I'd like to tell a little story about bravery, or at least pretending to be brave.
When I was in elementary school I was fearless (isn't any young person?), and a tomboy (surprise!). At that young age nothing bad has happened to you and you view everything as an adventure that is inevitably bound to be positive. At my school we had a large piece of playground equipment made out of telephone poles, It had a bridge two telephone poles wide, steps, a slide, a pole, monkey bars, and one guard rail. When I was a child it was popular to put one leg over a guardrail (or other similar equipment) cross your arms under your leg and push off with your leg to spin around the pole as fast and as long as you could.
One day in January when I was walking across the bridge someone spun and hit me, sending me flying through the air. I came off the bridge and landed head first on the ice below. Typical of 1980s schools I was sent him with nothing more than a note and a huge bump on my head and a woozy feeling in my tummy to parents that told me to shake it off.
Thus developed my fear of heights. It eventually progressed to the point of being unable to stand on a single step stool without shaking in fear, even elevators bothered me.
For reasons I do not know, will probably never know, I'd had enough of my own fear. It was crippling me and I wanted to stop being bound by things I could not do because I would not do them. I was only in middle school at the time.
I decided that I would teach my family dog to cross the very same bridge I'd been sent tumbling off of. A bridge I hadn't been back on since that January. At that point in my life I fancied myself a dog trainer, perhaps foreshadowing my days to come as future rider of horses that shouldn't be ridden. I don't remember why I decided to do what I did, and I don't remember the exact steps, but I do remember at least a few things.
I remember having to work up the courage to even climb the steps, putting on a brave face to teach my dog her new trick.
I remember being on the middle of the bridge a few weeks later, on my hands and knees, all alone in the evening sun except for my dog, tears streaming down my face and arms shaking in fear. I looked at my dog and she was behind me on the bridge with her head cocked to the side and an inquisitive expression on her face. She wagged her tail slowly and whined a bit. She was a good obedient dog but she was afraid.
What kind of person would I have been if I'd let her down? If I had asked her to cross that bridge when I couldn't cross it myself. I certainly didn't have the right to ask her to do something I myself wouldn't dream to do. She looked at me for leadership and support.
I crossed the bridge that day.
Weeks later I could SKIP across the bridge, my dog bounding up the steps and leaping across it with me to go down the slide nose first.
That is how I am about bravery. I'm not a brave person, I have a well founded sense of my own mortality. I am afraid of things. Yet I believe that things that we are afraid of must be met head on because we are afraid of them and we should never let fear prevent us from continuing on in our adventure. I may be afraid of things in my riding. I am not a brave rider. This jump looks big, that hill looks steep. But I must suck it up and fake it for my horse who puts her trust in me. I don't have the right to ask her to jump something or go by something if I'm scared of it. I take lessons to help me get over my fears, and because I don't believe in fear getting in the way of something that I love to do. Face your fears and even though you are afraid you are also brave and that is the best kind of bravery there is.