You can’t be brave if you aren’t scared.

A quote I heard six months ago that stuck in my brain since, from one of the best movies I’d seen in a long time:

Maybe I’m the only one, but I suspect not. 8th grade was AWKWARD. I spent most of it being scared, but not brave. Because that’s also accurate:

You can be scared and not brave.

Watch this trailer for the movie. Take a couple of minutes. I bet you’ll see yourself, to some degree, in her story.

You can just live in the fear and let it overwhelm and suffocate you. I’ve done this for a very long time. Fear of being me because:

  • No one will like the actual me
  • The real me has no value
  • My natural appearance is gross
  • I have nothing to offer or contribute

I let my fears about who I really am and what would happen if I let that person be known run my life. I still do, but in anorexia recovery I am at least able to recognize some of it now.

So.

Step 1: Be scared.

Step 2: Be brave.

I’m REALLY good at Step 1. It’s Step 2 that comes next and is much harder. In 8th grade, I was scared. I was a mouse. I had a couple of friends. I did well in school. I took care of my depressed mama. I didn’t speak to the boy I had a crush on.

Now, I’m 40 and I still act scared. I try to be invisible. I hide in my bedroom at Roommate’s house because I don’t want to be in the way. I come to work and do my job perfectly in my office, hardly speaking to anyone else unless I need to. I don’t tell people my real opinions about things if I think they will disagree.

I also think the level of fear associated with something is directly correlated with the level of bravery it takes to conquer it. Examples:

  • Small: Something is past the expiration date but smells pretty much okay. I’m a little scared, but I’ll go ahead and eat it pretty easily.
  • Medium: Letting my dry, sarcastic humor show at the office where people hardly know me? Much tougher.
  • Large: Being honest about my eating disorder to friends? Check, please.

But if it’s true, if you can’t be brave without being scared, then being scared is the OPPORTUNITY. Being scared provides that chance to be brave. And the most brave thing I can think of is to be myself.

From the wisdom of Kayla the 8th Grader: “Being yourself is like, not changing yourself to impress someone else.” Absolutely genius.

Why, as a middle-aged woman, can I still not figure this out? How many of us could narrate the movie 8th Grade about ourselves CURRENTLY?

I also think the level of bravery required is directly correlated to the positive reward you can get.

  • Small: If I throw the “expired” food item away, I’ll never know what I missed out on. But I’ll know I may have missed out. Or, it could still taste delicious and then hooray, I got to have a tasty treat.
  • Medium: My sarcastic joke is met with silence. I’m left wondering if I’ve horribly offended them, didn’t hear me, or (possibly worst of all) didn’t get it. OR, they laugh hysterically and tell me they love my sense of humor.
  • Large: Being honest about my eating disorder to friends. The person responds by saying they don’t know what I’m talking about and they are an intuitive eater (no one has done that). OR, they share their own struggles with food and we now know each other better AND don’t feel completely alone.

I have a very long way to go, but I’ve been trying to go past the fear to take the second step and be brave.

If JJ and I weren’t 6.5 years apart in age and from different parts of the country, this could have been our yearbook page:

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In recovery from anorexia and depression as a 40 year old wife and mom of a toddler. Discovering who I am and hoping to help others along the way!

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