriage with an incompatible spouse for over a decade, because I was afraid of changing from a married woman & mother to a divorced & single mother. I was afraid of having my children raised in a “broken” home. I feared being solely responsible financially and physically for 2 lives other than my own when I had never actually lived on my own. I feared the stigma I would face as a single mother. It was only when I recognized this fear and decided to face it that I started to realize my worth. I realized I was capable of negotiating effectively, even under hostile conditions. I realized I was capable of supporting myself and my children financially. I realized I was capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for. I also realized what a wonderful support system I have. When I finally leaned into my bravery, I was able to overcome my fear of change. Thanks to this bravery,  I am now able to live a life on my terms. Bravery allowed me to be as an example to my children of the type of adult I’ve always wanted to be.

While I believe it’s important for my children to have their father in their lives, I am still afraid of my ex. I don’t know if I will ever overcome this fear. I’m not sure any amount of bravery will help. I can say, though, that my children will continue to have their father in their lives, as long as he continues to show up and they are physically unharmed. My fear is my own and I do not want to stand in the way of my children having a relationship with their father. Some day, I hope this fear fades. I hope that with time I will be able to have a healthy co-parenting relationship with my children’s father. It is about them, and they deserve to have parents that can have a civil conversation. I have come to the point that I have accepted this fear and know it will continue for at least a while. While this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m growing, I am also being brave in accepting my fear.

While my fear has shifted in the last year since my divorce was final, I still face fear on a very regular basis. As a single mother, I’m constantly afraid I’m not a good enough mother to my children, that I should somehow do more or do things differently to raise them to be better people. I have learned to be brave as a single mom, knowing that it will all work out and trusting my children will find their own path someday. I have learned that as a human, there is only so much I am capable of. Some day, my children will have choices to make and I will have done all I can to equip them to make decisions for themselves.

As a career changer that has been in my current position nearly 2 years, I have been afraid for many different reasons. To help me overcome some of my fears, I have done research and read books to help me develop a better understanding of my contributions and my worth in the workplace. I have grown the confidence I needed to take advantage of opportunities to speak on panels. I have developed myself by contributing as a committee member of the Women In Actuarial and Analytics diversity network at my employer. I have shattered my fear of public speaking by speaking on stage about empowerment in front of senior leaders. I have been filmed for the EDGE program, even though I was terrified to be in front of cameras for an entire day. Currently, I am only a few days away from giving my first professional presentation, and I still have some fear of public speaking. When I saw an opportunity, I raised my hand at the chance to face this fear. Due to this presentation, I learned a new technology that I am now happy to help support and showcase at my company. I am eager to learn and ready to grow, so I will continue to find ways to make this happen. I am happy in my career, because I know that even when I have climbed the current mountain, there will be another around the corner that I can conquer. I know that my growth will continue. Every single one of these professional opportunities has been both terrifying and exciting. These opportunities are the ones that I have grown the most.

So while I will continue to have fear in my life, I will consider the roommate of my fear, bravery. Sometimes bravery will help me accept the things I cannot change. Mostly, I will use bravery as a source for my continued growth so I can continue to climb my personal and professional mountains.

What was the last brave thing you did? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it!

~Bettering Bonnie