Just How Brave Are You?

I recently shared a quote from Paulo Coelho, the author of one of my favorite books–The Alchemist–on our Facebook page, and it sparked an interesting discussion.

“Be brave enough to be yourself.”

Someone commented that it is hard to do sometimes.  It got me thinking.  Shouldn’t that be the easiest part of our life? To simply be ourselves?  Why would we waste the energy to be someone else or someone else’s image of what or who we should be? But I realized that in spite of my quasi-rebel attitude, I’ve fallen into this trap before.

As a child I wanted to be a veterinarian, but people said “You have to know someone to get into vet school.  You shouldn’t waste your time.” Later I decided to be a professional artist and even considered being an art teacher.  It had been so powerful in bringing healing into my life, but “How can you support a family on an artist or teacher’s salary?”  After my suicide attempt in my early 20s, I was in an emotionally fragile state and ended up joining a church that, among other things, professed it could cure me of being gay, that it was, like an alcoholic with his booze, just a trial given to me by God.  I bought it and lived the next 7+ years of my life trying to live that lie, even getting married, and then I awoke.

As a chaplain, many people have their expectations of me.  I wear an earring and used to wear Crocs.  I actually had a patient’s family decline future visits from me because “Chaplains don’t wear an earring and wear Crocs.”  I have 7 tattooes (unless you count the 3 tats they gave me when I had radiation oncology treatments), but my patients and families can’t see those too easily.  Being a minister and a parent, people automatically assume that I am (1) Christian (I’m Zen Buddhist) and that I’m (2) straight & married (neither are accurate).

Even though I’m much leaner than my former habitus, I’m still chubby.  I’m embarrassed to take my shirt off because of my moobs and my panza.  But that IS myself, isn’t it?  Even with my extra weight, I’m more active than most people and have accomplished more physically than most people, but my man breasts & my double chin still bother me.

Estes Park, CO

In a way I am being more of myself by undertaking this major adventure, and I hope to be more of myself as things go on.  No, scratch that.  I will be my authentic self.

What do you think? Why is it so hard to be our authentic selves? What holds you back? What do you plan on doing to live more like the real you?

Share This Post On


  1. Thanks this is a very interesting topic & actually a big part of my decision to take my daughter,G, on a year long learning adventure next year. G is nearly 13 and is really loosing herself to society. She follows the fashions & cares more about what her friends & the boys think of the way she looks then whether she actually likes it. She likes whatever music & tv is popular at the time and talks a whole new language. I understand that this is ‘normal’ teenage behaviour but I don’t like it. My eldest, a boy, S, nearly 18 was never like it. he always has made his own decisions about what he likes & doesn’t like, what he wears & who he socializes with. G was such an independent & opinionated young child & she has lost that. She is now becoming a product of our society. By showing her the world & a new way of living I hope she has a chance to rediscover herself so that when she is a grown woman she knows who she truly is. I remember seeing a quote once that went something like…the only way to truly know yourself is to remove yourself from everything you truly know.

    Post a Reply
    • That’s a great quote and oh so true! You’re a brave mom. LOL What does G think of this plan? I think it sounds awesome, and good for you for making this decision! It sounds like just the thing she’ll need.

      Post a Reply
      • This is not a new thing to her as I have been talking about doing it for many years. She is fighting the ‘learning adventure’ title preferring to call it an extended holiday so we have compromised & are calling it a learning holiday. I am actually getting glimpses of the old G, glimpses of excitement at a new adventure & new experiences, although she is doing her best at hiding it. I have given her input & choices with regards to our destinations & she has chosen very wisely. One suprise choice was Mexico & when I asked her why she said she doesn’t really know she is just drawn to it, like it’s calling her. Good enough reason to go. She is also not happy with the fact she can only take what she can fit in a backpack (how on earth will she fit her hair straightner & accessories). There has been a lot of compromise with what she can & can’t do/take. I’ve agreed to the laptop & ipad but with restricted communication with friends via facebook & skype. I think it will defeat the purpose if she spends hours on these things like she does at home. I have agreed to let her get her scuba diving certificate before we leave as this is something that really interests her. I’m sure there is much more compromise & decisions to be made before we leave but for now we are both happy.

        Post a Reply
        • Sounds like a wonderful plan. With my son he can bring anything, but he has to carry it all. That pile got whittled down REAL quick.

          As far as scuba goes, you might want to wait until you’ve begun your journey. I have a few reasons for this (and I’m a scuba instructor), but the big 2 ones are you will probably find it cheaper elsewhere AND most likely, depending where you live, the diving will be much more interesting where you’re going, especially if you go to places in Mexico like Cozumel (which I HIGHLY suggest). The diving there is PHENOMENAL. I have some contacts down there, and in fact we may be back there soon as well.

          Post a Reply
          • I did consider waiting for the scuba. But then I thought of time, if we already have it we can utilise the time actually enjoying the diving & also with price I have no idea of prices in the various locations & we can do it in Sydney, Aus where we live for $149 AUD. That’s our open water diver certification. It’s a 3 day course including 5 ocean dives. How much would it cost in, say, somewhere like mexico ot Thailand if you’ve been there? I too have told G whatever she takes she has to carry, she’s fighting for a suitcase but I’m holding firm on the backpack.

          • Oh, if you’re in Oz do it there for sure. That’s a great price and a great place to get started.

          • So have just spoken with the dive place & they say they are not keen on taking anyone under the age of 14 especially girls as they are usually smaller framed & can’t cope with the heavy equipment. As an instuctor what’s your take on this?

          • Oh that’s ridiculous. Tigger learned when he was 10, and he’s on the smaller side. For him we either used smaller tanks, or used the full ones and someone held onto the tank as he did a stride into the water, or he got into the water and we handed the BCD (the vest that attaches to the tank) and tank down, and he put it on in the water where it was easier for him. I also taught an 11-year-old girl who had virtually no problem.

  2. Powerful sharing Talon. Thank you. I added to my Google Plus 1’s to make sure I keep track of it. If you ever want to know my tricks for controlling my weight, I’ll be happy to share.

    Post a Reply
  3. It seems so simple, why is it often so hard? The older I get, the better at doing what I please, the happier I am. I no longer worry whether what I enjoy will be seen as nerdy or uncool, and as a result I’m having more fun all the time. I only wish I had figured it out sooner. Sign me:
    “Too soon old; too late smart.”

    Post a Reply
    • At least you learned! Some people never realize it. 🙂

      Post a Reply
  4. This is a touching, empowering post. Thank you so much for sharing. Your journey on your RTW trip is inspiring for fellow travelers or those who simply wanderlust. I check this blog often for updates so don’t stop posting. Ever. 🙂 I share your posts regularly with others who are looking for the strength to break out of the daily American life and see the lifestyle of other cultures. It can be so hard to break out of American expectations. How can we be ourselves if ourselves is just a a facade American society has put on us? We are expected to go to college, get a high paying job with 401k, benefits, work work work, get married, have kids, retire, then die. There is no need to travel and see the world, a basic human necessity that is regularly taught in other cultures. Americans are taught be to be tourists, not travelers. As a traveler myself, when I tell people I am going to a country for several months I am told ‘oh you just want to get out of the real world for awhile, huh?’ traveling is seen as an escape, a lucky break, one not to be taken seriously. You are doing something special here with your son. I look forward to hearing more about your travels. 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you VERY much! And you are so right. People get this idea that it’s all just sitting on a beach drinking mai tais, but really when you travel it’s about as “real life” as one can get!

      Post a Reply
  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not sure how old you are, but certainly younger than I am, at 64. My very, very, very biggest regret in life is not my disasterous marriage, strangely enough, but letting myself be talked out of being a journalist, which was my burning ambition at the end of high school, and then punishing myself by drifting for years without direction afterwards. I still find myself falling into the trap from time to time though. Doing a bit of volunteer work four or five years ago, I found that most people seemed to be kind of “hippy” so I began dressing that way to fit in (it was nice and cheap too, though!), but although there is a possibility that a part of spirit, at least, is”hippy”, that “look” doesn’t do it for me (probably because I remember it in the original!)¨. It’s taken a while, but I think I’m around 85% there as of now! But, then, life’s the journey, a constant learing process about ourselves and the universe, no?

    Post a Reply
  6. Personally, I found I could be much truer to myself once I switched careers.

    When I was in a corporate career, it was a given that there are certain ways of being that are more acceptable and more successful. If you want to make progress and move into new challenges, then you have to “play the game” to at least some extent. Your ability to adapt to the expectations is a major factor in your success. I think that’s true in other environments besides the corporate world, too.

    Eventually I realized that “the corporate game” was at such odds with the “real me”, that I chose to gave up the game in order to be the real me. I’m not sure I”m quite there yet, but I know I’m much closer than I used to be!

    Post a Reply
    • That’s awesome that you have actively sought to find a way to remove that mask for good!

      Post a Reply
  7. Being your authentic self is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with when it comes to social mores and family expectations. My family is devout Mormon so when my husband and I decided that we did not want to be that anymore, it did not go over very well. While I try to live my life in an authentic manner, I do have to be a little more reserved when it comes to family gatherings. I don’t like to rock the boat. 😛

    Post a Reply
    • There are definitely times when we simply just have to put on a mask. I do it at work all the time. No way I can be the authentic me with some of my patients. I think they’d stroke out if they knew some of the things their chaplain says. LOL I didn’t know you were LDS. That’s the church I wrote about joining actually. Small world. 🙂

      Post a Reply
  8. Very thought-provoking post, Talon. Having long been likewise a bit of rebel, I fancy myself as being ever the authentic me. I figure… about 90% of the time, I am. Just m-e. Whatyouseeiswhatyouget.

    But alas, I’ve also learned (often the hard way) that there are times when tweaking (polishing?) my edges to conform to a given (usually uppity) situation – leastwise temporarily – is the wiser road.

    But I must say, I never feel more “me” than when I’m footloose and fancy-free exploring some strange new land. Only then it seems do I truly feel like ME!

    Post a Reply
    • I agree. There are some times when we have to temporarily polish, as you say, our edges for a particular situation. I like what you said about how travel brings out the real you. I feel the same way.

      Post a Reply
  9. oh you didn’t post this did you? Nope I’ll pretend you didn’t… agh I’m writing this so it must be real 🙂

    Ok actually I admit, I have come to accept myself as it is as I got older, when I was younger I didn’t like the fact I had vision problems and couldn’t hear well nor run very well, etc etc I was always picked on, never fit in (hell I still don’t fit in, I still get picked on but not in obvious ways).

    I hear it all the time, I’ve seen a little bit of it but I can use my brother as an example, he wants to fit in with his friends and be accepted if he just becomes himself he has nothing and quite frankly that is quite painful to me that is somewhat painful to me as well. He and I will always have family because they accept us for who we are, not who we aren’t.

    The norms and expectations dictate who we should be and who we aren’t supposed to be. I grew up in church life and have been to a variety of churches and have met a variety of pastors or clergy. You are right it is not normal to see a member of the clergy wearing earings unless they are female of course;

    I don’t know if I would feel comfortable having a minister or pastor who wears earings, actually in a formal setting I would not be comfortable (whether it is one on one sessions or in a congregational setting) HOWEVERt as a friend, I could care less and I’ll be honest with you I do find piercings other than the ear to be a bit distracting.

    I know only one or two pastors/ministers who have tattoos but they tend to not show it on a regular basis. Would it bother me as a friend? No, I know a lot of people who have tattoos, do I agree with it? Not to the point that its taboo no, however I am reserved when it comes to tattoos in certain situations.

    After all, if one can look past the flesh and see what is inside that is who they truly are not someone else that is all that matters to me. Now I hear this all the time, how you portray yourself is who you show yourself to be so if you wear earings, that does not mean you are gay (or does it? My stepdad wears earings, so is he gay?).

    I have met ministers who would insist wearing the suit in their duties of a minister was more proper than some who just wore a tshirt or nice dress shirt and a pair of jeans, etc. I know people have opinions about how a minister/paster member of of a clergy should present themselves, SO WHAT!

    Post a Reply


  1. what i learned today : Gobbledy Goon - [...] 1 Dad, 1 Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure: Just How Brave Are You? [...]
  2. Tweets that mention Just How Brave Are You? « 1 Dad, 1 Kid, 1 Crazy Adventure -- Topsy.com - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Talon Windwalker. Talon Windwalker said: Just How Brave Are You? http://f.ast.ly/QDNJ4 [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *