What is bravery? A question I ask myself often. Usually when walking alone down dark alleys, when talking to homeless people, going to Martial Arts classes, traveling to different countries, meeting strangers with twitchy eyes. Maybe asking for another fork cause I dropped my first one, getting yelled at by obnoxious drunkards, or eating Cheetos with strawberry yogurt. Because all of those things, arguably classified as “brave” are not in the least bit scary to me. When I exit planes, I yawn. When people display their insanity I smile politely, even giving them a little of the surprise they’re looking for, a dutiful compliment not in actual awe. When drunk people yell at me and call me names referencing my genitals, I simply walk faster, knowing they’re so bored they got drunk about it and that lingering boredom spilled out into their drunken state. The whole idea bores me.
Whenever I hear songs about being brave à la Sarah Bareilles, or quotes about being brave à la Joan of Arc I think how I don’t have to worry about it. Bravery is for those who feel fear, who are scared of unknown things and new experiences, both of which I would die without.
But the whole point of being brave is first feeling fear. George R. R Martin says that only when a man feels fear can he be brave. Only then. Everything else is faking bravery. So I think I do have to worry about being brave. I actually don’t think I know very much about it. I know all about fake bravery, but nothing about the real thing.
In Lena Dunham’s novella Not That Kind of Girl, she writes a whole chapter entitled: Sex Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body. And in this chapter she details how getting naked doesn’t really bother her. At all. She writes, “It’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you…Performing sex scenes that I direct, exposing a flash of my weird puffy nipple, those things don’t fall into my zone of terror.” This seemingly universal fear of getting naked and appearing flawed is, in fact, not universal. And therefore the definition of bravery is not universal. It’s different for everyone.
My very stale definition used to outline a set of stereotypical scenarios from movies, books or the collective conscious of our society which then formed a list of acceptable “brave” behavior. But there is no list. And just because things appear scary to some or even most people, doesn’t mean they’re scary to you. And if that’s the case, then your bravery will have to look different.
Bravery: a specific action, change, or shift in paradigm, perhaps shared by many but definitely specific to each person that so happens to scare the shit out of specifically them.
After brooding on this new outlook toward bravery, I finally came up with what truly scares me, what my definition is: letting go of my vanity. Yes I know that sounds so Emo, like I’m from NSYNC with perpetually dyed black hair flat ironed against my face (I actually do dye my hair black perpetually…wow maybe I am Emo). But after reflecting on this year I realized that the main thing that held me back, that really broke my heart or deceived me…..was actually just my own vanity. So many times I chased after the wrong people, ignored the right people and denied myself love simply because of vanity, a desire to be less me, more perfect, more beautiful.
Recently, I won’t get into details, but I’ve stumbled upon a revelation. And that is that beauty is boring. It really is. Perfection is boring. It is no doubt superior, it just isn’t much fun though. Beautiful people are caged by the need to be mysterious and sensual ALL THE TIME. In fact their very definition resides on them being unknown, untouched and statuesque. And it is beautiful, the whole thing. But just also boring. And really there is a lot of fear in hiding behind your vanity, whatever brand it comes in: beauty, purity, smarts, style, pride, general delusions of grandeur. Vanity masks fear. The fear of disappointing people. Of letting them know you’re actually just human too.
This new year, I hope to let go of my vanity. I want to actually fall in love with people. Not just the reflection of myself I see in them. Not just because they flatter me and call me pretty. Not just because of the perfect parts of them I put on a pedestal or the fantastical elements I in my wildest delusions think I should own through association with them.
It’s scary! In the words of Howl, If I can’t be beautiful then what’s the point of life? It’s scary, having to rethink your worth, to re-prioritize how you feel loved. To realize that the people who broke your heart, really just actually broke your vanity, and it was meant to be broken in the first place. It’s scary to not only step outside your door, but to invent a whole new one.
But without fear, there is no bravery.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Love you all,
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