Do I Feel Brave? – The Truth About Being Bold

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

21 January 2019

I was surprised by how anticlimatic some of my supposed bold experiences have been.

Since the beginning of my travels, I’ve been asked many times if I feel brave. The answer is, no, I do not. Once in a while, perhaps I get a small idea of how I have some serious chutzpah, but overall I don’t feel like I’ve been brave. To me, I talked, for a long time, about wanting to go all in and do what I’ve always been called to do; Travel the world, meet great people, and be inspirational. One day, after years of talking, I decided to stop talking and start doing. And I did. I knew what I had to do, learned what I had to give up, and I did. The build-up to jumping off the proverbial cliff was way more scary than doing it. In fact, so much so, that the days I did the things that freaked me out the most ended up being seriously anti-climatic.

Laughing Buddha.

Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2019

I’ve met several people during my travels that have done things I consider bold. I asked them if they feel brave. The answer was always no, they did not.  They, too, have been told by friends that they were brave, and didn’t understand the sentiment either. We guessed that we appear brave to people that want to do what we’re doing but feel they can’t or people that relate to how much we’ve given up to be where we are. Being the do-ers doesn’t feel like a big deal, though. It’s like I got used to walking in a straight line my whole life and one day I decided to turn left. So I turned left. 

“Bravery seems to be more of a perception than anything else.”

I feel like all that happened is I decided to do something, and then did it. So, I’ve started asking for feedback when I meet someone who tells me I’m brave so I can better understand the sentiment.  One day in Vietnam I met a lovely German woman who, when I told her about my adventure, burst into tears because she felt inspired. When I asked her to tell me what had touched her so deeply she explained:

You go out in the world and see what kind of place it is and then where your place in it is. You don’t do the normal thing and get used to how things are and accept it.”

The way she summarized her feelings actually made me feel completely heard and understood. I know this is what I’m doing, but she so succinctly described my experience I was deeply touched.


Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2019

I had another fascinating conversation with a woman that felt inspired by my actions. She also phrased her experience with my journey as bucking the status quo. She spoke about what she perceives is a growing midlife female crisis. Women who have been passed up and over in careers even though they do good work. She felt that some women feel they were born to be leaders but didn’t become them. They wonder what happened and are left wondering why they didn’t achieve everything they wanted to. They still want to accomplish something, but refuse to make any changes. For her, it was my action of doing, instead of just talking, that made her feel I’m inspiring.

In the end, I’m left guessing that bravery is a perception that we have of someone who has done something we wish we could do, but believe we can’t. Or, someone who faces danger to save someone else’s life. For the person that follows their heart and pursues their dream, in my experience, it feels like taking guided steps. There’s certainly a lot of faith and challenge that’s part of the path, but isn’t that true for all of us? Ergo, aren’t we all equally brave?

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