As I sit in the playground, I occasionally hear (olay, eavesdrop) parents telling their children to be brave. As a therapist, I often find myself reassuring my clients with statements like “it takes courage, I know…”, but the truth is….what is bravery, really? Is it a feeling, a state of mind, or an action?
My interest in forgotten and simple things led me to the book Brave Dave by Giles Andreae, a heartwarming story about bravery. The protagonist here, a bear named Dave, takes the reader through his pursuit of being brave.
Like the children answering the vocabulary section in IQ assessments, Dave initially believed that being brave meant following instructions, being strong, and being mighty (like his older brother). However, doing all those things never quite reassured him that he was brave. Instead, they only made him feel like he was never enough.
One day, he found the bright colours of flowers, fruits, and grass. He used those colours to make yarn that he then used to stitch beautiful cloaks and clothes. But always the bundle of nerves, he ended up leaving his cave earlier than everyone as he felt scared to share what he was doing in his free time.
Eventually, he decided it was time to share his pursuits. When he shared what he had been working on, he realised it was appreciated and accepted. He soon came to the conclusion that embracing who you truly are, accepting yourself with your vulnerabilities, is indeed, the true definition of bravery.
A similar theme is reflected in the work of Brene Brown, who believes that courage and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. For us to be courageous/brave, we must embrace our vulnerability. Vulnerability is the willingness to show up; be seen as you are. It's uncomfortable, to say the least! It's about being honest with ourselves and accepting the uniqueness of ourselves. There is no age group that is immune to this message. If anything, it is more relevant as we get older and easier to implement when we are younger.
As individuals, we often struggle with our insecurities, self-doubt, and fears of not being accepted. Remembering that we are fine just the way we are is important. Although, in theory, this sounds easy, as adults, we struggle with it. Capitalism, competitiveness, and sometimes, even the organisation structure act as a constant reminder of things we desire, things we do not have, and places a deep seed of “I’m not good enough”. These structures reinforce an unhealthy belief that one’s vulnerability is one’s liability, rather than embracing one’s vulnerability, which can be one’s strength!
So how can we embrace vulnerability?
- Practice self-compassion. One of the biggest barriers to embracing vulnerability is the fear of judgement or rejection. To overcome this, it's essential to treat ourselves with kindness, understanding, and patience, just as we would a good friend. We should recognize that vulnerability is part of the human experience and that we are not alone in our struggles.
- Take small steps. Embracing vulnerability doesn't mean diving headfirst into the deep end. We should start by taking small steps, such as expressing our feelings to a trusted friend or asking for help when we need it. Over time, these small steps will build our confidence and allow us to take bigger risks.
- Embrace imperfection. We often hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, which can prevent us from showing our vulnerable side. Instead, we should embrace the fact that we are imperfect and that it's okay to make mistakes. We should recognize that vulnerability is not a weakness, but a sign of strength and courage.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. It's easier to embrace vulnerability when we feel supported and validated by those around us. Surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are and who encourage you to be your authentic self.
- Celebrate your successes! When you do take the risk to show vulnerability, celebrate your successes. Recognize the courage it took to be vulnerable and the growth that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone.
By embracing our vulnerabilities and being willing to take risks, we open ourselves up to new opportunities and experiences. We become more resilient, more adaptable, and better able to navigate the challenges that come our way.
So, while Brave Dave may be a children's book, its message is one that we can all learn from, both in our personal and professional lives. By embracing our vulnerabilities and having the courage to face our fears, we can create a life that is rich, fulfilling, and full of meaning. Just like the colourful clothes that Dave designs!
Link this article : Psychologist Review: Giraffes Can’t Dance
Meet The Author
Priyanka is a new mum, her added role has further nuanced her perception of relationships, content and everyday things. believes emotional and mental health care are at the very core of us experiencing happiness in our life. Her qualifications include a Masters in Clinical Psychology and in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Priyanka enjoys working with young adults and understanding life as it changes with intrusions like the internet and the pandemic. Above everything else her true love is homemade chocolate cake.
Priyanka Varma, Psychologist