On Bravery

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

What does it mean, to be brave?

I think a lot of us have this image of the super hero, the Roman Warrior, the giant… The unafraid, running headfirst into battle, guns blazing and muscles gleaming and seemingly unstoppable. The fierce, the formidable. And that’s certainly one definition of bravery.

I’m more interested lately in a different kind of bravery.  The bravery that shows up when we feel sad, or scared, or flawed, or broken, or uncertain…. But we show up anyway. We get out of bed. We get dressed. We put one foot in front of the other, and we wobble our way unsteadily into whatever the battle is that we believe awaits us.  (And even if the battle is only in our minds, if we believe the battle is there, that battle is there, as real as any).

The more I think of it, I honestly can’t think of a more powerful definition of bravery than this—in those moments where we think “I can’t do this” or “I’m not prepared for this” or “I’m going to fail” or “They are going to criticize”—and knowing, in those moments, that you might actually be right. You might fall down.  They might laugh.  But still, you put one foot in front of the other, and you show up.

That’s cooler than any superhero move I’ve ever seen.

I am observing a few people in my life working really hard to be that kind of brave right now. And every time they are, it expands my heart just a bit… which I suspect, makes it easier for me to be brave in my own moments of doubt.

Do you hear me, you brave broken and afraid ones? You make me better, just by being you.

So put your shoes on and come on out to meet me here in the world. Or don’t put on shoes.  Slippers will do just fine. Don’t apologize for being who you are, right now in this moment. Just be here, in this moment. I need you here.  I bet others do, too.

It’s February, and so for a lot of reasons I’ve been thinking about love—and it strikes me that it’s a good time to remind you that those who love you love you because of who you are, not in spite of you who are. You know how Mr. Rogers was famously quoted as urging us to “look for the helpers” in times of crisis? Because the helpers are always there? I would like to also urge us to look for the lovers…. those that will honor us with their full heart… because they are always there, too. If you feel alone, keep looking. There is a big heart just waiting to find you, I promise.  And that heart can help you remember just how brave you really are. Whether you fly or whether you fall.  Because in the end, bravery is not about the outcome.  It’s about the pursuit. Oh, and isn’t life a pursuit worth…. well, pursuing?

How can you be brave today?


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.