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How to Know You are Brave

The girl behind the brave (image courtesy of
The girl behind the brave (image courtesy of

One of my favorite songs of all time is Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave.”

In the song, she sings “I wanna see you be brave.”

The first time I ever heard her sing that line, I thought, “Me too.”

I hadn’t ever really thought of myself as brave before, but I liked the idea of “me” as a brave person.

And one day, as I listened (for the umpteen jillionth time) to her sing, “Show me how big your brave is,” I decided, “Okay, I will!”

The song was released in April 2013, and it is now January 2016.

I am happy to report I’ve been brave lots of times since then.

But until I recently began reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” I still wasn’t really grasping how unusual “being brave” really is – for me or anyone.

In the chapter titled “The Fear You Need and the Fear You Don’t Need,” Gilbert shares:

Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means. 

Of course she is talking specifically about the difference between “bravery” and “fearlessness” when it comes to living a creative life.

But I found her words just as applicable for the rest of life, especially when she continues by stating:

The truth is, you need your fear, for obvious reasons of basic survival. Evolution did well to install a fear reflex within you, because if you didn’t have any fear, you would lead a short, crazy, stupid life.

Yup. I can vouch for that.

Gilbert then makes a distinction between needing our fear for daily living, but not needing our fear for creative expression.

I don’t have any problem with this statement. Actually, it makes perfect sense, given that my fear seems to really enjoy and be attracted to any expressions of creative living, whether it is choosing an outfit to wear out or attempting to navigate a recipe in the kitchen.

In fact, my creativity-generated fear is actually more likely to show up in force in either of these two situations than when I am sitting down to write, say, a blog post on how I know I am brave.

This is how I know I have bravely written many more blog posts than I have assembled “going out” outfits or prepared anything edible and kitchen-related.

But back to my original point – which is that expressing bravery is really a rather unusual and special thing for any of us, regardless of whether we are being bravely creative or simply brave.

The fear impulse is just that strong – survival-level strong.

The instinct to feel fear – to hide – to override any plans that may also include the need for bravery – this runs so strongly through us that I don’t have any trouble understanding why so many of us are afraid of public speaking, relationships, asking for a raise, recovering from something difficult to recover from, parenting (kids or pets or both) and, well, pretty much everything else.

But many of us do some or all of these things anyway.

That is being brave.

In fact, we are being very very brave when we do ANYTHING that makes us feel any amount of fear.

I am being very very brave when I do ANYTHING that makes me feel any amount of fear.

YOU are being very very brave when you do ANYTHING that makes you feel any amount of fear.

We are being oh-so-brave – and here is the proof: when we behave with bravery, we are literally short-circuiting our survival instinct, which has been 200,000+ years in the making! As in –

Survival instinct: 0.

Us: 1.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever think of yourself as “brave?” If yes, what types of experiences prompt your awareness? If not, are you perhaps beginning to change your mind about your own bravery? What does the word “brave” mean to you? 


How to Know You are Brave

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). How to Know You are Brave. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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