The courage to be yourself

I have a generous, gregarious friend who once said to me in a small voice, “Sometimes I wonder if people think I’m like a silly puppy with big paws.”

She’s always brave enough to extend the first hand of friendship, invites crowds for coffee at her funky house, gives away tomatoes, eggs or cuttings from her garden, newly baked muffins, a spare wheel-barrow, offers to teach you stained glass, runs for charity, is excited about your achievements, hairdo, outfit, shares her quirky, creative ideas…. you get my drift.

Is she ‘silly’? Of course not. Is she inclusive, does she have a generous heart? I think so.

I love free spirits. I want to be one. Free spirits aren’t bound by the fear of conforming, they don’t cautiously wait for others to take the first step. They think for themselves, don’t default to authority. They’re not necessarily extroverts either, or people with high self-esteem. I really admire this social courage, as the risk of being ridiculed, of standing out, being rejected, can be high.


Photo credit:

Free spirits strive for happier and healthier relationships. Women especially are prone to toxic gossiping and what I’ll call ‘safety in numbers, less than Jesus-like behaviours’, which are discussed in Alana Munro’s book, Women Behaving Badly. Those women are definitely not free spirits. Perhaps it’s a leftover from evolution, when remaining in the group (or herd) was paramount to our social survival.

One day my mother stopped to ask a child if she was okay, if she needed help. The child’s mother was openly verbally abusing her daughter in the street. The mother then proceeded to yell at my mother. That’s where social courage merges with moral courage.

I think my father is a free spirit. As I’ve said before, he finds common ground with people everywhere. He’ll exchange pleasantries about food, transport, the weather, sleep, philosophy, the human body, pets, toileting (a perennial, especially bowels, especially his bowels), and his piece de resistance – science, which he manages to sneak into every conversation sooner rather than later. I’ve often observed people regard him cautiously, weighing him up at first, asking themselves, “Is this guy uber-sharing for a weird reason, or is he just being friendly?” Most people eventually relax and reciprocate. He’s a social short cutter.

In a similar but different example, my youngest daughter was the student who befriended a blind student from another school on the bus. The one nobody sat next to. I wish I’d done that when I was her age. I was the teenager too nervous to get up and be the only one getting off a bus, waiting for other passengers to press the button, sometimes quite a few stops after my own.

All this reminds me that life is short, and being timid never helped me. It also reminds me of a Cosmo Jarvis song, ‘We Just Wanna Talk’, about people ignoring each other whilst commuting in the London Underground.  The Guardian had this to say about Cosmo Jarvis, “This is where…. Jarvis is perhaps most different and potentially important: he is willing to risk ridicule, incomprehension or hostility as he tries to communicate. It can be liberating.”  An excerpt of the lyrics are below –

cosmo jarvis 1

Cosmo Jarvis
Photo credit:

So I’m standing in a bullet …

I can see myself in all of you

And all of you in me

But a frightened little planet,

Most of all, is what I see.

The best friend you never made

Could be one foot away

And end up anonymous

Because you never tried to say

“Hey”. Look at that,

It’s a lady with a pram,

I’m not gonna help her

But I do give a damn.

It’s just that if I offer to

She might go crazy,

And think I think she’s weak

‘Cause she’s a lady with a baby.

I really don’t think

Anyone knows anymore

When to talk and so we don’t

‘Cause we’re just not sure.

And this is why people kinda just

Wanna be alone,

We just want to talk, but we are way too scared.

We just want to talk, but there’s silence here instead.

We just want to talk, you can never talk enough,

But we can’t even talk no more,

So how we s’posed to love?

I also love his ‘Gay Pirates’ song. I think Cosmo Jarvis is doing a tour in Australia as I’m posting this?

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” What are your thoughts on social courage?

Guardian reference:

Alana Munro:

This entry was posted in Alana Munro, Cosmo Jarvis, free spirits, social courage and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to The courage to be yourself

  1. Lee-Anne says:

    A lovely uplifting post. I like the sound of your free-spirited friend and wish there were more like her. With me and ‘social courage’, the older I get, the braver I get. Whoever said those words: “It’s very liberating when you don’t give a sh** about what people think” (or words to that effect) was onto something!

  2. I love your friend and I want to taste her coffee…. but fine people do tend to attract each other

  3. Very nice, easy, clear writing (you sound easy, not that you pulled it out of a hat). Thanks for the support, Susan.

    And I like the dash of angst. Angst, overused nowadays and in danger of morphing into a cliché. But just a dash keeps it interesting. 😉

  4. Susan Forbes says:

    I want to meet your friend! She sounds amazing. YOU…. are amazing and don’t you ever doubt that!!!! I wish I had half the intestinal fortitude you have. Your book in wonderful and you are wonderful. 🙂

    • Thank you, you really are an angel. You’re also making me laugh, talking about ‘intestinal fortitude’, Susan. Anyway, you have ‘guts’, ha ha!! I will see if this friend can make it to the Arafura launch.

  5. Susan Forbes says:

    ooops …………..’is’

  6. Pingback: Are You Really Who or What You Think You Are? | Live.Free.Be.Free

  7. Hi Susan, your Dad sounds like such a lovely man. I also love the words by Cosmo Jarvis. So true, that’s what’s nice about living in a small community…you can still stop and chat in the street even if you’ve never met them before. Lovely to meet you by the way. Cheers Jane.

  8. vicbriggs says:

    Loved this post from title to the last line. Being a free spirit in today’s world is quite an achievement. I long for those days when something frees up inside and I can be just that – hopefully we can hold on to that in times of need.

    • Thanks so much for the follow, and your comment! Being a free spirit is an achievement, isn’t it? A conscious one for many of us to walk our own paths. ‘Freeing up inside’, I like that! 🙂

      • vicbriggs says:

        Oh thank you. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Came across your blog on one of OM’s comments post – liked your comment and wondered whether I’d like your blog too. Turns out I do 🙂

  9. I just came across yours, followed it and will recommend it to my friend also. OM is a good soul, whatever he says, ha ha!

  10. Peekiequeen says:

    I loved your post! It’s so true, that inner spirit that wants to come but sometimes is held back for fear of what the world will think. Great reference to Cosmo. Loved his lyrics. Sad that its very true these days. Thanks for sharing the observation. Cheers! P.S. your Dad could be my dad. 🙂

  11. Pingback: I Believe, I Believe, I Believe! | The Expressible Café

  12. idiotwriter says:

    This is really beautifully written – makes its point well
    This part:
    ‘One day my mother stopped to ask a child if she was okay, if she needed help. The child’s mother was openly verbally abusing her daughter in the street. The mother then proceeded to yell at my mother. That’s where social courage merges with moral courage…’

    Hit me right between the eyes …HOW many times I have wanted to step in…and can not because I would get arrested for harassment. Not to judge the situation – but one can see and sense things sometimes hey.

    Cant even offer someone a ride without there seeming to be a hidden agenda.
    Thank you for this real and touching post.

    • Thank you for your honest comments! Before I was a teacher, it took courage to help lost, crying children in shops. Mothers are paranoid you’re about to take their child, but I’m over it now. Life gets shorter as you get older, and you’re right, things hit you right between the eyes a lot harder. 🙂

  13. idiotwriter says:

    Reblogged this on Idiot Writing and commented:
    I just really liked reading this…

  14. Found your profile, ha ha. You are really astonishing me, a war vet? That is so weird, I told you the poem touched a nerve with me. Oh my goodness, am going to read it again, and again. 🙂
    Am happy to email you a PDF of Arafura if you have Amazon issues?

  15. Brilliant, brilliant piece Susan, MM 🍀

    • Thank you, Mick. Cathartic to share in cyberland, especially when there’s a response! Love your photos, especially the one on your header. Meticulousmick makes me laugh, that’s my husband!

  16. Lovely post, Susan.

    When next you speak to your Dad, please ask him on my behalf how his bowels are doing. Mine are fine. Always have been. If I go on a high fibre diet, watch out! That’s when things get really exciting.

    If you Dad and I were of the fairer sex, we could not only talk about our bowels, but also about how we feel about our bowels. And how we feel about how the other feels about his bowels, and about how we feel about how we feel about our bowels.

    Gads! Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Please apologise to your father for me, as I have just used the “r” word. I feel a constriction in my bowels at the very thought.

    I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for my mischievous sense of humour. }:-)>

    • You’re funny! 🙂 Humour away, I even married a bowel enthusiast.

      In fact, I’m afflicted too. My daughter was embarrasssed that I could discuss colonoscopies with another mother 5 minutes after being introduced. You know how that happens, I asked? Life and childbirth.

      No details about the high fibre diet please! 🙂

      • So pleased to make your e-acquaintance. Yes, I do have a habit of seeing levity in life. Since I am in the process of depriving my own father of a dram of his Drambuie, permit me to salut colonoscopies by saying, “bottoms up!” with no small degree of enthusiasm.

        Please note the diplomatic restraint that I am demonstrating by not including the fact that you are down-under into the discussion.

        Oh, I will be buying your e-book momentarily for my voracious reading sister and her teenage daughter.

  17. Well then, we will be buying each other’s books. 🙂
    I know enough from our very short ‘e-acquaintance’ that I shouldn’t be encouraging you, but I’m sure you’d have a contribution to make to previous post of mine, ‘More words for bottom, please. We’re behind.’
    You call your reference to where I live ‘restraint’? 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the reblog, Paulette! Have just joined the blog and left a comment. You’re right. Life is too short to not be wholehearted. 🙂

      • You are so welcome Susan. When it came to naming me it was between Susan and Paulette and Paulette won. 🙂 I was named after Paulette Goddard who was an actress many years ago. Dad liked the name “Peaches”, but I am glad that didnt win. Peaches Le Pore sounds like a stripper! 😉

        Paulette Le Pore Motzko

      • After writing the comment on your site, I liked how it was coming out so well, I got out my laptop and wrote a 675 word extention of it tentatively called “Minimizing Apathy & Maximizing,Care in America.”

        Should be up and running later today.
        Glad to see and hear my iPod ringing away with things you like on Totally Inspired Mind. 🙂
        Feel like I am winning the best jackpot in Vegas!


        Paulette Motzko

      • So nice to meet you Paulette!! 😄

      • Better than gambling, though! 😄

  18. I was trying to put into words the term you call “moral courage” the other day. We are all connected on this big water covered planet we call earth. There is only one of them, so if we mess it up or the people on it, it is only a “one shot deal”..there are no second tries to try and put the planet back together once we pollute all its water systems or kill all the people with bombs and war fare.
    “Be the change you want to see in the world” are wise words from M. Ghandi.

    I have always had the mind set of:

    Do what you can for someone else, simply because you are able to.
    Don’t pay attention to what others are doing because much of the world I am finding are apathetic and complacent individuals that wouldn’t budge for their own family, let alone you!

    • Well said, Paulette. We are all connected on this planet, there are even silver linings to being so connected! ‘Doing what you can for someone else, simply because you are able to’, has more rewards than people might think. I need to remind myself of this when I’m tired and anxious! 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting. 🙂

  19. Peaches sounds ditzy, which I can tell you’re not. Apparently I was almost called Shirley, (migrant parents who didn’t have a clue). That’s a thousand deaths I haven’t had to die!

  20. Susan, I love wondering through your old posts. There is such a treasure trove of inspiring words. And I adore the idea of ‘social courage.’ I think this is one of those hugely important character traits we try to cultivate in our children, and can usually only succeed in doing so by displaying it in ourselves.
    It’s clear, your parents are tremendously full of character–and of the highest quality. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, my friend. 🙂

  21. How lovely of you to bother reading back AND commenting Shelley. 🙂 I’ve been madly trying to finish my book. I’ll have to admit that social courage is a goal I aspire to, not there yet. Off now to pay you a visit and see what you’re up to! xx

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