Put your bravery to a 10-question test.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned psychologist Professor Martin Seligman’s character strengths survey.

Positive response from Moodnudges readers encouraged me to experiment today with focusing on one of the survey’s 24 strengths, as well as giving you (and me) a way to rate ourselves against an average.

How do you and I compare to others in this particular character strength?

Actually, I can tell you now that this one is a quality I sometimes struggle with.


The VIA Institute, an organisation set up as a result of Professor Seligman’s work, defines bravery as “not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain: speaking up for what’s right even if there is no opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery, but is not limited to it.”

Wow, sounds like something you’d need to be a warrior to pull off, right?

Well, in my case, I can sometimes be more of a worrier than a warrior.

Often there are actions that I know would be good for me, but the feeling that they might prove difficult, risky, wrong or unpleasant puts me off from stepping up to the plate.

Fortunately for me, it turns out I’m not alone.

Perhaps you too would like to be braver than you already are?

What can we do about this?

One tremendously effective strategy for reducing anxiety is to expose yourself to the feared stimulus in managed stages.

Think about someone who’s scared of snakes, for example.

A therapist might arrange gradual exposure to a snake: observing one from a distance through thick glass; being in the same room as a snake, but quite a way from it; touching a snake held in someone else’s arms…

You get the idea.

I’ve recently put a similar process into action, in an effort to manage my own fear of dentists.

I’ve been putting off having some work done for way too long.

Quite honestly, I didn’t have the courage to put things into motion, making all kinds of excuses.

However, the simple truth was that I lacked the required bravery.

I finally made the appointment, though, by breaking the process down into smaller, less alarming steps.

First, I drove to the outside of the dentist’s office, but didn’t actually go in. I just went home. Phew.

A couple of days later, I returned and went in, simply to make an appointment. Although I could have done this on the phone, going into the reception area was oddly reassuring. It also gave me a feeling of achievement.

Eventually, I turned up for the appointment itself.

Admittedly not the most enjoyable experience in the world, but it felt great to have finally made it happen.

The very last step in the process was to recognise that taking courageous action can take a lot out of you. So, after the appointment I was kind to myself, not planning to do too much for the remainder of the day.

Maybe you’d like to be braver in some area of your life?

In that case, maybe you too could benefit from this kind of “exposure therapy” methodology?

Begin with baby steps, gradually increasing what you expect of yourself.

You’ll almost certainly be surprised by your own bravery, just waiting to be unleashed.

Lastly, as promised, here’s a quick ten-question survey that will let you discover how your self-rated level of bravery currently stands.

Take it. If you dare.


11 thoughts on “Put your bravery to a 10-question test.

  1. Hi Jon. Bravo! – from Italian bravo ‘bold” (one) – for overcoming your fear of the dentist. I mean it too, having (finally) just undergone unwelcome extensive dental surgery. Thank you for supplying the strengths survey. I did less well than the average but it has given me food for thought. Go well.

    1. Thank you, MA. Well done for making it through your own dental stuff. I’m planning to take us through other strengths from the list of 24. Each of us has their own strengths – and weaknesses – I think, and perhaps the latter are opportunities for growth. You go well, too.

  2. Hi Jon,
    I think that you are quite right to be nervous about dentists.
    As a profession I place them at the top of the list of morally bankrupt professionals.
    They do unnecessary work to the teeth, they cause damage, they fill the teeth when not required, and they have the gall to charge one for the abuse they do.
    Far worse than bankers or solicitors, the dentists are the worst of a bad lot.
    Steer clear if you can, and keep your teeth well into old age as the body intended.

    1. Sounds like you’ve had some unfortunate experiences, Leigh. Sorry to hear that. I guess as in all professions, there are the good and the bad.

      In this case, it’s very necessary work for me to have done. Sadly!

  3. Not sure if this counts as bravery, but recently in a place I was working, a man spilt a cup of water all over the floor and casually walked away! I immediately challenged him “hey, you can’t just leave it like that”, he argued that the cleaner would do it!! I said “where I’m from mate, you clean up if you make a mess”, he had no answer but he went off in a huff and brought back some blue roll and cleaned it up. There was a room full of people too and everyone was watching! I could feel myself heating up inside but I stuck to my guns. Why should the cleaner clean up his mess???

    1. Definitely bravery, Karl. Good for you. And, actually, good for your colleague who saw the light, despite probably being embarrassed. Sounds as though you stepped well outside your comfort zone, which I think is really commendable. It’s not always an easy path to stand up for your principles.

  4. The test was interesting, espeically in that I feel braver now than I did while taking it. I think it could benefit from removing the gender binary question at the end…. It didn’t really seem relevant and reinforces a view of gender as absolute and categorical, which just isn’t true.

    1. Good, and helpful, reflection about the gender question at the end, Kris. You’re so right about the unhelpfulness of viewing gender as utterly cut and dried. I was moved to ask, as the past data I’d seen suggested that females were braver than males, which intrigued me. In fact, the data we’ve already collected today reverses that – so far, people answering “male” seem to regard themselves as (very) slightly braver than people answering “female”, although the difference is pretty tiny and probably statistically not meaningful.

      On another matter, I’m fascinated that you felt braver *after* competing the test, though. If you see this reply of mine to you, and can bear to comment again, I’d be fascinated to hear what you think might have happened to cause that. I’m sure others would be interested, too.

  5. No one is always Brave as suggested in your and Karls scenario’s. I too am reluctant to go to the dentist and I am not sure that I would have had the confidence to deal with Karl’s scenario in quite the same way. (way to go Karl). That said, as I have mentioned recently I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and I had never been to Africa before, camping before or been anywhere near a mountain before! I’ve even sky dived before, but the dentist no thanks!
    Jon, I think that you too are braver than you think?

    I guess my point is we are all brave and also vulnerable, the secret is not to “beat ourselves up about it”
    Be as strong as you can be, when you can be, I guess that is all we can ask of anyone?

    1. Great point, Paul – and thanks for your reflection, as ever.

      What a magnificent achievement to get yourself up Mt Kilimanjaro despite a lack of previous experience.

      You’re right to suggest that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about being insufficiently brave, but I think I’m interested in that kind of grey area where there are possibly good things I could do, but hesitate because I’m not thinking brave thoughts! The dentist is perhaps not the best example in this instance…

      I really love your “Be as strong as you can be, when you can be.” Thank you.

  6. Happy to help Jon. I love your ‘Moodnudges”.
    They often make me think and on occasion really help me get through the day.
    Thanks everyone for your responses and great work Jon.

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