Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do you find bravery when you are afraid?
-My Name Here
I may actually have the worst advice here. And that is... I forget about the thing that's scaring me.
My Sociology buddy Dr. Gibbs was advising me after I got rejected/waitlisted at every Ph.D. program I applied to, then Pebble and I decided to stay in Provo and do BYU Master's programs, but then UT Austin sent me an acceptance offer, but we had already made new plans, and everything was swirling.
I was and am terrified because I want to make the best decisions, and it's becoming clear there sometimes isn't such a thing as the best option. My plans are constantly shifting and it's like building a sandcastle right at the shoreline, constantly being washed away and needing to be rebuilt. I'm a planner, so I *hate* this. How are we supposed to make money, what am I supposed to do until I can apply to the Sociology master's program this coming winter? Do I need to just go find a job? How long will that take? Am I even qualified for anything? So many unanswered questions and frustrations.
Anyway. Gibbs told me not to think about it until I was in the emotional, mental, and physical space that I could handle it. Don't look, don't apply, don't even think about job searching until my homework and exams and papers this week are done. Then, I need to take some time for self-care, clean the house, make some food, and meet all of my other needs. After all that, THEN I could be brave and face my fears and anxiety by applying for jobs or emailing the Ph.D. programs to ask questions.
You may have heard of Spoon Theory by now. Basically, spoons are a vague representation of units of energy. You can create a store of spoons by doing restorative things like sleeping or eating or doing a hobby, but you also use spoons whenever you take care of tasks or responsibilities. Scary things use a lot of spoons. THINKING about scary things even uses spoons. But if I have to submit three papers this week, I simply do not have enough spoons to waste fretting about my plans for the summer. I've got to use my spoons on the present problems, then gather enough spoons to deal with the Scary Things. This may also remind you of doing the "Next Right Thing." Because Disney sometimes has some very pertinent wisdom to offer.
So. If it's a "big" scary thing that's looming but not immediate, address your other problems first. You won't find bravery if you are bogged down by too many other stressors. But you can find bravery when you're in a place where you can focus on tackling that big scary thing. Break it down into manageable bits (Pebble says this is like fighting mini-bosses before you can take down the big boss, and you can only take down the big boss one hit at a time). When you have the time, space, and energy to fight the Scary Thing, it's easier to find bravery. Time, space, energy, and a kick-A** playlist.
Obviously, there are scary things that are more immediate, but those are less frequent and sometimes in those situations the best thing you can do to muster bravery is rely on your support system of friends, family, and Heavenly Helpers.
For me, it's been about managing my thoughts. Most of the situations that require bravery of me are managing mental health, my queer identity, or occasionally some scary new career stuff.
To deal with it, I think about the different potential outcomes or situations that could arise, do my best to convince myself that I'm resilient enough to be okay in any of them, and then try to trust in my own decision-making skills. It's still scary, but bravery isn't about whether or not you're scared, it's about your actions.
The other technique I use, which is related, is making up my mind, and then acting like there weren't any other options in the first place (or quickly locking myself into a position where it will be difficult or awkward to back out of the decision). If you feel like you have to do something, you're a lot more likely to do it (even if you tricked yourself into thinking that). I've pulled this one a lot with things like getting internships and scheduling networking calls with people in my industry.
I think being brave is a weird subject. Based on my experience, I would say that bravery is an emotional mindset, meaning that it's a trait that is ultimately a decision, and two people can be faced with the same circumstances and one choose bravery and the other not.
I think the other part of that is that it really does take a lot of emotional energy to overcome fear for most people, and having courage is a lot more about being in the right place emotionally. Fear can be debilitating, but if I can get myself in control of my actions despite my emotions by listening to a song or by hyping myself up, then I'll be able to be courageous when I need to be. Going along with that, I think in a scary or tense situation, I would use a lot of the same coping skills that I use with stress and anxiety (mostly listening to music and focusing on the things I can do and make progress on that first).
Coping skills work when you just need to work though a specific situation but I think if there's a larger situation or if there's something you need to face often, I would suggest finding some kind of support, whether that's a friend that you can talk to, a therapist, or just working through it in meditation or by journaling. Something larger can be really emotionally draining and having support will help you remain in more control.
Best of luck, and let us know if there's any follow-up questions you have.
In my experience, the answer is that it's an iterative process. When you're suddenly thrust into the moment, it's often best to accept your fear as a limiting factor that's going to impact your capability and grace when dealing with the situation. However, just because we accept we aren't reacting/acting in the way we want right now doesn't mean we have to accept that as our permanent state of being. We can work towards addressing and overcoming our fear.
Lately I've been working on yoga poses like pinchamayurasana and chakrasana. Getting into postures like these can be scary. Pinchamayurasana is a forearm stand, where your forearms rest on the ground, and then the rest of your body is vertical in the air (so it looks like a handstand, except instead of your hands being on the floor, it's your forearms). Trying to get up into the posture, and then maintaining balance can feel like you're on the verge of falling over. You can fall to the left, or to the right, or completely backwards. Even with a wall you still might end up losing your balance and crumpling (painfully) in on yourself (which I have done while trying to do handstands before). Chakrasana is actually a transition instead of a single pose. You start with your back flat against the floor and your legs straight up in the air. Then you use your core strength, bending at the hips to flip yourself over, landing in either a plank or chattaranga position. As part of the motion you roll over your neck. When done correctly this functions as a release for the neck and is very beneficial. Done incorrectly, it might feel like you're about to snap your neck.
I have learned that if I am actively afraid in the moment of entering into something like pinchamayurasana or chakrasana then I have no business attempting the full pose. I've only ever gotten injured in yoga when I've forced myself through poses despite feeling fear or warning signs from my body that I'm not quite ready (like with that crumpled handstand I mentioned). The only way to move forward with the pose is to first deal with my fear and then accept whatever my current limitations are, even if those limitations are more restrictive than the day before. Some days I can go up into full pinchamaruyrasana. Other days I have to stick with dolphin pose. Being aware of what my current capacity is allows me to continue to progress and ultimately master a pose while avoiding injury. But the main point here is that while I don't force myself on any given day to go beyond the safe limits of my body, I still come back again the next day to try it again.
Another key point that I haven't mentioned yet is taking whatever steps are necessary to gradually build up to whatever is sparking fear. Going back to yoga, I get scared because I could injure myself by doing a pose wrong or falling over. And so before even attempting these poses, I will practice other poses that build up the same strength and muscle control required for the more difficult postures. Guys, I have seriously done so many planks to build up the strength to safely enter into pinchamayurasana. Regular planks, dolphin planks, walking planks, one-armed planks, one-legged planks, toe-point planks--all the planks. I think this same principle applies to most anything. We just need to substitute physical strength for whatever other kind of strength is required by the situation.
If I'm able to anticipate a circumstance which requires bravery, then I summon it by preparation. If I know I have big decisions coming up, or expect difficult circumstances, then I study and research and analyze and budget to the best of my ability. I find I feel much braver when I'm prepared than if I'm caught off guard or winging it.