Learning to be Brave

By Elizabeth Piper

Last week I was babysitting two young boys in my neighborhood while their parents ran errands. It started off as most of my babysitting gigs do – we put together a puzzle, played tickle monster, and competed over a game of Zingo (for those of you who don’t know, this is basically bingo for younger humans. Needless to say, it’s a very good time). During the game, the five-year-old boy told me that he had completed his bravery mission for the month and was excited to see what his Mom was going to get him as a reward. I looked at him quizzically. What was this bravery mission he spoke of? His explanation resonated deeply with me, someone twenty-two years his senior.

“A bravery mission is when you choose to do something that scares you. When you do it, you are choosing to be brave.” I asked him what his bravery mission was and he told me that he chose to take swimming lessons even though he was afraid of the water. “After only one month, I advanced to Level 2!” he shouted in excitement. I couldn’t help but smile. Here was a five-year-old boy consciously choosing to overcome a fear of his so he could grow to be braver. This, I thought, This is what is missing in my life.

Once I put the boys down for their naps, I took out my phone and began making a list of potential bravery missions I could make for myself.

  1. Start rock-climbing at the local climbing gym
  2. Go to the free meditation class down the street from my house
  3. Put myself out there and make new girlfriends
  4. Try one new recipe every week
  5. Sign up for that tap dance class I’ve always wanted to try since I was a little girl
  6. Try out that boot camp boutique gym down the street
  7. Travel somewhere new
  8. Buy a paint set and paint pictures
  9. Take acting classes for fun
  10. Enroll in a Spanish class

It amazed me how quickly I came up with ideas for bravery missions. It was as if I had been braving them without even knowing what they were. As children, we so easily engage in new activities merely because they sound fun. Of course, we get nervous to make new friends or jump into the pool for the first time, but we’re resilient. As we grow older so many of us get caught up in working crazy hours, binge watching the latest Netflix series, and just getting stuck in our same social activities with friends. We forget how to challenge ourselves outside of our work. We forget that we, like children, can still learn to be braver human beings. And when we take the time to step out of our comfort zones and try something that scares us, we gain confidence and a positive sense of self. No matter how young or old we are, there is nothing quite like feeling proud of ourselves for doing what we thought we couldn’t do.

What would a bravery mission look like for you? How good would it feel to do something you have labeled in your mind as too scary or too challenging? How long have you been yearning to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “Wow. Look at what you just did. You are brave. Anything is possible.” 


Elizabeth Piper is a former social media strategist for JCS Prevention Education.

JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland.  We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200. 



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