"I wish I were brave like you.”
Since the start of this blog, I’ve had innumerable messages from lovely people that tell me things having to do with bravery. Things ranging from, “You’re brave”, to “I’ll never be as brave as you”, or, “I wish I were brave like you.” At first it was sweet, and I thought to myself that hey, maybe I am kind of brave, putting all of this out there. Go me! And then after a while, I realized that I’m actually no different than anyone else and being labeled as this “brave hero”, was actually a little bit unsettling and confusing to me.
You may call me brave, but I don’t feel that way. I didn’t set out to change the world. I don’t face death on a regular basis. I have no real, true risk involved in this project. I am an anonymous girl, hidden in the depths of the internet, simply talking about her body and her perceptions. The judgements that I face are from other people who are hiding in the internet and who pose no real threat to me as a person. They’re not going to fire me, sue me, steal my dinner or wreck my life. I have nothing to lose here, so how am I brave? Sure, I stand tall under the attacks from strangers and I share parts of myself that most people won’t, but I don’t believe that elevates my bravery status.
We’ve all done things that terrify us. Maybe it’s public speaking, maybe it’s showing your artwork to the world, maybe it’s having your first child or starting a new job. We all face those things with different fears and we conquer them and trudge through them and come out on the other side to talk about it. There are things in my life that I am afraid of, and none of those are of being attacked by negativity on the internet or of a stranger raising their eyebrows at my body hair.
The idea that I somehow possess a quality that the people who write to me do not is simply not true. Let me put it this way: let’s say we’re all standing on the side of a swimming pool and we’re all completely capable of swimming. I jump in and you stay on the shore saying things like, “Wow, that girl is brave! Look at her! I could never do that.” But we both know how to swim and we’re both dressed for it and we both want to go swimming, so my response to that would be, “Why can’t you? I’m the same as you, there’s nothing amazing or death-defying about me, I just happened to get in the pool before you. If you jumped in too, you’d realize oh wait, this really isn’t a big deal!”
We are no different, you and me. In my mind, I am no more or less brave than anyone else out there. You are completely capable of doing what I do. Or of not doing it. Or rejecting it. Or writing a giant response that tells me I’m full of shit. Or starting a blog where you tear my project apart. Or starting an art project that shows women with hair. Or telling your partner that you want to stop shaving for a while to try it out. Or looking back at that stranger who raised their eyebrows at you in a Starbucks line when they saw your armpit hair and smiling at them, saying, “Hey there. I noticed you seemed curious about me. How’s your day going?”
I promise you, we all struggle with fear and rejection and how to handle things that scare us in life. So the next time you dismiss something because you think you’re not brave enough, I would ask that you rethink that for a minute and figure out if that’s just your own fear stopping you and if so, maybe it’s worth pushing through it and seeing where it takes you. We are all capable of so many things, and so often it’s our own selves that get in our way. I believe in you, now the hard part is just that you have to.