“You’re pretty brave, kid. It takes a lot of grit to come over here all by yourself.”
Those words were spoken to me on February 5, 2013—one of my first scary, exhilarating, overwhelming days as an intern in Frankfurt, Germany. Two and a half years later—this past Monday—they rang in my ears again, this time as I walked toward a stranger’s house in Orem, Utah.
I didn’t want to be there. It took all my strength not to fake a phone call and freakin’ sprint in the opposite direction. I was terrified of what was on the other side.
Uncomfortable interactions. The possibility of rejection. Loneliness. Silence. Unfair judgments. Comparisons. Feelings of hopelessness. The risk of a panic attack.
I had decided I wasn’t going to show up that night. Too many scary possibilities that I didn’t want to become realities. Too much potential for pain. Too much doubt.
But something had happened an hour before that I refuse to believe was coincidence.
It was 6:43 p.m. and I was running late. I hastily checked the mail as I dragged groceries, sweaty gym clothes, and work projects from my truck to my house. I’ll never know what moved me to check the mail right then. My hands were full. I was tired. I was hungry. And I virtually never check the mail.
Sitting on top of the mail pile was a package from Admonish Clothing (which I’ll be talking about in greater detail next week!). And in that package was a shirt that couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment.
I remember scrolling through Admonish’s website a few weeks ago trying to choose a shirt. “Be brave,” I said out loud, smiling as I thought about wearing that shirt around. “What an inspiring message. Maybe wearing that shirt would help inspire me to do hard things.”
The timing couldn’t have been more ironic. Impeccable. Fortuitous. Perfect. Whatever you want to call it.
I needed to do a hard thing on Monday night. And that shirt in the mail was the kick in the butt I needed to do that thing.
But that’s not the end of the story.
A lot of people have been calling me brave lately. Brave for being so open about my fight against mental illness. Brave for owning up to the fact that I have a legitimate problem with self injury. Brave for randomly starting a fashion blog. Brave for putting myself out there.
And I’ve been called brave a lot throughout my life. Brave for moving to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. Brave for picking up and moving to new city after new city with my family. Brave for speaking my mind. Brave for standing up for what’s right.
But I have never, ever felt brave.
Despite all the things I’ve been able to see, do, and accomplish during my life, I have always felt very weak. So as I gazed at that shirt on Monday night, I got to thinking about what it means to “be brave.” And then I got to thinking about what bravery might mean to other people. And then I got to thinking about how cool it would be to write a post with my friends’ thoughts on bravery.
So that’s exactly what I did. I asked 14 of the bravest people I know about what bravery means to them. I look up to these people. They’re the ones that inspire me. The ones that constantly remind me that life is wonderful and full of incredible things. The ones whose examples we should all follow.
In the slideshow below you’ll find their thoughts on bravery, as well as a little info about them and why I chose to include them in today’s post.
"Brave isn't something you are. It's something you choose to be. Bravery depends on a moment of action. Without choice or fear, you're not being brave. You don't have to do crazy or dangerous things. You don't have to climb mountains or move to an unknown city. If you're not afraid of heights or being alone, you're not being brave. There must be opposition or something you're overcoming to truly be brave."
A little about Haley
Haley and I were in BYU's journalism program together, and I don't think I've ever met a more level-headed, grounded individual. I've always loved her drive, tenacity, and no-nonsense approach to life. She also can talk politics, current events, and social issues with the best of them.
"There are so many ways to be brave to me. It can go as far as laying down your life for your family, God, and country. It can be as simple as having the courage to admit that you're wrong and take whatever comes of it. The main part is not to be fearless but to do what has to be done even though you're scared."
A little about Rustin
I didn't choose to include Rustin in this list because he's served overseas, because he's an aspiring police officer, or because he's a badass bodybuilder. I chose him because he's one of the most impressive people I've ever talked to. He has one of the most incredible outlooks on life—he's always positive, always genuine, and always striving for something. He also has a FANTASTIC sense of humor and is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram ;)
"To me, bravery is not found in the absence of fear, but in the determination to press forward in spite of it. A brave person does what they think they cannot do and inspires others to do the same."
A little about Ashley
Ashley radiates happiness. Even when we worked together at the BYU bakery at 5 am, she was always happy, smiling, and positive. She's one of those people that sheds light on everything she touches, which is getting more and more rare these days. Take a look at her blog—litaloves.com—for regular doses of positivity and love!
"To me, being brave is simple—doing it. It's knowing the risks, knowing that the odds are stacked against you, knowing that there is no easy way and there are no guarantees, and then doing it anyway. Because deep down you also know that no matter the outcome, you're going to come out on top. Bravery is about taking that first step into the darkness without any doubt that the light will follow."
A little about Ben
Ben is a personal trainer in Boston and is, hands down, one of the most driven people I know. From the moment I met him he's always talked about goals, dreams, and improvement. What's more, he is a fantastic chef and wrote his own cookbook which is 100% worth buying. (Search for "For the Health of It: The Beginner's Guide to Recipe Creation" on Amazon.)
"To me, bravery means that you are willing to be real with yourself—you admit your weaknesses and fears, and yet you still recognize your beauty, your strength, and your worth. This is SO HARD to do, but it's the first step to love your heart, mind, and soul."
A little about Bekki
Bekki is the little sister of one of my best friends, and when I met her three years ago I could have never anticipated how our paths would cross later. Bekki struggles with bipolar disorder, and yet she remains graceful, intelligent, and completely lovely through all of it. Learning about her story has helped me see that there is always hope on the horizon. Mental illness does not have to get the best of us, but we do have to fight back.
A little about Kolton
You've seen Kolton on the blog before, and there was no way I wasn't including him in this list! I met Kolton when my family moved to Wyoming when I was 15. I've always looked up to him (although for a while I'm pretty sure you could say I just had a big crush on him). He's one of the hardest working people I know, and although he has a tough exterior, he is one of the nicest, most loyal people on the planet.
"Bravery means being okay with the worst possible outcome. It means being ready to be uncomfortable, but also thriving in that environment. ... The scariest part about being brave is the moment right before you do the thing that requires bravery. But after you make it through that, most of the time you look back and laugh at yourself for ever being afraid of whatever it was. That's kind what it's about. Being brave means growth of experience and growth of a person's spirit."
A little about Haelyn
Haelyn is my cousin's daughter and like everyone who has a little Street in their blood, she is FIERCE. Not only is Haelyn a Marine (you read that right—A MARINE), she's also friendly, caring, and beautiful inside and out.
"Being brave is accepting a responsibility to become who you were foreordained to be. It's being willing to experience pain or danger to overcome a trial and expecting to succeed."
A little about Erik
If there's one person I know who is absolutely winning at life, it's Erik. He lets nothing stand in his way. He doesn't take no for an answer. He knows who he is and stays true to himself at all times. He's also mastered the panoramic selfie, which is hella difficult.
"I have never jumped from an airplane or swam with sharks. I've never been to war and put my life on the line for the freedoms of others, or really done anything that other people might consider remarkable. I'm scared of heights, of deep water, of guns. BUT. I have never colored inside the lines, and I have paid the price. I have been outcast by my family, left behind by people I thought were friends, betrayed by loved ones, and insulted by complete strangers. After each painful rejection, I have tried to change myself to be more lovable or acceptable or appropriate, or whatever people want me to be. But it never works, because I cannot be anyone but who I am. And so over the years, instead of trying to remake my imperfect self into someone who is more palatable to others, I have turned my attention to learning to live with my flaws. Am I unwilling to make myself better? No. But I have learned that trying to do so on other people's terms is a useless endeavor. So is jumping from an airplane brave? I guess. But that momentary bravery is trivial when compared to the perpetual courage required to live an authentic life, especially when that life is one that other people, particularly the people you love and admire, don't understand. So I'd say bravery is honesty: honestly admitting that you will never be everything to everyone, honestly assessing whose approval is worth enough for you to compromise your own personal sense of self, honestly committing to make choices when you know you may be abandoned by people you trust. Bravery is authenticity."
A little about Alexis
To put it simply, Alexis is a total badass. She is a prime example of a strong woman who isn't afraid or ashamed to be herself. In all the time I've known Alexis, I've always admired her boldness, her intelligence, and her unwillingness to settle for mediocrity. She is always honest, open, caring, and so, so real. What could be more brave than being real?
"Bravery is the power to champion yourself, to turn all of your shortcomings into the positive power that defines your life."
A little about Jacob
I met Jake about two and a half years ago in Frankfurt, Germany. I was an independent 21-year-old who thought moving to a foreign country all by herself was a good idea. He was an 18-year-old cocky British kid who thought trying to be friends with the older American girl was definitely within reach. We clashed at first. I thought he was brash and I'm sure he thought I was full of myself. But eventually we became very, very close friends. He introduced me to fantastic British music and I introduced him to grilled cheese sandwiches and Swig sugar cookies. And if you're wondering what makes Jake brave, it's that he's always, always, always been there when I needed a friend. He's never shied away from my struggles, however scary they have been. And that's rare.
"You will never know when a trigger will hit you. Yet when it does sometimes it's bad. Sometimes it's raw, sometimes it's painful. Like a pit in your stomach. Like you're suffocating. Sometimes you just want to toss your arms in the air and give up. Being brave isn't just standing tall and taking the punches that life throws at you. I've learned throughout the years that being brave can sometimes be one of the hardest things we can do for ourselves. To live life without having the fear of others or hurtful thoughts; I see now that I am beyond brave to be free. I am braver than I thought I could be. Brave never meant anything to me until I learned that these triggers—this pain, this life–it's worth fighting for. It's worth living, even on my weakest days I learned I'm my bravest."
A little about Samantha
The reason I decided to start writing self care posts is so that I could connect with people who had similar struggles as me. I stumbled upon Sam's Instagram account several months ago, and for some reason Sam and I just ended up clicking. Her blog—which you can read at thisismylifethisismytruth.wordpress.com—is so full of inspiration and motivation to keep trying and keep living. She also has an Etsy shop (which I'll be talking about more next week!) with adorable shirts that are perfect for those of us who need a reminder every now and then that we are strong and beautiful.
"Bravery is choosing to go forward when part of you says it's impossible."
A little about Fenton
Oh, Fenton. I could talk about Fenton for days (and I mean that in the least creepy way possible!). Fenton has a really rare trait that has made him one of my all-time favorite people. He genuinely cares about people—all people. He takes interest in those around him, then does whatever he can to lift them up. As cheesy as it sounds, the world would 110% be a better place if it had more Fentons running around.
"To be brave means to do something that is scary or challenging. And let's face it, we have to be brave every day! Life is scary and challenging, especially when we are going through something hard. But we prove we are brave when we are fearless and move forward with faith."
A little about Camille
I have nothing but good things to say about Camille. We met back in January when we were dating guys that were best friends. Neither of our relationships worked out (which I think we can both agree was for the best), but we ended up running into each other a few months later in a church hallway. Since then we've been able to bond over heartbreak, trials, and challenges that we've encountered. What I love about Camille is that even though she's been through a lot, she remains kind, caring, and vulnerable.
And last, but certainly not least, is a girl who I’ve looked up to since I was 12.
She wrote such a touching response to my question about bravery that I couldn’t bare to cut it down to fit into the slideshow.
“I remember Taylor when she was a little girl! Seeing her now, successful and pursuing her passions makes me so happy. Taylor asked me if I would share my thoughts on bravery. She remembers a 16 year old me, bald and battling a rare pediatric bone cancer. A lot of people remember that girl. And when it’s brought up in conversation the word “brave” is almost always sure to come up.
When I think back to that time in my life I don’t think of myself though. I think of my parents. They were SO brave. To put their daughter’s life in the hands of complete strangers, watching them make her more and more sick…that had to be rough. And more than that, they put my fate in the hands of our Heavenly Father. It takes a lot of bravery to tell Heavenly Father that whatever His will would be, we would understand. Brave.
Another person that comes to mind is my best friend, Mandi. She was 16 also. And she was by my side through the worst of the worst. Her bravery made me stronger. She made me push forward when all I wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up again. She sat with me in absolute silence, she rubbed my back as I threw up in a bucket. She cried over the fact that she had to be carried out of the room during my epideral, because she almost fainted. Now, her bravery has transitioned to being an Army wife. She has lived through one deployment of her husband, with the likelihood of more to come. Brave.
With cancer almost 10 years in my rearview, I think back to that time in my life and am so thankful for the bravery of those around me who carried me when I couldn’t. Bravery comes in so many forms. Recently, my husband took a leap of faith, followed his dream, and set out to open his own business. That took a lot of bravery, to venture into the unknown. Brave.
I teach first grade. When discussing with my students how I can be the best teacher for them this year, one boy noted that I need to be brave, “…in case a snake comes into our classroom! You have to be brave and protect us!!” They also agreed that they have to be brave when faced with a challenge, like a difficult math problem, they can’t give up. They have to be brave and keep trying. Brave.
I could go on for days about who is brave and how, but I think I’ll close with one last person. Taylor. Such bravery it must take to be so transparent with her readers about the challenges in her life. I’m so proud of her for spilling her heart, in the hopes of helping others. SHE is BRAVE.”
I had originally planned to end with my own thoughts on bravery.
But after reading and compiling all the responses from my friends and family members, I was so overcome with emotion and gratitude that I decided to leave you all with a simple realization I had during this little project. The realization I had is this: bravery is diverse. It comes in many different forms. It can be applied to a variety of situations. It means something different to each and every person I talked to.
And why is that? I think it’s because deep down, each and every human being has the potential, the capability, and the power to be brave.
Bravery isn’t something that’s just in soldiers, athletes, or astronauts. It’s in all of us.
It’s in the depressed boy who gets out of bed every single day even though it hurts like hell.
It’s in the girl with an eating disorder who’s trying so, so hard to take better care of herself.
It’s in the concerned mom who does all she can to learn about her daughter’s anxiety disorder.
It’s in the parents who have to watch their children struggle.
It’s in the man who sets goals and makes plans to achieve his dreams.
It’s in the woman who endures heartbreak after heartbreak and still opens herself up to love.
It’s in all the people who get knocked down but refuse to stay down.
It’s in the people who have been broken but are trying to put themselves back together.
It’s in everyone who knows there are better days ahead.
It’s in the dreamers. The doers. The go-getters.
It’s in me.
It’s in you.
It’s in all of us. We just have to look for it.
Bravery sure as hell ain’t all sunshine and roses. Being brave often takes us down treacherous roads with lots of trials. But those roads will always be worth it. Because as my girl Brene Brown said: