How To Be Dauntless In Real Life

So, I was about to do a google search and try to find some sort of article titled:


...when I decided to pause for a moment and consider whether I could figure it out for myself. And I realized I could. These are my thoughts on the subject. Maybe someone will find them useful.

TO BEGIN WITH: I'm no expert on bravery. I've wimped out in way too many situations to count, from being too scared to jump off a cliff into a swimming hole, to being too nervous to tell a boy he's an idiot and should be kinder to me, even though I wanted to.

Sometimes I regret the decisions I make in these moments when the fear cripples me. Sometimes I don't. But ever since I was little, bravery's been important to me. It stems a lot from the books I've read with kick-ass heroines. Hermione Granger was the first. She was smart like me and a bit unusual like me, and she was the bravest girl I'd met yet on my excursions to literary lands.

There've been other heroines since Hermione, such as Lyra Belacqua and Katniss Everdeen, who've also been role models for bravery. But the one I met most recently has stuck with me more than those two for some reason: Beatrice Prior, the heroine of Veronica Roth's Divergent.

Tris is the optimal combination of intelligence and bravery, Yes, there are times when she does things that maybe aren't so smart, but I think it's because she's so determined to fight her fears. That's what I admire the most about her.

If you haven't read Divergent, it takes place in a futuristic, dystopian society, where 16-year-olds must pick which of five factions to devote their lives to. Each faction cultivates a particular trait in its members. Abnegation believes in selflessness; Candor believes in honesty; Amity believes in peace; Erudite believes in intelligence; and Dauntless believes in bravery.

Tris picks Dauntless, if you couldn't already guess.

I'd totally pick Dauntless if I lived in Tris's world. (Pottermore has named me a Gryffindor, by the way.) Not because of the death-defying situations they like putting themselves in (jumping off moving trains, anyone?) or how awesome their living compound seems, but because I want to learn to master my fears. I don't want them to drain me of my confidence. I don't want them to get in the way of actions that are important.

So how can I become Dauntless--how can we all strengthen our bravery? Here are four (somewhat) simple steps. I have a feeling I'll be referring to them a lot when my manuscript goes on submission to editors. (crawls into a corner and hyperventilates)

1. Recognize Our Fears. There have been times when my heart was pounding, and I knew was nervous, but I didn't know why. It always helps to take a moment and try to figure out what I'm afraid of in these situations. Am I scared of the spider sitting quietly in the corner? Am I scared of rejection (agently or editorly or otherwise)? Or of looking foolish?

2. Figure Out Why They Make Us Afraid. Once we identify our fears, it's important to understand why they exist in the first place. Are we scared of that spider in the corner crawling on us while we sleep? Are we scared of rejection because it makes us feel worthless, like we're never going to be wanted (by agents or editors or anyone)?

3. Come Up With Reasons Why The Fear is Irrational. Logic doesn't always make the fear go away, but it can make it much easier to reach that step of bravery, where we're afraid but do something anyway. Many fears are irrational when we take the time to think.

For example, I used to be terrified of spiders because of a terrible, awful, no good, very bad spider bite I received in elementary school. For many years thereafter, I refused to go near them or touch them or let them live (I made my dad kill them). But in recent days, I've reasoned with myself that this fear is irrational, because most spiders won't bite me. Most won't even come near me. So just a few days ago, I allowed a spider to live in my room without destroying it, as long as it remained calmly in its corner.

Of course, not every fear is irrational. It makes sense to be afraid in situations where our lives are in danger, because that fear might keep us safe.

4. Embrace The Fear, And Then Ignore It. Being brave doesn't mean we have to stop being afraid; it means we reach a point where we decide the result of the action is worth more than our fear of the action itself. Sometimes it's because the action is important to others, too, like when we choose to stand up for someone who's different even though we're afraid people will laugh. Sometimes the action is important to ourselves, because we want to feel stronger. We want to feel like nothing can break us.

Bravery can save us. It can change our lives, and also the lives of others, if we choose to use our bravery to help them.

So be brave, my dear readers. <3 No matter what you're afraid of, know that you can overcome it.

I'll end with a quote from the Dauntless manifesto:

We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage
that drives one person to stand up for another.


  1. This is great! You've basically outlined the cognitive-behavioral model for treating anxiety, including some exposure and tolerance of the feared stimulus. A certain amount of fear is highly motivating; fear is a basic emotion and inherently adaptive. But after that certain point, it can be disabling (like any of the other emotions). You've described a pretty good series of activities to conquer it!

    Now--good luck on sub!!

  2. Love this post, and all the points it makes! Also, I'm just going to pretend I didn't read the part about you allowing a spider to live in your room. That's just…no. No. NO. *shudders* Let's just say I'm not Dauntless. I'm a Hufflepuff and an Abnegation-Erudite. XD

    1. De carefully the Erudite might try to kill you

  3. Love this Stephanie. I can generally do the standing up for others thing pretty well, but when it comes to my own little writing world, I can be such a wimp. Taking those next steps is tough. I really liked Tris' character too - she had so many tough choices to face!

  4. nice example and I admire you. I to was afraid of something but I overcame it by realizing the thing i was afraid of was just irrational and I came up with reasons to help me overcome it.

  5. Hey Stephanie :)
    Thanks for your amazing article. It really helped.
    Recognizing your fears is very important. But sometimes it's hard.
    Like when I'm actually afraid of something I try to be brave and overcome it.
    But when I actually think about my fears, I really can't think of much.
    So what would you suggest I do to "recognize my fears"?