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Unintentionally Quieting Courage

Rachel Patterson and Sarah Noll Wilson headshots

Today’s blog is a combination of two voices. You’ll hear from me and my social media consultant, Rachel Peterson. First up, Rachel:

On my birthday, Sarah called me and voiced how I’ve impacted her over the past year. (Pro tip: everyone should do this. It was the best gift I received.) We jumped to the topic of how Sarah and I have both done some pretty brave and bold things in 2019. On my end, I very publicly battled breast cancer and wrote a blog that candidly shared the ugly truths of being a young woman with cancer. On Sarah’s end she opened up about panic disorder and ADHD and connected with that community in a very meaningful way in person and on social media. We both remarked that these acts didn’t feel brave to us. It felt very natural to share our stories. In fact, it felt like we were called to share these things.

It’s very typical that both of us will receive the comment, “Oh you are so brave, I couldn’t publicly talk about ADHD/Cancer/Mental health.” When I respond, I usually stumble through some version of, “but…it’s what I am supposed to be doing.” And then I spend hours pondering why my acts of courage feel less like bravery and more like a calling. I couldn’t sort it out until my chat with Sarah. We decided, to the best of our ability, to recreate our chat in a first of its kind Friday blog: a co-written piece. Today, you get a mashup of Sarah and Rachel!

Rachel’s P.O.V.

On a base level, there is validation when you share something in public or on social media that is scary. The comments flood in, the personal messages tug at your heart strings, and with each positive message, your first act of sharing is suddenly less intimidating. My proof: I wrote a public farewell letter to my breasts prior to my mastectomy and later shared my post-mastectomy body. Both of these were a risk and should have felt terrifying. But I had already received so much validation prior to pressing publish on these blogs that I didn’t think twice. That first act of courage received a tidal wave of support that squelched any trepidation I may have had. That tidal wave kept carrying me through every time I shared a vulnerable story about cancer. 
The most meaningful messages in response to my cancer stories often came from the most unexpected people. The long lost high school classmate, the person you met once at the coffee shop, your first love’s mother who still follows you on Instagram. I would go back to those messages so often and relish the fact that they took the time to share their words with me. In today’s world, giving of one’s time is a precious gift.

Sarah’s P.O.V.

There were a few conversations prior to my chat with Rachel that gave me pause around this idea of bravery. The first was reading my good friend’s honest journey with owning and learning how to manage her alcoholism. Her posts were raw, real, and vulnerable. On multiple occasions I mentioned how brave she was and her response was usually “I don’t feel brave, this is scary as sh!t” It made me wonder, “is bravery in the eye of the beholder?” There are certainly times when I have challenged myself to be brave (or at least pretend), but usually what someone labeled as brave was me doing something that was scary and uncertain and, like my friend, didn’t feel brave at all. 

Cut to a few months ago and I had connected with a lovely woman on Twitter who was feeling paralyzed by her challenges with mental illness and ADHD. During our call she commented on how transparent I was with my challenges and asked me, “Why are you able to be so brave around such sensitive topics?” It gave me pause. Because it didn’t feel brave, it did once but now it feels like it’s my responsibility to give voice to those who aren’t yet ready to speak. Then I realized, the first times I spoke up in person, in presentations or online about these challenges it felt TERRIFYING. But then I received messages from people of support, of appreciation, and those who wanted to know they weren’t alone. I never had someone openly judge me, no one harassed me and no one dismissed the truth of what I was sharing. 

That’s when I asked myself, how many people am I not giving wind to their sails of bravery? Little did I now Rachel had been chewing on the same insight and here we are.

Our Challenge:

We realized that we’ve been unintentionally quieting courage by not consistently reciprocating what so many gave to us. A like on a post, a thoughtful comment, a direct message, or even a personal phone call sparked by that person’s act of bravery creates ripple effects beyond our imagination. Or as Rachel calls it, “to send that tidal wave of validation and recognition of bravery to others.” We hope you consider joining us in this commitment.

We commit to no longer just thinking what someone did was courageous, but to go deeper in writing a public affirmation and follow up with a direct message or phone call. 

We commit to looking someone in their eyes and heart and saying THANK YOU when they show up with courage. 

We commit to showing up in a way that is free of judgment, full of love where people know that they can be courageous with us. 

We commit to celebrating courage or as we lovingly say, playing fully brave. 

Imagine what would be possible at home, at work, and in our world if more people could step into their own courage? 

What would be possible for you?

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