My friend Melanie is one of the fiercest women I know. How fierce? She invited Billy Idol to her High School Graduation. Like, actually wrote him a letter by hand, licked a stamp, and mailed that puppy off.
Now, he didn’t show up and sing Rebel Yell as she crossed the stage, but hot diggity! She wrote Billy Idol!
I love that story because it sums up Melanie in a nutshell: She’s badass.
I’ve admired bold, fierce women for as long as I can remember. They offer more than great stories; they offer comfort and guidance. As someone who’s more observer than participant, I look to these women to show me the way.
There’s also something in these women that I recognize in so many people — a desire to break free from convention. But there’s a difference between desire and action. Bold women act while the rest of us think about it.
So what can we learn from these women? What do they seem to have that the rest of us need? Three things:
1. You need role models. Lots of them.
There are so many women out there doing brave things. Yes, there are the big names: Malala, Oprah, Beyonce, Hillary. But there are so many brave women out there without highly visible platforms. Women you run across every day who don’t wait to amass tens of thousands of Instagram followers before they act.
My friend Jillian works with Days for Girls destigmatize the menstrual cycle. It’s unbelievable that in many places something as simple — and completely natural — as a girl getting her period can interfere with her getting an education. Through sharing short stories of her travels and work, Jillian uses modern tools to dismantle a system that’s used to keep women down. Can she dismantle this system alone? Hell no. But is she turning up the volume so more people hear these young girls’ voices? You better believe it.
There are so many women doing brave and beautiful things. There’s no shortage of role models when you look for them.
Lacy Stroessner, another friend, recently, went to Greece to help distribute child carriers, baby boxes and humanitarian aid to parents fleeing Syria. And while I’m certain she’s grateful to be able to do it, she’s carried more baggage home than many of us could bear. But this mid-western small business owner and mom to three young girls recognized that she could help other mothers and their children, so she did; even though she could have cozily slept in her own bed down the hall from her babies.
There are so many more stories of brave women I could share. Like Lindsay, who just opened her own shop in Baltimore after years of dreaming about it. Or Caroline who built her own production company from scratch. Or Andrea and Leslie, two women who finally embraced what they’d always been — artists. Since claiming that title and owning it Andrea went on to write two popular books about self-love and self-discovery while Leslie enrolled in a Master’s program and now makes art every single day.
If you’re just starting out on your journey towards bravery, look to the women in your circle. Notice which ones are: learning something new, going back to work, making art, quitting their job, writing a book, taking care of their children, defining themselves on their own terms.
2. You need support.
Without proper support, everything collapses. Take theChinese National Stadium. The thing looks like a beautiful bird’s nest. It also looks like an impossible feat of architecture. What makes it possible is a hidden network of structural support that holds it all together. The building couldn’t exist without it.
I don’t care what anyone says, or how independent we like to believe we are, the fact is this: We all need supports in our lives. Without them, we not only fail to be our best selves, we’ll fail altogether. You can be the most industrious of the hardworking bunch, but without guidance and help, you’re basically a hamster spinning on a wheel to nowhere.
without guidance and help, you’re basically a hamster spinning on a wheel to nowhere.
If your family isn’t able to provide the support you need, look to your friends. If your friends can’t offer it, expand your circle to make new friends. If you can’t find support in your community as it exists today, build your own community person-by-person. Keep reaching out.
Keep in mind that the word support means “to hold up.” Support works both ways. So while others are there to prop you up, you are responsible for propping up others. So support your friends and family when they’re being brave. Private message a friend. Pick up the phone. Buy them coffee. Celebrate their bravery. Show up. Honestly, good thoughts aren’t enough. People need to hear from you.
3. You need to trust yourself.
Your intuition is right and your ideas have merit — just as much merit as anyone else’s. Yes, you are deserving of all of the good things out there. We all are.
And when your trust in yourself falters or you get scared — which will totally happen because you’re human — make an effort to get out of your own head. Pick up the phone and call a friend, take a nap, go to acupuncture, meditate, breathe. Do whatever it takes to quiet that nasty little voice inside. Trust that you know better than that voice. Because you do.
And if those nasty little voices come from the outside, it’s okay to let go of the people attached to them too.
Now go forth and be bold. The world needs you.