I write about bravery and courage a lot here. After all, it’s an essential part of any adventure: the terrifying moment where you take your cold, clammy fear in one hand and bright, chilly courage in the other and decide that you’re going to walk into the thing that scares you.

When we read books or watch movies, we live for those moments of courage. Our heart expands on behalf of the hero when he walks into the fire. We cheer for the protagonist as she finally does the thing. We praise courage.

And then we close the pages — we go home from the movies — we lie alone in bed — and we wish to God that we had some courage, too.

Recently I’ve been feeling the courage push a little more than usual. It started when my best friend told me to take a chance — to step out and do something I’ve never done before. “Sara,” she said, “what’s the worst that could happen?” Nothing could come of it. “Exactly. And you’d just be exactly where you are now.” 

My voice teacher said something similar to me during the graduate application process. I was nervous about submitting a couple of last-minute prescreen recordings — I didn’t think they were representative of my best work. I emailed my teacher and told him that I wasn’t going to apply to this place, after all, and he responded very bluntly: “The worst they can say is no. You have to look at where you stand right now, and right now you don’t have an audition there.”

Okay, okay.

Sometimes we look at the thing that we’re afraid of, whatever it is, and we see only the bad outcome that makes us shy away into the corner. We’re afraid of taking chances because we want to avoid the no, the rejection, the discomfort, the awkwardness.

But what if it actually turned out really well?

What if we got the thing that we were secretly hoping for the whole time, but were too nervous to ask for? Or — what if we got something better?

Here’s the deal: we’ll never know unless we take a chance on it.

I read a blog post the other day (I think it's by Anne Bogel on Modern Mrs. Darcy, but for the life of me, I cannot find the link to the post) in which the author describes the way she’s been learning to just ask for things. In her post, she received coffee in a paper cup, but everyone else in the coffee house had a ceramic mug. She really wanted the ceramic mug. Finally, she walked up to the man with the biggest coffee mug she had ever seen and asked him how he came by that massive mug. 

His answer? “I asked for it.”

You want it? Ask for it. I mean, y’all, what a concept. The people-pleaser writing to you now finds this an incredibly foreign concept. But it’s true.

You need something? Ask for it.

You want the guy to call you? Give him your number.

You want that opportunity? Put yourself out there a little bit. Ask for it.

Of course, I’m terrible at this. This is not my natural way. I would much prefer to be offered something than offer myself. In the latter scenario, I face the possibility of rejection. But you never really know unless you ask.

So I’m learning to practice putting myself out there — I’m learning to practice taking a chance on things. It is a slow process. But slowly, bit by bit, I am learning to pick up my courage from where it sits beside me, hold it to my chest, and just breathe as I step into the discomfort. I am learning to ask. I am learning to offer.

I’m learning to be a little brave.