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Which Ways Are You Brave?

Which Ways Are You Brave?

When I started working on my latest book about how fear makes you sick and  how courage helps you heal, I had the nerve to tell Matt I was writing the book  for fearful people like him. (Note to self: Keep some thoughts private.)

Not surprisingly, Matt got offended and we had a bit of a tiff, which we can  now laugh about enough for him to give me permission to tell you this story.

Dirty Feet

For years, I’ve been calling Matt “Dirty Feet” from the Gandhi quote, “I will  not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” I call him Dirty  Feet because I’ve spent the past five years taking sometimes terrifying career  and financial risks, and these particular breed of risks frighten Matt, who  projects his fears onto me, as if I don’t have enough of my own, leading me to  question myself. I’ve had to build a bit of a bubble around myself so I can feel  safe while taking sometimes radical risks, like quitting  my secure job in medicine or turning  down a book deal that didn’t feel quite right and losing my agent as a  result.

There’s More Than One Way To Be Brave

At first, I got pissed when Matt, who thinks of himself as brave, not  fearful, got defensive and felt insulted. But then I had an epiphany.   While he might be fearful about money and other career hooey, Matt is super  brave when it comes to love and relationships. From the day I met him ten years  ago, he was fearless in his expression of affection, in a way few men have ever  been with me. There were none of those silly games people play. I always knew  exactly how he felt, and he was brave enough to risk emotional intimacy from the  get-go.

I, on the other hand, straight out of an abusive marriage, was not so brave.  I guarded my heart. I made him earn his way in. Even when he did, I often gave  him only small pieces of my heart in measured doses, one teaspoonful at a  time.

It’s not just me that brought out the bravery in Matt. I’ve also witnessed  him putting his heart on the line in other relationships, risking rejection,  hurt, loss, or judgment in order to express his desires and needs.

I, in contrast, have only just this year started to become brave in my  relationships, as I’m learning to keep  my heart open with people I love, as I’m  teaching my daughter to do, as I’m taking  risks with my friendships by asking for what I need, and as the recent  loss of my dog Grendel reinforced.

Fear In Relationships

After apologizing to Matt and promising not to call him Dirty Feet anymore, I  realized that many of us are brave in one or two aspects of our lives but  fearful in others. As a teenager, I loved fearlessly. But after a failed  engagement and two failed marriages, I wound up pretty guarded when it comes to  love.

Taking career risks, however, is now pretty easy for me. I’m also unafraid to  take creative risks. I take wild leaps of faith all the time when it comes to  business, books, and money. Because I’ve taken many brave risks in the past few  years, most of which have turned out well, I fancy myself pretty fearless.

But when it comes to relationships, my track record isn’t so hot, so I’m more  than a little gun-shy. As far as I’ve come in learning to be braver in my  relationships with Matt, my other family, my friends, and my colleagues over the  past year, I have to admit that I’m still pretty afraid – afraid of rejection,  afraid of not being understood, afraid of being perceived as flawed and damaged,  afraid of not being valued, afraid of really making myself vulnerable. Lately, I  take more risks in my relationships. But it still feels very scary. I suppose,  as Susan Jeffers says, I just need to continue to feel  the fear and do it anyway.

It made me realize that we’re all brave – and we’re all afraid – at least a  little bit. Every one of us has “dirty feet” about something, no matter how big  our balls or ovaries. What varies is our comfort zone. Risks I take with  relative ease might be terrifying to you, while risks you take might leave me  hyperventilating.

Fear Is Personal

So is courage. Bravery exists on a spectrum. Even the most  fearful people have moments of wild courage, and even the most fearless can be  found cowering under the table sometimes. We all exhibit courage in our own  unique ways too.

Some, like Kathleen Prophet  who refused surgery for cervical cancer and chose to heal herself, are brave in  battling health issues.

Some, like Martha Beck, who risked  it all to write Leaving  The Saints and step away from her religion in order to step into her  faith, make brave spiritual choices.

Some, like Pamela Madsen,  author of Shameless,  make brave sexual choices, bucking convention to follow their desires.

Some, like Chris Guillebeau,  who chose to give away $100,000 to those who attended his World  Domination Summit in order to help make the world a better place, make brave  financial decisions.

Some, like Tama Kieves,  a Harvard lawyer who left her job to find her calling, make brave career  choices.

Some, like Vikki  Johnson, are brave enough to give away a kidney to save a distant relative’s  life.

Some, like Chaz  Bono, who had the courage to transition from a woman to a man, are brave  enough to come out of the closet and be unapologetic about who they really  are.

Some have the wild courage to leave relationships that weigh them down, or  even cause bodily harm. Some are brave enough to get sober and stay clean.  Others dare to heal from unspeakable traumas.

The capacity of the human spirit to find the courage to do the unimaginable  continues to leave me in awe.

How Are You Brave?

Are you brave in career or finance, love and relationships, sex, your health?  Do you take spiritual risks? Do you take creative risks? Are you willing to face  your past? Are you brave enough to grow? Are you courageous enough to take  heroic action?

Tell us… how are you brave? Post your comments, and if you’re  willing to share your story in more detail, please help me write my next book  about how fear can make you sick and courage can heal you. Submit  your courageous story here and you might be featured in my next book!

Ever curious,


Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities and,author  of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx  speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.   Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check  her out on Twitter  and Facebook.

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