Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brave Isn't the Same as Fearless

One of my students, facing his fear
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I worked with a child abuse prevention organization called Community Advocates (now known as Listen To Kids).  We talked to kids about being "inside strong."  We defined it as being brave or asking for help or saying "no" even when you feel scared.  I think it was the first time I understood the difference between "courage" and "fearlessness."  It doesn't take much courage to do the things you're not scared of in the first place.  Courage comes when you step forward and do what you know must be done or should be done even though you're scared.

What makes this tricky is that fear is there for a reason.  It's a survival response.  People who tell you "there's nothing to be afraid of" clearly don't get it.  If you had no fear, you'd do a lot of stupid, dangerous things and you probably wouldn't survive for long (unless y
ou're a super hero).  But sometimes fear stops you when it shouldn't.  So how do you know when to listen to your fear and when you should act in spite of your fear?

That's where the other parts of our brains come in, the parts that act on more than instinct, the parts that take in and analyze all the information plus our own experience, weigh the possible consequences, and seek to make the choice we believe to be right, based on our values.

So, the next time you feel afraid, don't take it as weakness.  It's your survivor's instinct.  What you do next?  That's the rest of you.

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