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Mental Health

This Year, Be Brave

This Year, Be Brave

No one taught me about having courage growing up, but I found it anyway.

Courage is a virtue that is seldom taught in schools, yet when put to practice it has the power to change not only the world around us, but our own self-perception. If the fall of 2017 — the litany of women and men coming forward about sexual misconduct (or worse) — taught us anything, it’s that there is power in numbers. And it all begins with a single act of courage. (Even if it takes years for someone to listen. Sorry Rose McGowan.)

Growing up, my parents weren’t the greatest examples of this. It’s not entirely their fault — after all, I understand the conditioning. I remember crying on my grandmother’s shoulder when I was getting bullied in junior high, and her saying, “Next time you see those bullies in the hallway, I want you to turn the other way.”

As it turns out, I did turn the other way, and continued to do so well into adulthood. Sooner or later, “turning the other way” became my only response whenever I felt threatened. Unsurprisingly, most of my friends deal with issues the same way and many have said their parents gave them similar advice growing up: “Tell them to pick on someone their own size,” “Never let them see you sweat,” or my favorite, “Just ignore them and they’ll go away.”

Parents never want their children to go out looking for trouble, so they advise them to let it go. Our parents knew that every trial passes with time, no matter how big it might be in the moment. But the truth is if we remain passive all our lives, we miss out on opportunities to flex our emotional and mental muscles. By the time we’re adults, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to stand up for ourselves. And once we’ve forgotten that, how are we able to stand up for others?

It’s time to not only find our courage, but to demand it. Finding the strength to say no, having the wherewithal to tell our partners where our sexual limits lie, and embracing our own truth (and giving zero effs about who’s watching) starts with the prospect of honing our courage and never letting it go. I speak from experience.

I struggled for years to find courage in standing strong with my values and opinions. Naturally, without a strong foundation I wavered and tiptoed around the grey area between what I thought was true and what I knew was true about myself. I realized that in order to have courage to stand up to others, I needed to find courage to stand up to myself. I had to look in the mirror and be completely honest — for a change — and admit I have been running away from facing my true reflection.

But how can we build the strength to find courage?

The first steps of courage come from facing our fears, whether it’s standing up to junior high bullies, overpowering the negative voices in our head, or facing down Hollywood titans like Harvey Weinstein. By refusing to access this power, we unconsciously prevent ourselves from moving forward in life authentically. How are we able to live our lives truthfully if we continuously allow ourselves to be victimized by fear?

When we stand against fear, we’re actually standing as our true selves. And we realize this courage has been inside us all along. That’s why its whispers seem familiar. When we tap into that power, the warrior we always knew laid buried beneath our fear is unleashed. Ask anyone who’s faced their fear and they’ll tell you that the second they come face-to-face with fear, it runs away. That’s because courage always wins.

It’s time to stop running away. We have a voice. We have a body that is ours. We have a choice in life to either face our bullies or “let it go.” Personally, I’ve done both and I can tell you that the power of showing courage creates a ripple effect. Whether you realize it or not, you inspire others to do the same.

And for the record, I don’t blame my parents for not instilling me with courage as a child. I realize now there was no other way for me to gain my courage than by searching for it. I also realized that no matter what choice we make in a moment, time will always move us forward exactly as we are.

No one should be terrified to speak their minds, to give, and to help — or worse, to not speak their minds, not give, and not help. Our natural instinct should never be to remain silent and hope time will make our troubles dissolve. The future will one day be the present. And the person we allow ourselves to be now will have a drastic effect on the world tomorrow, so let’s find the courage. Now.

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.