While pop music is definitely not what I prefer listening to, a friend recently introduced me to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and I must admit that I kind of like the song.  The melody and rhythms are pretty catchy, and the lyrics to this song are powerful.


The song begins by pointing to the power of words.  It then continues to encourage listeners to be brave by speaking out and not holding back on what we truly want to say.  In the music video, there are many scenes of people of all ages and backgrounds dancing freely in public places.


I believe that this message of allowing our authentic selves to be heard and seen is important for all of us.  It’s not just teenagers who shy away from being themselves in order to fit in.  I believe that it is a societal tragedy that the majority of people restrain themselves from free expression in speech and movement and action, because they have become better at listening to others than listening to themselves.


When I teach young children, I see how freely they sing, dance, and tell ther stories.  I see how they don’t question how others are going to judge them before they assert themselves into the world.  As they get older, they hear those first words of feedback.  Praise by parents and teachers, correction by adults, or ridicule by peers then influence how they behave in the future.  There is now a combination of voices that guide them as they make choices and interact with others.


Sadly it is easy to lose touch with one’s own voice and to squelch one’s impulse to dance and play and live fully.  It takes a lot of courage to say what we want to say and to live our lives from the inside out.  I am lucky to belong to a wonderful tribe of friends who are committed to being brave and who support each other in this, even when it is most challenging.  We know each other and give each other a hard time if we know that one of us is shrinking and “going along with” rather than being brave and speaking and acting with integrity, passion, and conviction.


So often, the path of least resistance is to follow along the same path as others, to say what we think others want us to say, to do what we think others expect of us.  Instead, being brave is choosing to sing our own songs, dance our own dances, and tell our own stories.  Judy Garland urged, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  In order to do that, we must be brave.

Daring Greatly

The author whose writing has most inspired me and changed me in this past year is Brené Brown.  Brené Brown (Ph.D., LMSW) is a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.  Her areas of research include shame and vulnerability.  Yes, I did say she was inspiring.  Really!


This past week, Brené was on The Katie Show.  She discussed new book “Daring Greatly.”


My first exposure to Brené Brown was in watching her TED Talk on vulnerability.  Vulnerability was not a new concept for me.  For the past 10 years, my teacher and mentor James Jordan at Westminster Choir College has insisted that choral conductors and all creative artists needed to be vulnerable in order to offer pure and beautiful creations that move people and connect people.


What is vulnerability?  It’s kind of like emotional nakedness.  It’s being open.  Vulnerability is allowing ourselves to be seen…as we are.  Vulnerability is letting go of trying to control how others see us.  It is showing up and being real…allowing ourselves to be exposed in all of our perfection and imperfection…embracing humanness.  Vulnerability is taking risks…saying “I love you” first, letting others see us cry, saying “I don’t know,” and “I’m scared.”  Vulnerability is letting others see how excited we are about an opportunity…with the recognition that we might not get the job or we might not be the one selected after the audition, or that special person might turn us down for a date.  So many times, we choose to avoid vulnerability by “playing it cool” and acting as if it’s not a big deal…pretending it doesn’t really matter if we get the job/get role we auditioned for/get to go on a date with that special someone.


To be vulnerable is to be brave.  We take a risk when we expose ourselves to others.  There is a very real chance that we will be judged, ridiculed, hurt…  Brené acknowledges that being vulnerable takes courage, and we will sometimes experience rejection and hurt.  Yet, it is worth the price, because it is actually more painful to stand outside of our own lives and look in, wanting to engage and participate wholeheartedly…but to hold back, protecting ourselves from the potential dangers we might encounter if we let others see us.  I know:  I have often stood back and not fully engaged with others, not speaking up when I had something to say, not saying how I really felt because I feared others would judge me, not stepping up and taking a leadership role because I still had work to do on myself to become “good enough,” not letting others see how much I care on account of fear that I would be judged as “too sensitive.”  The list goes on.


I have now decided:  I would rather go home and feel the painful feelings that follow harsh judgment by a friend, audience member, critic, family member, or stranger after I have lived authentically and lifted my voice, living out loud…than go home and feel the painful feelings that arise from knowing that I didn’t put myself out there…that I stood in the background and didn’t bring all of me to the world.  I choose to dare greatly.  I know I will have to be brave.


How have you dared greatly in your life?  How do you plan to be brave in your days ahead?