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.