Being Brave

by Christy Gualtieri

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
~Emma Donoghue

For the longest time, I dreaded making phone calls.  This was before everyone used the Internet, and oh, how I would’ve loved the convenience of making appointments or canceling things without the (to me) horror of having to talk to an actual human being.  I’d put off making each call as long as possible, and my hands would shake, my palms would sweat, and my stomach would churn.  I’d picture the worst: the person on the receiving end of my call completely blowing a gasket at whatever it was I had to say, like their entire day was ruined because I had to cancel a haircut appointment (and not last-minute, either).  It got so how the only way I could make calls was to picture the person on the other end as a Muppet, and who could get mad at a Muppet?

It sounds like a silly thing, but it was a real fear for me.

My son is three, so a lot of his fears can be considered irrational to adults, but one thing that seems hard for us to understand is his fear around the music certain toys make.  He has trouble with certain musical tunes, especially repetitive ones, and so we don’t usually keep them on around the house.  If a toy does go off he would get very still, his eyes would fill with tears, and he’d run to us for comfort until the song finished (or someone turned off the toy).

But we’re trying to teach him about bravery, about how we can be brave even when the scary things in life appear (and we know of all the things that await him as he grows up that are much scarier than a musical toy).  It’s a hard lesson to teach, but a hard one to learn, I think, no matter how old you are.

A few days ago, a friend of my son’s was over for a play date, and she played with a toy that made music.  But instead of screaming or running away, my son turned to me, his eyes still filled with tears, and said, in a quivering voice, “I’m brave, I’m brave! It’s okay that there’s music! I’m brave!”

There is so much in the world that is absolutely terrifying, and it doesn’t have to be the big things that make the evening news, either.  It can be a relationship on the verge of ending, a job offer on the line, an important make-or-break meeting with a client.  It can be a diagnosis for a family member, a lost item that was very important to you, or something so minor that no one else can understand.  There is so much temptation, in the face of all that fear, to run away or scream or feel paralyzed.  But maybe we can learn to be brave, to face all of the scary things in our lives and say to ourselves, maybe with tears running down our faces, too, “I’m brave! It’ll all be okay! I’m brave!”

And we’ll be able to feel ourselves grow!

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!