You're standing on the edge of a cliff. There is a ten-thousand foot drop in front of you. Jagged and sharp rocks are at the bottom. Ferocious waves are crashing against the rocks. Would you jump?
The natural answer is no. As soon as your body sees the dangers, its natural fight or flight urges come to forefront and will warn you that jumping is not a clever idea because the risk is too high. There is probably a 1 in 1000th chance that you won't hit the rocks, but then you have to hope that you don't die simply from the impact of hitting the water and then that the ferocious waves don't smack you against the rocks. There is probably a very, very minimal chance of surviving the jump.
Now, most people will never actually have to worry about this sort of thing. The chances that you'll be in a life-threatening situation is small but our bodies naturally have this instinct in our bodies. This instinct, when activated outside of a life-threatening situation is called anxiety.
Every single time my anxiety says hello to me, I know that my body imagines the above. It imagines that I have a minimal chance of surviving. To have that feeling and to still "jump" (eat the food, enter the crowded room, sleep without doing x,y, or z), is incredibly difficult. I can't just jump. I need to first tell my brain that there is no danger and that is not an easy thing to do. I often need to do things to make myself feel better about the situation, to help myself feel more in control of the situation.
When I had my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy a few years ago, my therapist called me brave. The reason for this is because I knew a certain situation was going to fill me with anxiety but I went anyway. At the time I shrugged it away. I wasn't brave, I was just doing what everyone else did. I was just getting on with life. My reasoning for this was that I could avoid what was going to make me anxious (i.e. not eating the buffet food at blogger events) or have a time out if I needed it.
But then Laura posted this post last week and on Wednesday Jess told me that "I was amazing" because she couldn't tell that I was having an anxiety attack about eating some food. Admittedly I actually had a few anxiety issues the day I saw her. And due to all of that I realised that I am brave. It's one of those things that I find difficult to admit (see this post) but I need to because I am starting to realise that it's true.
Bravery is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And this is what I do on a daily basis and is something that I'm doing a lot more of now too, to try and battle my anxiety completely. The more I do things I'm uncomfortable doing, the sooner I can remind my brain that I am completely safe and eating that food with my fingers without washing my hands right beforehand is not a life or death situation. And if I can do that, maybe one day I can just go out and be with my friends and not worry... well... at all.
I know there are still times that I avoid things. Times when I throw food away because I simply can't look past my anxiety, times when I cancel social events with strangers or return to my car to double check I locked it but no one said I had to be brave every day. And it's okay to be weak every now and again but that doesn't belittle everything else I've done. This is just another thing that I also need to remind myself every day too.
If you've done something today that makes you brave, I'd love to hear about it so do tell me all in the comments or on twitter!