Motivational Monday: Lessons from Children's Literature on Bravery

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."    Christopher Robin to Pooh
I don't squeeze people's hands when I shake them.  I have never known if this is because I am uncomfortable with physical closeness towards people I don't know, if I don't squeeze hard because I don't like having mine crushed in turn, or if it's because of what I was accused of not long ago: being afraid to establish my presence.  

Like a lot of people, I've spent a large portion of my life trying to be inconspicuous and not get into other people's way by avoiding confrontations.  When younger, this manifested itself through the desire to have Airwalk tennis shoes, Jnco jeans, and a penchant for being well-behaved.  The most outlandish things I have ever done with my appearance are my all-black phase (which was more camouflage than a stand-out technique) and a partially-pink hair stint.  These are superficial manifestations, but there were more serious consequences to not wanting to be noticed, such as not participating in class discussions in college, not stating opinions in a public sphere, or seeking permission and approval for everything I want to do. 

It always makes me smile when I see the bumper sticker: "well behaved women rarely make history."  It's true, isn't it?  Since standards of "well-behaved" have shifted over the decades, and often enough the societal norm has been in the wrong - such as when it said certain people couldn't vote, or hold particular jobs, or speak freely. 

I finally finished Sidra Stone's book, The Shadow KingThe main point that I took away from it, is that now when I feel myself starting to get frustrated with myself, a situation, or another person, (especially my roommates), I stop and re-evaluate where my impulse behavior is really stemming from - is it a frustration that is actually my own, or something I've learned - like the idea that I should be demure, that other people should take care of me, that I should take care of the house, that I shouldn't act without the approval of male figures in my life?  When I was considering buying a new camera last week, I realized that I asked the advice of two boys and my father first, and didn't seek any female input or trust myself to make the decision independently.  Why?

At the end of the book, Stone writes "everyone 'knows' that it is feminine to be receptive and available, to be able to interact smoothly and pleasantly with other people and to blend our energies with women, it is important for us to have some awareness of our own energy fields and to have real choice in whether or not they are open." She states that "the goal is mastery of your own domain."  It takes a high level of bravery and confidence to declare yourself master of your own domain, as it means you have to trust yourself.

And that's the whole point - you have to trust yourself and your true thoughts, not the ones that you hear in someone else's voice, no matter how closely it mimics your own.   

It seems fitting that Where the Wild Things Are has undergone a rebirth in popularity since the release of the film.  What better to model the balance between bravery, dominion of one's own terrain, as well as accepting (and respecting) the love given us to other people, than a small boy who declares himself king to avoid becoming the dinner of wild things, who at the end of the day boldly weathers a stormy sea to sail home so he can both show and receive love. 

What monsters are you scared of rising up in front of you, or tigers are you worried are waiting on the other side of the door?  Even something as simple as writing a blog post is a challenge for me, since it opens up my words and ideas to ridicule - a terrifying thought.  So this is me being brave, writing in a public sphere with all the possibility of looking silly looming around me.  But, I've decided I don't care, and here's the first step towards acting on courage as opposed to fear:

1) Remember that most monsters are imaginary, and many aren't nearly the threats that they may seem.

2) Let your curiosity be stronger than your fear.  If the door to where you go seems dark and hermetically sealed... find a drill, and start small. 

3) Believe you are the king, (or queen), and declare yourself as such.  Don't be arrogant, but confidant.  You have no reason not to be. 

4) Light your own path.  There is nothing in nature that says a negative force is stronger than a positive force.  Why should it be that way in your head?  Brighten your thoughts and everything around you.

5) Take the first step and trust yourself to know the way.  Getting lost is ok, sometimes that's the point of the trip.  The final destination isn't always what you expect it to be, and that makes the adventure all the more exciting.

With my lighting bolts a glowin' I can see where I am goin'