#OurYearOfLivingBravely – Part 1- How The Hell Did We Get Here? And Where’s The Exit?

In my post last week I promised to talk about #ouryearoflivingbravely and what that means. So let’s unpack it a little and see what falls out. Warning, this sucker’s a long one, so grab a drink and a snack. A pair of fuzzy socks if it’s cold outside.

Also, there will be some swearing. You’ve been warned.

As I mentioned before I’ve been doing some heavy reading and heavier emotional lifting and house cleaning. Getting rid of a bunch of old, damaged, and damaging baggage that does me no good moving forward in my life.

Do you have any such baggage? Are you ready to burn it?

Time to say goodbye to some shit.

Here’s where we start.

In her brilliant book, The Gifts of Imperfection, scholar, author, and research professor, Brené Brown, explains about ‘wholehearted living’:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means  cultivating courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s about going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all gassed up and ready to hit the road. Off to find that ‘place of worthiness.’

But it’s been a tricky destination at times. My journey has been full of roadblocks and dead-end streets. Sound familiar? Sometimes I wonder who was asleep on my shift when they were handing out the maps way back when.

I am enough…I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.’

Kudos to you if you can say those things to yourself and really mean them. Double kudos if you can say them out loud in front of yourself, in a mirror. Because this is my struggle. And if you’re still reading this, it’s probably yours too.

A word from our sponsors. Yikes, that stung. Saying that ‘out loud’ here to people I may know, or may not, kind of a big deal. I hope it helps you in some small or big way knowing you’re not alone if you struggle with this too. If we don’t admit there’s a problem, how do we grow? Now back to our regular programming.

Okay, shit, how did we get here?

My story: nutshell version.

I’d be lying if I said self-worth and self-doubt haven’t been persistent and, at times, devastating issues for me throughout my life. They have, but they’ve really come on with a vengeance in the last few years.

Here’s why: a lifelong battle with perfectionism, proving my worth as a human by what and how well (or poorly) I do things, and an increasing lack of resilience to disappointment, both large and small.

Author Kelly Byrne dog reframing self worthA few years ago I decided that a decade was long enough to work in a field and an industry I didn’t much care for. I’d been incredibly fortunate in the world of post production, I had steady gigs with time off in between and almost always guaranteed work to go back to. I made a few great friends. On my union jobs I received a fairly fancy steady paycheck.

And it was killing me.

I didn’t know this so much before I left the field, but soon afterward I found out the schedule I was keeping, working at night, sometimes into late dawn and beyond, is just about the worst thing you can do to your body. Not to mention the stress of hating my job.

Everything combined took a huge physical and psychological toll on me.

Wile-E-CoyoteSo a few years ago, when my current gig was ending, and the writing had been elusive once again for quite some time, I decided not to continue in the industry, but to be brave and explore other directions in which to take my life.

It was going to be drastically different from anything I’d done before. I was starting over and officially saying out loud that I was giving up on writing.

It took me a minute to figure out what I wanted to do, but I landed squarely on personal training. I’ve always been athletic and I love telling people what to do helping people so it seemed like it would be a good fit and a much needed change. And I’d get in great shape to boot.

As with all things, I’m whole-assed, never half-assed, so I threw myself face first into it. That’s a funny sentence, and I’m not revising it. Six months later, I came out of the NPTI program in Santa Monica the fittest and strongest me I’d ever been, certified and ready to kick ass and take names (of clients, hopefully).

Author Kelly Byrne as Personal Trainer Jumping
Fit me under all that hair. Photo: Mike Franklin

At the end of the very first session of my very first official bootcamp I came home and slept for four hours straight. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. The same thing happened each day after my early morning sessions for two weeks straight. It was not lack of sleep keeping me there.

My body was telling me I’d made the wrong choice. As soon as I decided that this was it, my first real effort at being my own boss, the moneymaker, it paralyzed me.

“Who the hell am I stepping out on my own?” “Why would anyone pay me for my services?” “I’m horrible at business and marketing.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “I’m not worth their money.”

In reality, I’d worked my ass off getting certified and developing a unique, fun, and entertaining bootcamp during which I offered valuable one on one advice and attention. Did I mention those two weeks were free for all participants? It was an offering to hopefully build a paying clientele from those first clients. It’s standard business procedure when you’re setting up a bootcamp.

But all the voices of my dirty little gremlins shouted in my head on that very first day, because like honey badger, they don’t give a shit. They just want to eat you up.

And I listened to them.

Let me say that again because it’s really fucking important and I don’t want you to miss it – I listened to them. I let them write my story because they’d already decided that I was a failure a long time ago.

At the end of the two weeks when I polled my group of bootcampers, inquiring if they would become a member of my class on a monthly basis (ie. ‘show me the money!’), they were kind, but basically said, ‘hell to th’nah.’ Too expensive. Money’s tight right now. Would you do it cheaper, like, ya know, free? Etc.

And that was it. My anorexic resiliency to this initial disappointment mixed with my festering, angry gremlins shut me down before I even started. In my mind I’d failed. Period. I wasn’t good enough and I would never make a living at it. Didn’t matter that I’d put forth massive effort, time, money, a bathtub of sweat, and a few tears to create this new enterprise. Just like that, it was over for me…simply because I let it be.

And, oh, the shame. It hit like a tsunami and pieces of me are still floating about somewhere out there.

Then, because I’m apparently not great at learning my lesson the first time, it happened two more times with two separate and distinctive entrepreneurial career paths. Each time I gave up on myself the wounds of the ‘unworthy’ gremlins burrowed deeper into me. The voices grew louder. And I got to a point where I not only didn’t recognize myself anymore, but I didn’t trust myself at all.

Author Kelly Byrne murder minnie mouseOh, hello, that brings us to the here and now.

I’m still very much struggling with this lack of trust in my every day life, especially in my writing. I haven’t given it up, and I won’t. But I find it almost impossible lately to make a damn decision about anything and I think all of that stems from this massive self-doubt that has grown, like tumors, inside me for these last few years.

Time to excise those bastards. Take back the reigns. Build up resiliency. And, as Brené said, cultivate courage, compassion, and connection.

Time to be bravely me again. I’m writing my own damn story now and those bitchy little gremlins can fuck right-the-hell off. Said with love. And because yesterday was Valentine’s day, let’s have a few hearts.

♥                                        ♥                                        ♥

So what does it mean, bravery?

A lot of people mistake fearlessness for bravery, but it’s actually the opposite of being fearless.

To me, bravery is having the courage to do something especially when it scares the shit out of you. You’re not fearless, you’re most definitely afraid, but for that particular moment, you are courageous enough to overcome that fear, get all Nike, and Just Do It anyway.

Whatever ‘it’ is. There’s no place for judgment about what frightens us. My biggest fear could be your greatest thrill. We’re all walking our own paths, creating our own stories.

As I mentioned before, my first act of bravery was to post my struggle with this out loud — meaning here on my blog. My intention in doing so was not to draw attention to myself. On the contrary, being naked in front of a crowd is not my happy place, but I hope by putting myself out there, sharing my story, that I’ll be able to encourage someone else, and someone else, and someone else, to look at themselves in a new way.

To reread their own stories and see if they need to revise some parts.

We are all the author of our own story. It’s completely up to us how it plays out in the end.

Brené: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Let’s own that shit and move forward.

My next act of bravery was to share my history in this post – what brought me here. Another tough one because, ‘Hello world! I’m a multi-failed entrepreneur and I suck at resilience!” is not a great message to carry around with you, but that’s part of why I’m setting it free here. So I can clean that slate and move forward into what’s next.

Because here’s what: So what I failed? So what? It happens all the time. Most entrepreneurs fail. Multiple times. Most businesses don’t see the light of five years running. Failing at something does not make me a failure as a human being.

It's really time to divorce the idea that our worth is tied to our successes and failures in life. Click To Tweet

Author Kelly Byrne find your boatload of awesomeThese are the words I wish I’d heard way back when. Wish I’d said to myself. So I’m saying them now. And I’m hearing them now. I hope you are too. Let’s start building that resiliency now.

As Liz Gilbert always says, “Onward.”

In that spirit, I’m going to create specific bravery goals for this journey and write them down because it’s important to keep track of the progress we’re making. If we’re all willy nilly and unfocused, I think it’s possible that #ouryearoflivingbravely could peter out without a peep if we’re not careful in documenting it.

Author Kelly Byrne pen and journal
Write it down. Let it breathe. Make it real.

So I urge you to write your own list. Whatever you feel you need to be brave about goes on it. Make no judgments. These could be things you’ve wanted to do your whole life, but something has always held you back. Or something as simple, but not easy, as speaking your truth to a friend, even if it sucks, or especially if it does. Anything you feel you’d like to be brave enough to tackle now.

Share your list with someone you trust or share it with no one and keep it as a private reminder of your dedication to your bravery. Check things off as you go. We all love checking things off lists. This is a big deal list – every check should be celebrated.

Write it down to bring it into the world.

Letting it breathe on paper in front of you gives your desires light. They’re no longer the dark, unspoken things that tear at you. You’ve given them room to move and be alive in your world. You’ve given yourself room to move into them.

And if they get impatient or unruly demanding your attention before you’re ready, you can firmly, but lovingly tell them to shut the hell up and wait their turn while you’re off being brave with the other things on the list. You’ll get to them when the time is right.

A note about things unsaid and undone — I believe the unspoken words of our hearts, and the undone deeds of our souls have the ability to shrink and veil our spirits with a near impenetrable sorrow and darkness. And often, we don’t even recognize that it’s happened because it’s just what we’re used to. Don’t get used to it.

Say those words, do those deeds, be brave and let that light inside, so you can let it out into to the world around you.

Share with us in the comments how you’d like to be braver in your life, or how you’re already braver than you thought you could be. And don’t forget to hashtag all your bravery with #ouryearoflivingbravely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram when you share your victories and aspirations.

Next week I’m going to talk more about wholehearted living and tell you the story about what happened when I crossed #1 off my bravery list last week. Holy resiliency, Batman!

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Meantime, be well, be brave, be you.

Author Kelly Byrne Website

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Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.


  1. Hey you,

    Wow. Just wow. Do you have any idea how strong you are? Strength, bravery and courage leap out at me from every sentence.

    The lifelong battle against perfectionism? Yep. In that club. I am doing much better with it than I used to, but man that stuff is a persistent son-of-a-… And then the lack of resilience to disappointment…yikes. Yep. And I have made the same mistakes so many times it’s gotten ridiculous.

    “We are all the author of our own story. It’s completely up to us how it plays out in the end.” Yes to that! Speaking of which. Might I suggest a revision in your story? “You suck at resilience?” Uhm…hello?! Did it not take a shitload of resilience to brave your way through all of that?

    And Yes to bravery lists and to celebrate checking them off (I tend to forget that part). So let me ask, how are you celebrating this check? Gotta celebrate BIG on this one, hon.

    “Letting it breathe on paper in front of you gives your desires light. They’re no longer the dark, unspoken things that tear at you. You’ve given them room to move and be alive in your world. You’ve given yourself room to move into them.”

    I read these words three times (and the two paragraphs after that) and I will read them a few more times later. In fact I am writing this down. LOVE this!!! That is how I feel about my blog, it is giving light to my desires. No longer tearing at me it gives me room to breathe, to move, to live. As if my life got bigger somehow.

    Long story to say: I LOVE this post. Thank you for showing up as the bright, bold, beautiful soul that you are.

    Love, Yvon

    1. Oh, Yvon, you make me blush. 😉 Thank you, again and again, for your sweet words, your encouragement, your bravery. I’m not happy that we’re sisters in perfectionism, because I truly wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but it warms my heart that you can relate to the things I speak about. Having someone who ‘gets it’ to engage with is priceless and that’s why I’m doing this. To make a space for people to feel safe about sharing those struggles. So thank you for sharing yours too.

      As for my celebration for this post – well I’ve gotta tell you, I already did that yesterday with a nice big slice of Linda’s Fudge Cake from The Cheesecake Factory. Perhaps not the healthiest way to celebrate, but they won’t all be that way and come on – cake.

      I’ll remind you to check your brave bits off your list too and be sure to celebrate each one. Doesn’t have to be with chocolate, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. 😉

      I’m so glad your blog is your way back into the light. That’s fantastic. That’s what mine is doing for me too and it feels really great. Writing the words of our souls does make our lives bigger, no doubt. So go us!

      Big hugs and lots of love to you, my friend. Thanks for walking with me.

      1. Oh YES!! Let us eat cake! Well done! I myself have bought myself two shiny new books that will be delivered today. I won’t open the package until tomorrow after the launch, my gift to me. Might even put a bow on it (have a strange passion for gift wrapping)

        And yes I can relate and I am a fellow perfectionist. I have in recent years however learned to say I love you and I am worthy (even into a mirror). Doesn’t mean I don’t still slip and fall into the perfectionist trap. Just means I am nicer to myself when I do. A work in progress, we all have our days, but hey…when I can say I am doing better than I used to do, I’m doing okay.

        1. Gift wrapped books, what a wonderful idea! Think I might steal it for myself. 😉 Counting down to launch is so exciting!

          And I think it’s awesome that whenever you get stuck in the perfectionist trap that you are kinder to yourself than you may have been before. Ever forward. That’s what we’re all working on. Quite the journey. 🙂

  2. Of course I love this post, Sometimes, I wonder if this is a plague of women of a certain age, or women in general. I’m not a perfectionist, that’s for sure, but I do feel that my accomplishments are paltry. And I’m sure if I listed them as if i were talking about a stranger, I would be amazed at the woman I AM!!!! But there is something in women like us, Kelly. We do, in fact, keep going, don’t we? We search for and find our gurus. We keep trying to get to a higher plane. We self-examine not self-absorb, and we work to be better people who make the world better. I’m sharing this post with many other women who are in the midst of this journey,as I know it will make them feel better about every day. Thanks, Kelly. Happy to follow you!

    1. Hi Cathy – thanks so much for joining our conversation here. I love what you said about listing your accomplishments as if they were a stranger’s and being amazed by the person you ARE.

      Isn’t it funny how we do this? Everything someone else does is terrific, but when we’ve done the same things, well, ain’t no thang. Why is it so hard for us to give ourselves a little credit?

      I say it’s time to do just that. It’s all part of the self-examination and forward movement of things. Yes, we do keep going, keep searching, because I think there should always be growth. When we stop growing, we stop living.

      I’ve been in that place of stagnation many times in my life, and it’s no damn fun. Time to have fun! Even if it hurts a little, because let’s face it, we can’t have growth without some growing pains. 🙂

      Thanks again for joining us on this journey. I look forward to getting to know you better. And thank you so much for sharing the message. I really do hope it helps. Hugs to you.

    1. The adoration is most definitely mutual, lady. Thank you for always supporting me and being there to cheer me on. I’m so proud of you and your bravery and I know this year is going to rock for you. Hugs!

  3. Kelly, I am LOVING these posts!! One thing I’ve wanted to begin is a podcast on Grief and Loss to go along with the book I’m writing. Why haven’t I started? Because I’m scared shitless! So, I’ll be wondering off today to make my own bravery list…and at the top will be to start a podcast! You are one the bravest people I know and I feel so honored to know you. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your light, your powerful words and stories…and for lighting a flame under our asses!! Love you!!

    1. Thank you so much, Susan! A podcast – yes! Brilliant. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome. I know how scary it is. One thing on my list is to start doing videos. Yikes! It’s a terrifying thing to put ourselves out there, but it’s also incredibly liberating as well.

      We are taking charge, writing our story, showing incredible bravery and strength when we do. I’m thrilled I could help inspire you to do this huge big thing and I can’t wait to hear your first podcast.

      You, my dear, are starlight and you will bring healing to so many through your words, both written and spoken. Much love and many hugs to you.

  4. I LOVE the idea of “revising” our lives–some of the stuff I’ve put down on the paper of my life I’d like to keep and some of it I’d like to tear into tiny pieces and burn.

    I’ve always wrestled with what’s worst: regretting something you did or something you didn’t do. And after experiencing both I can honestly say they’re equally torturous.

    In both scenarios we’re longing to change the past, to make a different choice, even though we know it’s not possible. But it doesn’t keep us from punching ourselves in the balls because we “should have” known better. It does’t keep us from wondering “what if.” I believe living with regret is one of the worst states in which to live because it’s all about punishing ourselves for something we can’t change. It keeps us tied to the past, which means we not only miss what’s going on right now (i.e. some of the best stuff), we foster a sense of deep trepidation in our brains because we’re afraid we haven’t learned our lessons and we’ll repeat the same mistakes. And it’s fucking impossible to live bravely, or really to do much of anything, in that frame of mind. Yuck! Just yuck!

    I’m so happy for and proud of you for getting to this place…and for sharing it with us all! Keep going!! This is good stuff!

    1. Yeah, Kel, shameful regret…oy.

      So I don’t know if you’ve gotten to this part of Brene’s book yet (and I actually can’t remember which of the 3 it’s in), but she actually addresses regret in a different way than we think about it most of the time.

      Not letting it become a vehicle for shame (which is what I did and so many of us do – that “should have known better” voice we nag ourselves with) but using it as a way to check-in and reevaluate what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and possibly how we can be better next time.

      She talks about how regret is ‘a fair, but tough teacher’ – a function of empathy. If there’s no regret, then we’re not giving any space to examining ourselves and our behaviors and actions to see how we could be better next time.

      She talks about most people’s regrets being “failures of kindness” and “failures of courage” and these are things I’m definitely going to be talking about in later posts. But I love her definition or version of the word regret. If we can use it as a valuable tool to look back on what happened and say, almost objectively, yeah, I definitely could have handled that better and here’s how I would do it now – it can be a powerful way to help heal and grow – as long as we don’t start falling into the swirling pit of shame with it. Tricky balance, for sure, but I think it’s possible.

      For instance, looking back now, I wish I’d had a more resilient spirit when it came to my first bootcamp. I wish I’d given it more time. But I wasn’t in a place to see what I needed at that point, like I am now. So I’m giving myself a break for the mistakes I’ve made (self-compassion!! HUGE!! In another post…) and learning what I need to do better next time.

      I’m pulling myself out of the shameful regret, and letting myself wander in the pondering regret, I think I’ll call it meditative regret, to see what I can take with me as I walk into my future. I think I like that form much better, because if there’s one thing that’s certain – we can’t change the past, no matter how much we want to. And beating ourselves up for what we did in it does us zero good moving forward.

      And you’re so right – it’s nearly impossible to be brave when you’re neck-deep in shameful regret. When we reframe how we think and feel about these things, we can turn a negative into a positive. Christ, I sound all evolved now, don’t I? It ain’t easy! None of it is. But I think it’s a good goal to reach for. And I’m reaching! 🙂

      Love you, Kel. Thank you for always being there. Big hugs.

  5. Out of 1,587 people who applied to the DVM program at Colorado State, only 4 from Arizona were admitted: I looked over these stats, looked them over again, and looked at the stats for other veterinary schools which all showed the same disheartening figures. I decided I’m enough. I’m going to put the work in and go for it anyway. It’s time to invest in a career where I actually enjoy going to work every day. That about sums up my year of living bravely.
    I’m proud of you, Kelly!!! For putting this struggle to paper, and for still moving forward.

    1. That’s awesome, Anitta! Thank you so much for sharing your bravery here with us. You rock! That’s exactly what this is all about – ‘I’m enough.’ You’re an inspiration.

      And thank you for your sweet words. I’m proud of me too. It’s not been easy, but I’m so glad I’m doing this. And I’m SO proud of you! I can’t wait to hear about your journey to becoming a vet. That’s amazing. 🙂 Big hugs.

  6. Kel- YOU ARE a resilient, brave woman. Starting over (again and again,) especially taking on brand new challenges, takes enormous persistence and courage. And you didn’t fail as a personal trainer– you simply chose to give it up. Understandable. It’s damn tough to overcome obstacles and stay the course. The lesson isn’t only to develop resilience, but perhaps also to change strategy, gather more information, consider alternate routes, find a mentor, join a group. That’s not to say you should have stuck with personal training. I believe you are a writer– an athletic, artistic, adventurous, photo-taking, dog-whispering, soul-searching writer. And if you were raised to value concrete evidence of success, it follows that you’d keep searching for confirmation that you are doing what you are meant to do, that you’re on the right track. But, woman, you know who you are! You know what you can do! (And do better than almost everyone else!) You’re not JUST “enough”. You are MUCH, MUCH MORE than enough. (If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be capable of excelling at so many disparate careers!) Maybe the key for Kelly is not to pigeon-hole herself. JUST BE YOU. I don’t see you fitting in a single category or relaxing into a narrow niche. Go ahead, do what you want. Train others. Take photos. Soul search Ride bikes. Go on hikes. And, above all, keep writing! The bonus is that multi-talented people can have multiple income streams. Keep it up, Kel. You are definitely on the right track(s)!

    1. Thank you so much, Davis. For all of that. “The lesson isn’t only to develop resilience, but perhaps also to change strategy, gather more information, consider alternate routes, find a mentor, join a group.” So true. You’re a wise woman and I love you.

      Yes, I was raised to value concrete evidence of success, so it’s been difficult, to say the least, to feel as though I’ve failed (by my choices, mostly, yes) at so many things because I never really got off the ground, monetarily speaking, with them. There was very little to show for all of my efforts in the end.

      I’ve always felt like I must identify with that one thing – the one thing that defines me, who I am, what I’m about – but I’m beginning to see and feel and understand that perhaps that’s not true at all. I think I’m a writer first. But I can also be a trainer or photographer or grape eating super hero or anything else I have in me too. I’m discovering we all have this power to be many things. I’d always thought I needed to pigeonhole myself as one thing only, but it’s kind of a relief to decide that it’s all right to wear a bunch of different hats.

      Thank you for your wisdom, your kindness, and your unwavering support of all that is me. We really must see one another soon. Much love.

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