“If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.” Brene Brown
When we were kids, we fell, we got up and we tried again. It is what we were taught… I had some pretty serious falls growing up and learned lessons from each of them. What I’ve realized as an adult is that I was more fearless as a child than I am as an adult.
Around the time I started elementary school, I decided that I would roller skate up a steep asphalt incline that was probably way steeper than I should have attempted. I got a couple of strides in before I fell, my knees and elbows hit first, but then I hit my chin and I bit thru my tongue. Blood went everywhere, I skated the rest of the way home for my mother to bandage me up and ask what in the world I was thinking. I learned not to roller-skate up hill, that there are better ways to fall than elbows and knees first and that some scars never go away. While the scars may remain, I also learned that you can and must learn to forget about them.
Another time, I was at my grandparents’ lake house with my cousins. We were jumping off a couch even though we’d been told numerous times not to. All of the adults were outside and we thought we could jump further if we gained enough height. I landed on the coffee table chin first and put a hole through my mentolabial sulcus (that indented part between your lower lip and chin). I still have that scar and learned a practical lesson: if you’re going to jump, the area should be clear.
Before my grandfather passed away, he decided (after much pestering on my part) to let me learn to ride a moped. I was in 4th or 5th grade. I knew how to balance and drive down the road fairly well, so I tried to turn in the street. I didn’t have the feel for giving it enough gas and turning part.
The first time, I turned too sharply and dumped the moped on top of me. That didn’t work, so the next time, I tried taking a wider turn but let off the gas too much and dumped the moped again. Take three: I took a wider turn and gave it more gas. I almost made it, but then didn’t turn sharp enough and gave it too much gas. I aimed straight for the curb and flipped over the moped. It was the first time I actually saw stars (like in the cartoons). It knocked the breath out of me and scared my grandfather to pieces. The third time was not a charm for me, but I got back up and did it right the next time.
Each of those falls taught me something. In elementary school I was more pragmatic, willing to learn and let my ego go than I am as an adult.
For whatever reason, as we age, many of us say that falling hurts more. It bruises our ego when we feel we should’ve learned a particular lesson earlier in life. The past several times I went skiing, I kept saying I wanted to learn how to snowboard, but I backed down because I didn’t know if I had it in me to repeatedly fall (fail) and get back up and do it again. I lacked the bravery I had when I was a kid. Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves to get into situations where we are likely to fail whether it’s learning something new, going for a job or promotion we want or just making ourselves vulnerable to another human being.
In the last couple of years, I’ve learned that falling isn’t so bad after all. I still carry the scars and the lessons learned from my many falls, but the wisdom and experience gained from each one is invaluable. My friends have seen me at my most vulnerable and still love me anyway. I earned a great deal of respect from my children seeing me fall and get back up. In fact, my connections with those people in my life are even stronger.
I learn a great deal from my falls, they make me wiser and stronger. I’ve become that same pragmatic little girl who picked the asphalt out of her knees and said, “Well that didn’t work” and tried it a different way.
We just have to remember that if we fall, we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about it. It just means we are trying. We are putting ourselves through growth to become a better version of ourselves. So whether you’ve recently gone through a divorce and are putting your dating stilettos back on, or learning how to parent your child on your own, or are just feeling stuck, remember that falling doesn’t mean failure. It just means that that way didn’t work. Being brave doesn’t mean doing it right the first time. Being brave is falling repeatedly and getting back up again, stronger and wiser.