Being Brave on Our Personal Journeys

by | Sep 12, 2017 | Personal Growth


When I get triggered by something, I often find myself reacting defensively by blaming, judging and avoiding the person or conversation.

I get all reactive and evasive.

When my instincts are to fight, or flee or freeze up, it can be hard to stay relational, relaxed and engaged.

But, it’s not impossible.

Working courageously with my fears and defensiveness has been a foundational practice for me to nurture deep, rich, intimate relationships with myself and others.

The shift from seeking safety to instead living bravely, is a powerful one. Shifting from reacting out of my fears to instead acting out of courage, takes intention and practice.

When I focus on only wanting safety, my world often constricts.

I get more fearful, more paranoid, more controlling. I want to mirco-manage myself and others. I start looking for predictability and structure. I become more rigid. Brittle. I become smaller.

When I focus on being brave, my world expands.

I breathe into my chest and stand up a little straighter. A little taller. I see more possibilities. I feel stronger. I respect myself more. I find myself more able to flex with all that life sends my way. I become bigger.

Being brave opens us up for so much more vitality and living, than settling for just feeling safe.

In a study by Chris Rate, the researchers found that courageous actions consisted of four things:

  1. A willful, intentional act: Choosing to show up less defensively in our relationships fundamentally shifts our intention from controlling each other, to connecting with one another.

  2. Executed after mindful deliberation: Creating the relationships we want, often means acting in opposition to our habits and our defaults. We can make new choices once we are more mindful and aware.

  3. Involving risk: There is no guarantee how the other person will react, and often we predict they will react with criticism, harshness, judgment or will try to block our attempts to connect. It’s a risk to show up more vulnerable and less self-protective. That’s why we cultivate courage.

  4. Motivated to bring about a noble, good or worthy end: We choose to try new things in our relationships when we can envision more connected, authentic ways of relating. We cultivate hope. We do not settle for “the way things are.” We are not limited by “reality.” We envision something better. Our faith in an inspiring vision encourages us to try new things.

People who act bravely in the face of risk, encourage themselves in at least three specific ways:

  1. They keep their focus on their vision and the needs they are trying to meet(knowing what you want, what you imagine and aim for is a key practice.)

  2. They plan and practice the actions they will take to get there (practicing in community and strengthening relationship muscles takes time and investment.)

  3. They focus on what they have to gain instead of what they might lose (focusing on what you DO want, instead of what you are avoiding, has power.)

When we practice courage, openheartedness, compassionate speaking and listening, over time …

  • We start expressing ourselves in more empowered, clearer and loving ways.

  • We start hearing what others actually mean instead of getting distracted by their imperfect delivery.

  • As we start honoring our own feelings and needs, we increase our capacity to empathize with others’ feelings and needs.

  • Our relationships shift from habits of shame, blame, defense and control, into habits of connecting, reflecting, allowing and loving.


  1. Suzanne Long

    The videos on acceptation criticism, letting go of judgment, and self-compassion have provided tools that are moving me along the path to nonviolence. Your online course BBR is invaluable and i go back to it. I have felt brave when i have had the courage to speak at all about my own needs or the needs of others.
    Recently Robin Diangelo gave a presentation on “white fragility” in which she challenged the audience to not be silent about racial injustice. Many people were offended by her observations of white behavior or lack thereof toward black people.
    Having heard you “language” the teachings of Marshall i feel some courage to speak out about the need/value to include and love everyone. So i thank you.

  2. Sal Ingoglia

    Hi Yvette, I am 72 years old and I recently moved a little over a year ago from New York to South Carolina. I live only about 3 miles away from my youngest daughter.I live in an apartment alone and I have been alone for the last 26 years. My wife of 20 of marriage passed away in 1991 from cancer at the age of 41 years old. I have two other children living in New York and I went to visit them this past Christmas. I still consider myself healthy and I live on the third floor without an elevator and I do just fine. I do have some bouts of vertigo at certain times but the Veterans Administration helps me out with appointments and keeping up with my health.
    As the years go by I miss being married and I miss being loved and I miss loving that special woman in my life. I do get out and meet people because I have been retired for a while and I joined two Toastmasters clubs and I also joined a gym so I can go on the treadmill and I joined another gentle exercise program. I know there are times that I have to extend myself and ask some woman who I have been acquainted with and ask them if they want to go for a cup of coffee but for some reason I just don’t do that. I want to do that but again for some reason I don’t and I think it’s the feeling of being rejected or maybe it’s the feeling of I’m just settled in my own ways and I think that I won’t find love again.
    Can you help me in defining what all my true feelings at this point in time are and are there ways to look at this from a different perspective?
    I really enjoy your videos Yvete and all the things that I read about what you say and I really appreciate your support and your concern.
    Have a wonderful day Yvette and thank you very much!

    Sal Ingoglia:

    • Yvette Erasmus

      Hi Sal – As I read through this again this morning, I wonder if you were feeling some loneliness, longing or sadness as you were reflecting on the places where relationships are feeling satisfying and not as satisfying in your life? I wondered if you were longing for more connection, companionship and a sense of being known and seen by people who are important to you? Hoping that you get the support and connection that you may be longing for! I so appreciated your comment and sharing.


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