The other night I went to a birthday party where the only person I knew was the host. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that being the new person walking into any social gathering is my kryptonite. Give me medical emergencies, traveling to communist China, but please don’t invite me to your wedding where I know zero people. My nervousness started as a low hum the week before and each day, the dial would turn up incrementally. By the time Saturday night rolled around, my nerves had grown from ignorable background noise to headlining act at Madison Square Garden. But this time around, I was determined to go come hell or high water — or in reality, come four trains, one Lyft, and three hours of delays.
As you might expect, the party was lovely and after chatting for a couple hours, I was reminded how much I really do love connecting with new people in this city. But perhaps what surprised me the most was that the night left me feeling brave. Like proud-of-myself, call-my-mum-on-the-phone brave. Not because I had done anything particularly courageous on paper, but because I had done something particularly courageous for myself.
For me, it often feels hard to own these little acts of courage because many of the things that are brave for me seem so ordinary. Like not knowing an event’s dress code and choosing to wear something that draws attention. Or admitting my needs around exercise have changed and cancelling my yoga membership in order to try new workouts around my neighborhood. These things look so tiny from an outside eye. But to me, they’re all lined with the possibility of really trying, really putting myself out there, and failing. Failure my old friend, when did you get such power over every situation?
While thinking about this blog post today, I stumbled upon a kid’s book called Courage left on the steps of a Brooklyn brownstone. The book lists all the ways one can be courageous, from extraordinary acts to everyday moments, courage is courage. And from what I’ve learned this year is that tiny acts of personal courage are contagious.
Once I realized I was more than capable of tackling the thing that made me nervous, it made me want to do it again in a diversity of forms. Signing up for volunteer orientations, traveling to Europe, attempting to actually learn Spanish, starting a podcast, giving this blog thing a real go — it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
In the hopes of cheering on your courageous, everyday acts, here are a few things that require a bit of gumption from me in my own life and that when tackled, make me feel like an actual superhero.
- Being not sure if an outfit really works for me but wearing it out and about anyways.
- Leaving my hair down despite always wanting it to be in a bun and out of the way.
- Hitting send on a company-wide newsletter.
- Actually pursuing an idea and bringing it into reality — especially pitches or articles I’ve been brainstorming for years! But my post-it note editorial wall just hit 50 ideas so it’s time to start moving some of those along before the entire door collapses under their weight.
- Walking into a meeting or a hangout late, even if I couldn’t control the extenuating circumstances.
- Calling literally anyone back on the phone.
- Asking someone to repeat their name because I didn’t hear it the first time or am unsure the pronunciation.
- Setting up boundaries around my calendar or having to communicate when I need time on my own.
- Not being afraid to be a beginner and totally rubbish at a new hobby. Hello pottery my old friend.
- Speaking up in a meeting with more than three people and being comfortable taking up as much time as I need to explain my point.
- Asking for my money back when a waiter charges me for an unlimited beer mug that I did not order.
- Walking into a store that currently has no patrons in it and not feeling pressure to make small talk.
- Putting together a “going out dancing outfit” from a wardrobe that has very limited “going out” anything within it.
- Communicating my needs with someone or telling them how I feel about them — the good, the bad, and the many coffee dates in-between.
- Jumping into a pool from any sort of height.
- Taking myself on solo dates around the city — party-of-one meals and all!
- Being confident in what I like/don’t like while also pushing myself to break up these routines and try new things.
- Actually finishing the most daunting thing on my to do list first!
- Letting go of things that no longer serve me, especially if they have in the past.