Championing healthy relationships

and sexual wellbeing

What does it mean to #BeBrave?

Written by our brave Operations Manager, Rae

This year’s Youth Mental Health Day theme #BeBrave had me questioning how I felt about that particular phrase.

It conjured up childhood memories of being told to ‘put a brave face on it’ – which I translated as ‘pretend that you are feeling okay when you are feeling far from it.’ And of the ancient adage often spouted by my old headmaster, ‘Fortune favours the brave’ – that I understood as ‘only courageous people do well in life.’

I really wasn’t sure how I felt about #BeBrave being a theme for a youth mental health day as I wondered how helpful being told to ‘be brave’ would have been at the lowest points of my life.

I thought, ‘How can I write a blog about this - without coming across as really negative?!’

And so I was brave - and asked for help!

I asked lots of different people: “What does ‘Be Brave’ mean to you?” and one particular WhatsApp group of friends made me view the phrase in a much more positive light.

As a dozen ladies over 50 shared their thoughts, a wonderful conversation was ignited with everyone being so incredibly vulnerable (something I found so brave in itself!). And as each person shared, the others encouraged and built them up.

What struck me was the extraordinary ordinariness of what they saw as bravery.

  • That it’s brave just to be ourselves instead of what we imagine others want us to be. To not try and fit in but accept our authentic selves.
  • That there is bravery in every little thing we do in our lives, and, on the worst days, that might be just getting out of bed.
  • That it is brave to admit we need help. That we can’t do it alone.

Here are some of their thoughts on #BeBrave:

“Doing something even when you are terrified.”

“Moving forward when you really want to retreat, that might just be as simple as getting up in the morning.”

“Self-love and acceptance to conquer shame, fear, and anxiety.”

“Accepting myself. Not being ashamed of who I am. Not worrying so much about how other people perceive me.”

“Having the mental strength to get out of my comfort zone. Trying something new.”

“Courage to face your fears.”

“Having the strength to speak your truth.”

“Be willing to fail or make a fool of yourself. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“Belief that you can and will get through it. To have faith that things will get better.”

“Knowing I’m not doing it alone. The belief there’s always someone out there to lean on through the good and bad.”

“Being honest and vulnerable.”

“Not being frightened to speak up about something you believe in.”

“Doing something I believe to be right even when everything within me doesn’t want to.”

“Willing to say sorry and forgive.”

“Accepting that I can't plan for everything and I can't see into the future.”

“To give myself permission that maybe today is not a feel-brave day, but tomorrow might be.”

So, the message I want to give to young people is that we all need bravery, and we all are already brave.

The first part of that bravery is to simply acknowledge our fears, as fear is real and can be paralyzing.

As Nelson Mandela said, being brave is not ‘the absence of fear.’ Far from it, bravery is moving forward despite the fear you feel.

Sure, some people do amazingly brave things like fight wildfires; put their heads above the parapet to stand against injustice in an oppressive regime; perform on stage or speak in front of thousands of people; or face pain and illness with courage.

But you don’t have to be doing any of these things to be brave.

Bravery is about making choices and facing your own challenges and fears and the best thing is - you don’t have to do it alone!

Sadly, for many of today’s teenagers, showing fear to their peers is a sign of weakness. I’d like to tell them that showing your vulnerability and asking for help is one of the most incredibly brave things you can do!

And it’s something that we as adults should be modelling.

I’d also like to tell them that they are already brave and doing brave things, whenever they do something new or step out of their comfort zone – which they are doing all the time! Most of us have had to conquer a new topic at school or faced the possibility of rejection as we talk to someone new.

So, acknowledge your fear, name it, confront it, talk it through kindly with yourself or a friend – and get comfortable being uncomfortable - because I don’t have to tell you to ‘be brave’ because you already are!