Let me start by saying thank you to all the people who followed, liked and commented on my posts while I was walking the Camino de Santiago. It means a lot and it really encouraged me when things were a bit rubbish!
One of the things that I’ve heard a lot while talking about the Camino de Santiago is about how brave I am that I did it. Also, while I was there, a few people said that I was brave to walk it alone.
I’ve had an issue with being called brave for a while now and it kind of makes me cringe when people say it to me. Partly because I’m not great at taking compliments (which it usually appears to be) and also because I don’t really know what to say in answer to this. I mean, I can’t say “yes, look how brave I am” or just a plain old “thank you”. I felt like I needed to explain myself, like I was doing something wrong. This made me wonder why I don’t like it or feel like it’s deserved so I spent a bit of time while I was walking trying to figure it out.
Firstly I came to the conclusion that I probably didn’t feel like I deserved the label brave because brave people aren’t scared of stuff are they? They don’t freak out when investigating a strange chorus of sounds that turned into a sighting of a huge gang of the most feared creature in my life – frogs (I shuddered while writing that). They don’t worry about whether a strained muscle is going to end up with the loss of a limb or, potentially, their life. They don’t plan a trip to within an inch of it’s life - they just go wherever, whenever.
Brave people (in my mind) go boldly forward into life with a blasé, can-do attitude feeling confident that everything is going to be alright and that whatever they need from life will be provided without a second’s worth of lost sleep. So actually, no-one had any reason to call me brave and in fact, I should have made more of an effort to tell them why I was not a brave person because of all my fears.
Another reason I found that I didn’t like it is that I associated the phrase “you’re so brave” with the people who say this to me about being single and/or living alone. This was a big problem for me as I just didn’t know what to say to people about it. I’m not entirely sure what people expected me to do about it either. Was I supposed to live with my parents until I found a suitable man? Was I supposed to find someone to settle down with so I wasn’t alone? Why were people so concerned about it?
I also remembered that my best friend often tells me that I’m brave for getting on a plane when it scares me, but I always think of people who fly all over the world (seemingly) without a second thought so that didn’t make any sense. I then realised that she thinks I’m brave because she wouldn’t do it. I think I’m not because I still can’t sleep on a plane for more than about 5 minutes and that’s only if I’m absolutely shattered and it’s very still!
What I realised was that bravery was a subjective label and that the people who were telling me I was brave were really saying that they weren’t sure whether they could do these things that I’d decided to do. That’s quite an interesting position to be in and I’m hoping that by telling people about the things I choose to do that maybe it will encourage others to do the things that might make them a little scared. I’m now choosing to take it as a compliment and to explain that I’m not really feeling brave but I am still going to do these things that scare me in the hope that I get something more out of my life.