What does bravery and courage look like?

A psychologist used these words to describe me yesterday, and I seriously couldn’t have disagreed more. So it got me thinking seriously about what exactly courage means. Perhaps my perception of it is a bit off kilter I wondered.

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Here’s the dictionary definition of the word ‘courage’

The ability to do something dangerous, or to face pain or opposition, without showing fear synonym bravery.

Oxford English Dictionary

And here is the definition of ‘bravery’

1(of a person) willing to do things that are difficult, dangerous, or painful; not afraid synonym courageous brave men and women Be brave!

Oxford English Dictionary

Analysing ‘BRAVE’

When I think of what brave means to me, it would be the first part of that definition only.. to do something dangerous. Well, in fact, I have always associated the word brave with something life threateningly dangerous.

So when people tell me that I have been brave throughout my recent medical journey, that seems quite simply ludicrous to me.

Someone who has been to Iraq is brave. Someone who’s jumped out of a plane is brave. But I don’t associate myself as being brave at all. My life was not really in danger due to a decision I made.. that’s what I really associate with danger.

So let’s look a the actual definition: a person willing to do things that are difficult’. well, if it’s worded like that, then yes, absolutely I am! In fact it might just be my middle name! But somehow it still doesn’t seem like the right word to use.

  • Despite lots of discouragement from most of my medical team, I entered 3 swim races and completed them all, the first just 12 weeks post amputation.
  • I have gone back to rowing, even though no-one who’s physically disabled seems to do it anywhere in NZ (that I know of)
  • I climbed forest hill, way before anyone thought I should

These are just a few examples that sprang to mind. Ok, on reflection and after some analysis, perhaps I am brave. But that’s not why I do what I do. I just do it. Just because I want to!

Analysing ‘COURAGE’

Now let’s look at courage. ‘To face pain or opposition without showing fear’. Although I do elect which parts of my journey to show online, I am a very private person. You won’t see me openly complaining, wailing or moaning. I will suck it up, accept it, get on with it and have that meltdown in private. Sometimes that’s to my detriment because it makes people think I’m doing better than I really am.

Some examples of how well I cover up how hard I’m finding it:

  • 2 previous psychologists I have spoken to along the way think I’m fine and don’t need the level of support I think I need. Just because I look ok doesn’t mean that I am ok.
  • Lots of people look at me amazed when I walk around seemingly effortlessly, then discover that I can’t actually walk much further than 1km without needing a rest (and that’s not without pain).
  • One medical professional wondered why I wasn’t at work. So I physically showed them what needed to be done (that I can’t do) and only then did they realise how I was many miles away I was from even considering a return to work.

Maybe that makes me courageous too?


I’m really keen to hear what these two words mean to you.

How would you apply bravery and courage to real life examples?

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