Why It’s Time to Strive to be Brave Instead of Strong
The world is a chaotic mix of joy and sorrow. We are entitled and required to manage both. No one is promised an endless supply of sunshine and rainbows. The question is how we manage the challenges. People say you need to be strong, but I say you need to be brave. Do you know the difference? Let’s figure it out together.
Strong is Full of Pressure
Have you seen Disney’s Encanto? If the answer is no, it is one of my favorites. I recommend you watch it. In Encanto, the older sister Luisa is the strong one. For the sake of the movie, Luisa is strong in the literal sense. The girl moves houses and changes the path of rivers. As the plot moves along, Luisa sings about the pressure her strength causes. Strong implies there are no cracks in the armor. If your goal is to be the strong, what happens on the days when you feel broken? For many, like Luisa, you hide it. The pressure to be strong all the time does not allow for the full range of human emotions. We are not robots. There are going to be days when we are sad, angry, and scared. These emotions make us human. Hiding them builds up pressure that will eventually spill out everywhere, like a volcano. Strong is not enough. We need to be brave.
Brave is Powerful
Moving on to another of my favorite Disney movies, Brave. At the end of the movie, Merida and her mother mend their relationship through change. It is not about being strong and proving that your way is the right way. Brave is harder. Changing your mind, learning new things, and saying no when everyone wants you to say yes are brave moves. If your goal is to be strong, it is possible to get stuck in the way things should be. Learning to be brave allows you to change your mind and move along a new path. The brave path is not an easy one, but it allows you to live an authentic life, embracing the full range of your emotions.
What Does It Mean to Live Brave?
Shannon Dingle writes in Living Brave: Lessons from Hurt Lighting the Way to Hope:
Your brave will bring mistakes because brave spaces aren’t meant to be safe spaces or comfort zones or perfection prisons. Embracing the brave that is yours will mean you might let others down, but you’ll learn that’s better than letting yourself down over and over.
Strong implies a need for perfection. Brave is not perfect. It is messy, challenging, and always changing. Brave matches life. I had a poster on my dorm room wall that said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” At 19 years old, I did not fully grasp the meaning of those words. Now at 43, I understand more, but I am still learning. We can make all the plans in the world and life will cause an earthquake that destroys the road we were planning to take. What do we do after the plans are destroyed?
Time to Try It
Standing on the edge of the chasm caused by the earthquake that rocked your world, it is time to make a choice. That choice may be to firmly decide to take a left turn and follow another route to the same goal. Another reasonable choice is to fall apart for a moment. To cry, scream, and lament all the broken plans and lost dreams. Both choices are brave. Living authentically will not look the same for every person. Some people may need time alone to think and make decisions without the influence of others. Another person will need their village more than ever and seek people to make the day-to-day decisions easier. Being brave is not always about the hard things, either. Starting a new job, getting married, moving to a new town, or having a baby are all amazing things. Amazing things also come with their own list of worries and anxieties. Being brave means feeling all the emotions and moving forward one step at a time.
What Does Your Brave Look Like?
Now for the hard part. You need to figure out what brave looks like for you. Remember, your brave will not necessarily look like Suzy down the street or Jane on Instagram. The purpose of being brave is to be authentically you in all areas of life. Feel your emotions, change your mind, and learn new things because they are the best choice for you. Brave takes practice. Start today and see where it takes you.