The Dark Side of Bravery

I’ve received a few comments about my work on bravery that give me pause. Nothing scary or hateful, although I did once receive a vomiting emoji in response to a Facebook post about Beyoncé, interestingly enough.

Rather, the comments indicate a frustration women have with bravery. Frustration for not being as brave as other women. Frustration with other women for not being braver.

So I want to spend a little time exploring the dark side of bravery, not just the positive who-runs-this-mutha side. (That was a shout-out to Beyoncé and vomiting emojis, BTW.)

About one year ago (October 9, 2016, to be exact), I hosted a women’s leadership retreat. All by myself. I was the coordinator, host, MC, speaker, everything.

It was terrifying to plunk down $2,000 and then go home to tell my husband after the fact. (He does not really like expensive surprises.)

It made me sick to my stomach to ask friends, family, and anyone with a vagina to attend. (I never self-promote, not even at my own birthday party.)

When I should have been feeling “brave,” I felt anything but.

Here’s my journal entry on the day of the retreat.


Fear and bravery go together, apparently

While fear may seem like the dark side of bravery, it’s not. The dark side of bravery is judging ourselves or other women for their choices related to it.

Because when we judge each other, not only are we buying into more bullshit about how women should be, we are actually scooping it up and throwing it at each other.

And while we’re in the middle of a bullshit melee (which I picture as being somewhat akin to a cafeteria food fight, just way grosser) men are out running the world.

Not women. Not you or me.

Not even Beyoncé.


They’re the ones running this mutha. And the longer we hurl bullshit at each other, the longer they will continue to do so.

This week, I’m at a women’s leadership conference called Emerging Women. It’s like what I did last year just times a billion.

At the conference, the woman who mentored and inspired Malala to become an activist gave a presentation. She and Malala now run an international girls’ education program in some of the scariest places on the planet.

She’s beautiful with a Stanford education and a lovely English accent who meets with the Obamas and Nobel Peace Prize winners (not counting the one she mentored) in between saving the world.

And oh-by-the-way, she’s twenty-seven years old.

I could sit here and roll around in bullshit, comparing myself to her. Finding fault in my meager attempts at social change while she continues to build her Empire of Awesome.

Or I could do what I actually did, which was go to the bathroom, stumble upon her in the hall, and envelope her in a hug.

Bravery is always, always, always relative to you and your life. Whatever action makes your heart flutter with your truth is brave.

For some women, that’s asking for a raise at work. For others, it’s asking your spouse to do the dishes.

For Shiza Shahid, it was asking Malala how she could help and then launching a global women’s movement.

Every act of bravery counts. 

There is no specific thing you should do or way you should be that is braver than others’. Because what makes my heart flutter with my truth will not be the same for you. And vice versa.

So let’s stop shoulding all over ourselves and each other.  

What does bravery look like for a stay-at-home mom? I have no idea, but it’s brave.

What does bravery look like for a transgender woman? I can’t say, but I bet she can.

What does bravery look like for you? Only you know.

Bravery is relative. It is deeply personal. And it is true for you.

So please. Be brave enough to support other women. To hear their truths and honor their choices. To set down the handful of bullshit or, even better, throw it full force at the patriarchy.

Because that’s how we are going to change this world. Together. 

Special thanks to the stay-at-home mama who suggested this topic. AND below is a list of reader-generated topics that YOU can vote on for next week’s post!


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