Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

What is Bravery? Can Surrendering Be Brave? (By Kelli Walker)

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What is Bravery? Can Surrendering Be Brave? (By Kelli Walker)

When trials and tribulations inevitably occur in life, we tend to want to fight them. According to our society and our customs, fighting tooth and nail against adversity is the “brave” or “courageous” thing to do. However, while fight and grit certainly have their place, even with anxiety, sometimes surrendering is best and it can take just as much bravery as fighting.

This truth has been hammered home to me lately as I’ve watched my mom dying from cancer. She was recently put on hospice for end of life care and pain management. Yet some in her support network still continue to tell her things like “never stop fighting” or “you never know what might happen.”

I understand the tendency to say those things, to feel those things – cancer is tough, everyone is just doing their best in a crappy situation. However, I can see the guilt on my mom’s face whenever she hears those words: “never stop fighting”, it makes her feel as if she should be doing more. In this case, fighting actually looks more like denial; fighting blinds my mom and others to the truth that she is, in fact, dying and prevents her from tying up loose ends or saying goodbye. In this case, surrendering is incredibly brave; being willing to look straight at the raw, painful truth is no easy feat, but doing so is what will allow my mom to move forward and find peace.

In a perhaps (perhaps not) less gloomy way, the same is true of fighting versus surrendering to anxiety. I used to think fighting anxiety was the brave way to go about dealing with it, but maybe continuing to go to the gym every morning for my daily exercise-induced panic attack or continuing to hide my struggle from everyone because I was afraid of appearing weak was maybe not brave so much as stubborn. Fighting panic attacks and endless “what if…” thoughts were really just a super fun form of denial.

Surrendering to anxiety takes incredible courage because it can be a painful truth, but surrendering is often necessary in order to move past anxiety. Surrendering is simply acknowledging the reality of a situation, and once we do that, we’re able to move forward. It’s hard to admit that anxiety is affecting or limiting our life (been there, done that, got the t-shirt), but once we do, it makes it a whole lot easier to move toward the life we want.

Sometimes fight and grit are helpful – you’ll know when because it won’t feel bad or shameful, it will feel empowering – but sometimes, especially when it comes to anxiety, surrendering is invaluable. Surrender doesn’t necessarily make anxiety go away in that moment, but it brings a sense of peace and clarity so that we can transcend the anxiety, whereas fighting the anxiety keeps us feeling stuck, or even worse, like we’re sinking.

If you are struggling with anxiety, you don’t need to fight it tooth and nail anymore; you’re still brave if you give up the fight. Instead, surrender to the fact that you are struggling with anxiety so that you can finally begin to move forward.


Kelli Walker

About the Author:
Kelli Walker, R.N., M.S.N., CSMC 
Kelli knows anxiety. For over 15 years she struggled with generalized anxiety, OCD, and panic disorder. It was only after becoming housebound and completely limited by her anxiety that she made it a priority to finally understand and address it. Kelli now works as a coach helping people move past their own anxiety in the way she did: by understanding anxiety’s true nature and the ways that we innocently get stuck in the cycle of fear and worry. Kelli is co-host of The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, has been featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine and has presented at several summits. Kelli enjoys Nutella, her dogs, world travel, hiking, kayaking and ultimate frisbee. To learn more about Kelli and her work visit www.panicandanxietycoach.com

 

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3 Comments

Jenn

I love this. I have watched a friend learn to surrender when her husband had cancer. I work in the NICU and the parents who thrive are the ones who surrender to the situation. They don’t stop fighting but they start fighting for what they can actually fight for instead of the fact that their baby is sick.

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