When faced with a difficult situation, I typically experience an overwhelming desire to crawl into a cave and hibernate until whatever it is passes. Living as long as I have, however, has taught me that responding that way does not alleviate the challenge and has detrimental effects on my personal growth. Now, the perception of myself is a little more like Kate on the bow of the Titanic, leaning into the wind, and feeling an exhilaration to be alive. Bravery for me has come to mean leaning into the unknown with a sense of adventure rather than a sense of dread. This is not as easy as it sounds (what is!?) and it has taken an accumulation of experiences across my entire lifespan to even be able to come close. And, I am still working on it.
According to VIA:
“Bravery falls under the virtue category of Courage. Courage describes strengths that deal with overcoming fear. These strengths can manifest themselves inwardly or outwardly as they are composed of cognitions, emotions, motivations and decisions.”
When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I was fully aware that I could choose to respond to the news in whatever manner I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong: I was very concerned; I just knew I didn’t want to collapse into a puddle of emotional paralysis or be resentful or angry. Instead of “why me?” I asked myself, “why not me?” And, much to my surprise, I wouldn’t trade the past year for not having been diagnosed with cancer. It has been one of the most enriching years of my life.
In learning about the 24 character strengths—identified and classified by our partner the VIA Institute on Character—that we all possess in varying degrees, I have been pondering which combination of strengths contributed to me being more comfortable with the unknown, allowing me to embrace the uncertainty that I was faced with. Though I tapped into more than these, I recognize seven character strengths that stabilized me and made me more brave during a time of great upheaval. (If you are curious about your 24, take the free survey.)
I encourage you to tap into your strengths (every day), lean into those around you, and to look up and out the next time you are faced with circumstances that have the potential to drive you into a cave. You are stronger than you know and braver than you may realize!