I believe in being brave. This value stems from spending a lot of years not being brave.
When I think about regrets I have in my life, it’s never for things I did, but rather for things I didn’t do. Things I didn’t try because I was scared.
Two regrets easily come to mind. I remember practicing for over a month with my voice teacher to audition as Liesel in Sound of Music for my high school musical. When auditions finally came, I simply didn’t go. I also played club volleyball while I was in high school. I was pretty decent too. Decent enough to make the high school JV team and probably eventually the varsity team. But again, when tryouts came, I simply didn’t go. I watched one of my best friends from my club team play JV and then varsity volleyball for our school and remember beating myself up because she and I were the same skill level, and if she had made it, I would’ve made it too.
I am not mad at my younger self for being scared. In fact, I have a lot of compassion for her and her experience with fear of rejection. My younger self really struggled with finding belonging and in that space, I avoided any potential that could bring social rejection. Because of that fear, I also missed valuable opportunities where I believe I would’ve found meaningful belonging. I also would’ve developed more sense of identity and grit through taking risks and potentially failing.
It’s ok that it took over half my life-time to learn to value bravery. It’s ok that it was a slow developmental process for me. I don’t dwell on these regrets, but I also use this history of living scared, to inform the me, I am today, to choose bravery instead of safety.
My daughter just “graduated” elementary school. She is very excited to be going to middle school next year. I notice my anxiety rising on her behalf as I anticipate the social growing pains that await her. I notice myself wishing for her a different trajectory than my own. I wish for her to be brave and live authentically. I know I will encourage her to take risks and talk to her about not getting caught up in trying to be popular. I want her to avoid regrets that come from not trying things. I will do my best to teach her that the best growth comes from taking risks and facing struggles, instead of avoiding them at all costs.
I am also aware that each of us has our own journey to travel. My current call to bravery is to be near, but to not try to control my daughter from living out her own life and making decisions (within reason, she’s still only 11 after all). Life has its lessons in store for her and they are hers to discover.
I think about my own life and how much I have changed and grown in each decade I live. While I want to hot-wire life lessons to my children, I also need to respect the process of growth that comes from experience, development, and time. Maybe the best lessons I can teach my kids is to model continuing to grow and develop myself. To let them know we are never finished. There is so much bravery, hope and strength in that.