Brave, courageous, or realistic?

Twice today someone told me they thought I was brave for how I’m handling the physical and emotional challenges I’ve had on my plate since August. A third person said a better word was courageous. I’ve been shying away from claiming either of those, preferring to think of myself as simply realistic. But now I think I’m wrong to do that; it minimizes the reality and the daily choices that got me where I am now.

Naturally, being me, I Googled bravery and courage to get definitions because I’d really thought of them as being synonymous only to discover that they’re not the same thing at all. According to Shonna Waters at BetterUp, “The main thing that really sets the mental state of bravery apart is a lack of fear.” She also said:

Courage doesn’t necessarily come with an absence of fear. In fact, being courageous normally involves taking action in spite of fear. It’s knowing full well that something will be dangerous or hard, but doing it anyway. Bravery tends to be more spontaneous, whereas courage comes with a high degree of choice and forethought.

When I think about what challenges and difficulties I’ve faced these last months, “Bravery” isn’t what fits because I sure as hell have been afraid. Afraid of being unable to walk again, or live independently, or have my own life. I’ve been afraid that things will go backwards and I’ll lose hard-won abilities and be a drain on my family and friends.

But I’ve taken steps anyway – physical steps without falling, adding them up until I can walk a football field (which is a LOT of steps!). Emotional steps of asking for help, and accepting it both gracefully and gratefully. Practical steps of learning how to dress myself and do my own laundry.

I’ve made the choice to take those steps. I know others in therapy who balked at trying something hard or painful or that made them stumble, and there were plenty of times when it would have been more comfortable to stay cozy in my room and not take the risks. But I did it anyway, because it was the only choice I saw for myself.

And now I know that there was courage in doing that. Brave I’m not. Courageous, I am. And grateful.

Photo credit: Photo 90119079 / Courage Bravery © Serhii Bobyk |