February 10, 2021

Being Brave doesn’t mean being fearless

I have always admired women who dare to speak up and express their opinion no matter what! Women who are willing to boldly venture into the unknown. Or women who pursue their dreams no matter what other people say or what kind of obstacles they are faced with. These brave women have always been motivational and inspirational for me as I would look at them and ask myself how I could be braver too.

For a very long time, I wouldn’t have described myself as someone who is brave. Even though, when looking back at my life so far, I did make some pretty brave moves.

Now, when I look back at these past decisions I wonder where on earth I got the courage from. Probably, one of the bravest decision I have ever taken was 7 years ago. This was when I decided to leave my home country of Slovenia to come to Germany to pursue my dreams.

I didn’t speak a word of German back then. Well, this is still a challenge as it is a really difficult language. But at least I can talk in full sentences now. And MOST OF THE TIME they actually understand me, so bravo Maja :)!

The reality is, back then I didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting into. It was a complete jump into the unknown and came as a big surprise to all those who knew me. This was because I was known as someone who was very close to my family and friends.

So, nobody would have expected me to leave my country. In fact, when the Erasmus exchange started and many of my peers studied in other countries. I immediately ruled it out and said that it was not for me. Why would I want to be in some foreign country with strangers far away from my family?

A few years later, something changed. Suddenly I wanted to leave my hometown and pursue my dream career. Everyone was shocked and kept asking me if I was really sure if I knew what I was doing. I told them yes!

But, honestly, at the same time, even though I was super excited, I was also scared to death. I knew why I was doing this on an objective level. Although, I love my small but extremely beautiful Slovenia (which, by the way, if you haven’t already visited, I strongly recommend doing so) , the career options were pretty limited back then. I didn’t have many chances of developing myself.

Especially not in an international environment and I always knew that this is what I needed to pursue my big dreams.

Even though I knew how important my career was to me, it was not easy leaving my country. Not only because my family and friends were there, but also because I was saying goodbye to my ex-boyfriend with whom I had spent 8 years together.

So, the decision to leave all these things behind in order to take a bigger step in my career was not easy and frankly it was quite brave.

Now, the reason I didn’t feel brave back then was because of “fear”. I had always thought that the bravest people just do something without an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. I don’t know where this idea came from.

But I guess it might have come from observing people who dared to speak up or pursue their dreams as they had always looked so natural without any doubts or fear.

For a long time, I wouldn’t consider myself as someone who was brave or made brave decisions in my life, career or in my workplace.

Have you ever needed to to give an important presentation and before the presentation, you felt overwhelmed, nervous and anxious? You are not alone.

Because of all these feelings that I had, I never considered myself as someone who is brave.

I also often found myself in meetings, wanting to speak up because there was an important topic and I had something to say.

But before I could open my mouth to speak, my heart would start beating faster, my thoughts were all over the place and a little, insecure inner voice started telling me not to speak as what I wanted to say didn’t make any sense.

Being plagued by all these thoughts and fears began to get to me more and became the primary reason why I never considered myself to be brave. This was until one day I listened to a talk by a woman who is VP in a very successful American company.

She bravely informed the room that before every brave decision she had to make, she would experience doubts, insecurity, fear etc. As someone who is interested into spirituality I had heard this many times before from spiritual teachers.

They always say that being brave means to embrace your fear but I didn’t fully realize what this meant until the day I heard it from this very successful businesswoman.

This was a real eye-opener for me. It was the first time I realized that every time I feel fear I am actually being brave and stepping out of my comfort zone. This realization also helped me to change my whole perspective on fear.

I used to think that fear was something which made me very uncomfortable and anxious. I would hate the feeling and would try to AVOID IT AT ANY COST. Now, this often came at the expense of hiding away and not mixing with the big players.

However, I would also have this feeling that this was not the right way of handling fear. Just because it made me feel uncomfortable, was it really the right thing to stay quiet and not talk about things that really mattered to me? Was it the right thing not to express my opinion when I have one?

The answer is of course NO. So, hearing this woman openly speaking about her experiences with fear and how she confronted these fears, gave me a whole new way perspective on fear.

Now, when I feel this uncomfortable feeling where the easiest option would be to scream and run away, I remind myself that this is reminder for me to embrace the feeling and respond positively to it.

So, what does this mean?

Instead of avoiding fear I relish the experience, as I take it as an opportunity to become braver. I also take this feeling of fear as a reminder that I am brave.

Instead of fighting against it or denying it, I simply embrace it. And also accept it as part of myself and an opportunity for growth. I acknowledge that the reason why I feel fear is because I am risking something in order to pursue my ideas and goals, or going to speak up for something that matters for me.

For example, now when I feel fear before giving a presentation, I will always acknowledge that I feel this fear because I am going to expose myself to the unknown and going to take this opportunity to improve my resilience.

This new perspective on fear allows me to mitigate the power of fear it used to have over me. What also helps me is this simple question: What would I do if I didn’t have all these doubts, fears in my head? The answer I give to myself is the path I am going for.

Sometimes I also ask myself how many times I felt some sort of fear. Because this gives me an insight into how many times I took some big risks. Confidence and bravery are muscles. So, it is important that you train them as this is the way to become stronger.

However, please bear in mind to be kind to yourself and temper your expectations. You will not master your fear over night. It takes time and patience. Even now, I cannot say that I am always in control! But it’s very rare these days to be completely overwhelmed by fear.

So, to summarise:

Bravery is normally accompanied by fear! So, instead of resisting and escaping from the fear, try to accept it and embrace it.

Feelings of fear before speaking, can be used as a reminder. Reminder that you are playing in the big leagues and have something worth risking. Ask yourself this: what would I do if I didn’t have all these doubts, fears in my head?

Let me know how you handle fear and what your bravest move has been so far 🙂

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