Becoming Brave with Alex Ray - Conny Graf

Becoming brave requires us to face our insecurities, and to build confidence by doing one little brave thing at a time.

I am very excited to welcome Alex Ray to the podcast, Alex is a bravery coach. 

If you are in my world for a little while you know that my word for the year 2020 was courage, or to be courageous. So of course I had to ask Alex how he defines bravery and what he feels is the difference to courage.

We explore how oftentimes it takes getting really annoyed and so sick of a certain result to finally realize anything is better than repeating this over and over again.  

That's when you need to become brave, face insecurity by doing one brave thing at a time, which creates confidence. 

  • Alex shares the different steps to bravery and also
  • when he himself did the first time something very brave
  • We also talk about the difference between being really honest and authentic aka brave, and being fake-authentic which is not being brave.

We cover some very deep territory here, some of it might not be for the faint of heart, so be brave and listen. 

If you find value in this conversation with Alex, please share this episode with family and friends, because if you found value in it, they will too. 

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Alex Ray

Coach Alex Ray is a bravery coach. He helps people overcome insecurity so they can accomplish goals that scare them sh*tless.

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Becoming Brave on Apple Podcast

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Reading instead of Listening (Transcript) 

FYI: this text is not polished, I try to keep it as close as possible to how the guest expressed herself/himself . 

Conny Graf
Welcome Alex I'm so happy you're a guest on my podcast, how are you today.

Alex Ray
I'm doing great, thank you so much for having me.

Conny Graf
Yeah, thank you for taking the time and talking with me so before we dive into the topic of bravery, tell us a little bit about you, who are you who is Alex?

Alex Ray
So I am a bravery coach, I focus on helping people face insecurity and really build confidence, by just doing one brave thing at a time. And we were just talking before about Self Coaching Scholars, so we're both really familiar with the work of Brooke Castillo and the Life Coach School and the model.

So that's something that I use all the time with my clients because we like to focus on that action and changing that. And we know that like no matter how much work we put into changing our behavior. We keep getting the same damn result and then we get really frustrated by it. And so I love being able to help people understand like it's not really your action that is the problem if you change your action but don't also change your thought, you still get the same crappy result, that you're stuck with forever which is like living in fear or imposter syndrome or people pleasing like these are all the things I help people work on overcoming.

On a personal note, I grew up ridiculously unsecure. I was the least confident person I knew, on the whole planet. I use the saying that I could win an award for being the most insecure. If there's something I was really good at it was being a self doubter. And that's what got me into coaching originally. Several years ago back in early 2017, I started doing fitness and nutrition coaching, but ultimately the goal was always to help people work on building their confidence. I knew that what I could teach people was something that wasn't really taught out there that if you change your body you don't necessarily change your mind. Right.

You could have this killer stunning body that you think is going to make you ultra confident like I thought it would make me. And then it didn't. So I coached and fitness and nutrition for a while and now I'm doing truly what I've wanted to do ever since I was a little kid and that's helping people really overcome insecurity. Be confident. And it's just one brave step at a time.

Conny Graf
Yeah, and and so see I always say like I help people with clutter and organizing but I always say like everything starts in your brain and with your thoughts. With the clutter, too, so we're basically on the same sheet of music. So, what I'm wondering is so how do you define bravery and as a second question to that, what would be the difference if there is any to courage.

Alex Ray
So bravery is not the absence of fear. It's just the willingness to go through it. And I think that's the most impactful way to say that. When I had that realization that the fear wasn't necessarily the issue, it was just a determination to go through it and that's what bravery is. I also include like three kind of steps to bravery so it's the willingness to go through fear but it's also the confidence to be authentic, not cockiness or arrogance, but like, true, confidence, which is only found or being really authentic and vulnerable. And then the last part is just determination to keep going, even when.

So to me bravery includes courage, but I think of it as as something bigger than just facing fear. It's kind of like bravery is the decision, it's the tool. It's not necessarily the award. Courage is more of a feeling, confidence is a feeling, bravery i think is a lifestyle.

Conny Graf
Interesting, I was asking because my word for 2020 was "be courageous"

Alex Ray
so tell me what courage means to you.

Conny Graf
Well overcoming limiting beliefs mainly so what I help a lot of my clients too, and when I talk about clutter and decluttering and getting organized it's overcoming your limiting beliefs, the belief that you are a certain way and you can't change your I'm just a messy person, I can't change that well. You and I, we both know the more we tell ourselves this the more it's gonna come true. And so I feel like everybody has their own limiting beliefs and then you kind of wake up one day and think like this is a little bit annoying these limiting beliefs let's do something about it.

So I came up with be courageous, and that's why I was interested to know how you would differentiate between bravery and courageous being courageous

Alex Ray
That's my interpretation. and I love how you're using it, like I'm 1,000% on board with that. And what you're saying about like, I've realized that in my own life like oftentimes it takes really getting so annoyed and so sick of certain results that we have in our life, to finally go "oh my gosh, anything is better than repeating this over and over again".

Conny Graf
Yeah, and I was just reading somewhere, and I don't know where the origin is but somebody said get mad at the situation and not mad at yourself so, because then you're like trapped again in, in your bad thinking you know like if you're getting mad at yourself because something doesn't turn out or because you're not acting in a way you want to. If you get mad at yourself it's not going to help you have to get mad at the situation and then use that energy of being mad at the situation to jump out and change something.

So tell us a little bit like how did the shy, young, Alex become brave? This didn't happen overnight I would assume.

Alex Ray
So I grew up in a very very legalistic conservative Christian church, and I had parents that.... they loved me, but there was like a lot of homophobic comments made in my house frequently, it was just kind of normal. At 10 years old, I was like, Oh shoot, I think I'm attracted to dudes, there is nothing that could possibly be worse than this. And though I had other areas of insecurity that was a big piece for me that really kept me feeling like okay something about me something about my identity who I am, is worthless, or less valuable than other people.

I had a lot of fear around losing community like right that's a very basic need that we have as humans, to be in community. It is also a primitive fear that we have right, but most likely, even if my family and my friends disown me, I'm probably not going to die.

Conny Graf
no but in the old days, you would have...

Alex Ray
yeah totally, but we have like society now we have social media we're more connected than ever. so the threat of death is not as eminent. But our primitive brain is still stuck in like, Oh my gosh, if I lose this community, like it's reacting the same way as it would as if it was a sure death sentence. So, I just say that say like help people have compassion on themselves if you're experiencing fear that seems like it's kind of turned into anxiety and like heightened well above maybe what your logical brain is telling you, it's just your primitive brain is just human it's totally normal right

Conny Graf
yeah and he couldn't catch up with with how fast we're going because when you think back just maybe let's say, let's be safe and say 200 years ago, it probably would have been very difficult to survive if your community kicked you out. And 200 years is nothing in like in the time of the world or since we as humans are here so it's totally normal that our old brain where the fear sits can't keep up with what's going on here.

Alex Ray
Yeah, even 100 years ago, it would have been super difficult and yeah you're absolutely right. So that was a huge source of fear in my life. There were many others and then just some limiting beliefs everything that I grew up with from my parents. But I think that was one of the biggest rocks, biggest hurdles, of mine. I was absolutely terrified when I came out at 19. But I had spent my entire teen years from about 16 to 19 regularly crying myself to sleep, wishing that I would wake up differently. And when you live that long in this fear and torment, there kind of comes a point where it's really like alright.... for me, I just decided. I think the worst thing possible is living this way.

At least if I get it out there I'll know, and at that point I had a backup plan for where I could move if they if my parents kicked me out and I had a backup for my backup. So, I had three people that I knew I could move in with. I have my basic needs met. And so I decided to tell them and thankfully they did not kick me out they did not dissown me, we're actually pretty close now. But that was really probably the very first time that I was really pushed into doing something brave, into being totally scared shitless and doing it anyway. And, yeah, it didn't feel good at all, but it did get me a huge, long term relief. And then as I was dealing with insecurity and fear and feeling not good enough and people pleasing and all these like limiting behaviors, later on, I was like, I can't live like this anymore, something has to change for me. That was around the time that I started like studying bravery and understanding how bravery is linked to insecurity and fear.

We like to keep repeating not doing the thing that scares us, which then reinforces our lack of belief in ourselves, that it makes it harder next time. So like for decluttering right like we don't want to do it, we think it's too hard, so we skip it and then the pile becomes bigger and then we go: "Oh my God, look, the mountain really is insurmountable, I can't do this, and we stay in that cycle.

Conny Graf
Exactly. And that's why I always say if you can do every day a little bit, then it's never gonna get that bad and it's probably similar with bravery. I experienced it that way with being courageous which I was having in front of me since the beginning of 2020 and what a year to pick "be courageous"

Alex Ray
Yes 2020 needs a lot of courage.

Conny Graf
2020 was sure special, yeah, so then to do every day a little bit helps in I feel like, in any area. Because it compounds. So what I'm wondering is what effect did this fear have on you like did you get depressed, did you have anxiety, did you have panic attacks like I just recently experienced. I don't know whether you would classify it panic attacks but about a year ago I did go through a phase where I had these weird crazy, let's say anxiety attacks. And it is awful. So I'm wondering whether some of that came with it, with the fear.

Alex Ray
All of the above yeah. In second grade is when I actually started therapy because I was very depressed and I had told my parents that like I didn't want to live anymore, and so, I was in and out of therapy for all of my teen years. Then, after I came out, I did have a panic attack less than a year later, I had ridiculously high anxiety. I was very depressed. I was like, it's time to go get help again. The problem was, I didn't want to feel like a burden, and so, because I didn't want to burden anyone, even though I'm paying my therapist to help me. I was never fully honest with her. And so I'm on medication, I'm doing therapy, but I hit a super low point in 2017. I attempted to take my own life that year.

And I, thankfully ended up in the hospital, got the help I needed, we got the toxins and everything that I drank out of my system so that my body could recover and then I spent almost a week in a rehab facility. And it was in there that I really finally faced all of what was underneath. I started understanding the depth of what was going on to me and it was the first time too, that I ever let other people help me. Because until then, I was really good at being fake authentic. Like I could share things that sounded very vulnerable and scary that other people would didn't want to share about themselves, but I would share about it because I knew I could like fix it in little air quotes, and if I could fix it I was fine sharing it.

Conny Graf
Yeah, I know what you mean you can almost use that as a shield, can't you.

Alex Ray
Yes!

Conny Graf
I know exactly what you mean, I can do that too. So if I want to, I don't feel safe to be authentic, I can be fake authentic how you call it and use that as a shield.

Alex Ray
Yes, like, and maybe it is really authentic but it's not vulnerable. Other people look at it and they think "oh my gosh what a very vulnerable authentic person" wow , like they have it together. Hell no I didn't have it together I was a mess inside. I looked okay on the outside. I was a mess and I was trying to use work and building my coaching business when I was doing the fitness and nutrition like that was the first year of that business. I was trying to earn my value through what I could do for other people, Whether it be in my business or at work or in friendships, I was constantly giving until I was just absolutely empty. And it was through that process of coming out, get really getting the help that I needed and then understanding.

Okay, here's what's been going on inside, and all of it stems down to fear and insecurity that I had. And I'm so thankful for the therapist that I had. I'm so thankful for the doctors that were in that facility and, and showed me like hey, you don't have to be on all the time, you could just sit there and do nothing, and we will still help you. And I think that was like the catalyst that launched me into what and where I am today.

Conny Graf
Yeah, and it's in a way, it's so sad that we feel that we have to be on all the time how you call it or that we have to be a certain way to be worthy, or we have to be a certain way to be accept... that's why we're not authentic in the first place, and then maybe sometimes we do come across some people where it's not acceptable to be who we are. And then we're taking these few people and project it on the whole world and kind of stifle ourselves, I kind of can relate it I don't have such a dramatic story like you but I can totally relate to feeling like you always have to give otherwise you're not part of it and you cannot show who you really are.

Alex Ray
it's like a never ending bucket that I was like my bucket was always empty, and I was constantly trying to dump into other people to earn my value. I really thought my value came from what I could do for other people. But, as we know, as coaches right, it's not where it comes from and our value and worth is 100% all the time.

Conny Graf
Yeah, that and the other thing is too, giving is just one side of the equation or of the coin the other side is receiving and without the receiving you can't really give. So the circle or the cycle is not complete, that's why it's not working. You're trying to make something work that doesn't work, that's also why it's so exhausting I think too and that's why a lot of people.... like when I work with clients clutter makes you very depressed and it's also kind of like a circle because if you're depressed, then you're taking less care of yourself and your surroundings and that pulls you down even further and it's this vicious cycle.

To get out of it you have to start somewhere, small and start decluttering a little bit to lighten your mood and then the lightened mood helps you to take better care of you and your surroundings, it's the same cycle and it's the same with giving you have to receive once in a while, so have something that you can give again.

Alex Ray
Yes, and sometimes receiving is also receiving care from ourself. Like even decluttering the house, especially if you live alone, it would be very hard for you to say well this is for other people. It's not, it's for you and that's great, that's good, that it's for you, receive that gift from yourself. I didn't know how to receive back then, at all.

Conny Graf
Yeah, and I think this is a so from my perspective, because I was also in a lot of fear and anxiety, you feel like you have to protect yourself all the time and so you can't receive, either. And then it becomes really vicious because like you just said you need to receive the kindness for yourself, or give it to yourself too, and then you don't do that either. I always say decluttering is self love and I mean it, you can obviously see that.

I say that a lot because this is where it starts it starts with us. If we let everything go and I mean, if people are depressed, it is really hard because they are in a downward spiral, and to stop that you actually have to start looking after yourself to climb back up. And I'm not saying decluttering cures depression that's never what I'm saying, but it can help it can support because you're basically taking care of your surroundings and of yourself, which makes you feel a little bit better, even if it's just minute and then your mood lightens a little bit in any big way becoming more into an upward spiral again.

Alex Ray
It also allows for you to work on the thoughts, right, because our thoughts always drive our feelings. And we don't like to take ownership of that, as we'd rather think well it's the fault of somebody else or it's the fault of my messy house. That's why I have to feel this way and it's really like the thoughts that create the feeling and when you're decluttering you're like, allowing some of that space to be like, oh, okay, I can see some evidence for this now. It's so hard for people to even to just get started much the time, and it just takes this insight that it's gonna be uncomfortable but to do it anyway. Just take step one, and then prove to yourself that you're capable.

And that's what I do with bravery it's like you don't feel confident, right now, do it anyway. Hold yourself for 10 seconds, and do something brave, do something that does scare you, that makes you nervous. A part of it is going to feel really yucky, and scary and everything, the other part is like, Oh my gosh, I didn't die. Holy shit, I'm capable of doing this and not dying. And then you get to prove to your brain, over and over again from that point like look at what I'm capable of. I think that's what young-me didn't have, I didn't ever have, like, look what I'm capable of. Even when I did stuff I didn't want to receive it. I didn't want to accept it. I didn't want to look at it as evidence for me being capable, being worthy. And then, after all that's working on so much on this, I was at a point where therapy was what I needed, and then once I got to a more neutral place, getting life coaching was it. I was hungry and ready for it because it was like,

Okay, well now I'm kind of like functioning, I'm not having a panic attack. I'm not, I'm not thinking every day about wanting to end my life - and that was my old life it was several times a day - so when we got to that neutral place then it was like alright. I want to know how to thrive now. And for me, that was my why to overcome the insecurity. It was then one brave step at a time, one uncomfortable thing, one moment of facing fear and realizing, I'm a heck of a lot more capable than my brain wants to believe.

Conny Graf
Yeah, I feel somehow, and I haven't figured out yet where or why, but somehow, when we grow up we get this impression, (or at least I got it and it sounds a little bit like you got it too) that it's all or nothing. You're either good enough or you're nothing. You're either perfect or you're nothing. And that's then when we come, and I see this with my clients with decluttering, they may see a show on Netflix and they feel like in two hours it has to be perfect so it's kind of like no I'm not perfect in two hours with my house all decluttered. Then, might as well throw my hands in the air and do nothing. And when, in fact, everything goes slow and by increments like you just said a little bit here a little bit there and that's what I always say to a few minutes a day keeps the clutter away or the chaos away, you do every day, a little bit.

And what what goes on on the outside goes on on the inside and vice versa so you can you can by doing these actions that you just said. It helps you on the inside to feel better and then because you feel better you can in turn again do the outside things like maybe a little bit better a little bit more. And it's the same with decluttering so I you know I'm sorry I always find correlations to be cluttering everywhere because it's, it starts, all with the brain and it starts with taking action and doing a little bit, even if it's even if we think like, Oh, this doesn't that sure doesn't help like I hear that a lot. Five minutes a day decluttering sure doesn't help at all and I'm like always, if you do five minutes a day over a period of time, it sure helps, and for sure more than not doing anything. And it's probably the same with you and you help your clients know every little tiny brave thing will add up and over time they will look back and be all surprised.

Alex Ray
Like even. I like to think about a few just improved 1%, just one percent today, which, like, five minutes I don't know what percent of the day that is but like....

Conny Graf
me either I should calculate that!

Alex Ray
like let's say it gives you 1% less clutter, over a year, that's 300%, well 365%

Conny Graf
... yes, and it's probably more because it starts to compound it starts to take momentum, the ball - the fingure speak ball, starts to be rolling so it's probably going to be more, but if you don't start with that little tiny step, it will not do anything.

Alex Ray
Right. Yeah. What do you usually tell your clients to help them get that first, like, Oh, are you kidding me I have to do five minutes while I'll do that tomorrow, what do you what do you tell them to get them to do it today.

Conny Graf
Well, so, first of all, it's always like there has to be a willingness to do anything like if somebody is not willing to do anything then it's really hard to help. But so I say well then you do one minute, just do something, make it so ridiculously small, that there is no excuse to not do it, then you do 30 seconds. Do something. And and so that's for example how I started with meditation too. I gave myself permission to just do one minute if need be. I just do one minute. The goal was 10 minutes, but if need be, I do one minute so I tell my clients Okay, try to declutter everyday a little bit 15 minutes will be nice, especially if you have, like, a goal or a lot of clutter but if you can only do one minute and you do one. And start somewhere, easy don't start with the difficult things that you have a lot of emotional attachment start with the obvious stuff.

We all have obvious stuff that can be decluttered or organized by sometimes it's not even about getting letting go of things sometimes it's just about figuring out where the home should be for that item and then getting in a habit of putting it there, instead of just leaving it here "for now".

Alex Ray
I just need to take my laundry out of the damn dryer and hang it up, that's what I need to do.

Conny Graf
Exactly. So now, how about every time you walk by your dryer, you take one piece out and hang it up....

Alex Ray
Oh good idea...

Conny Graf
...make it ridiculously small so that you actually have no excuse to not do it, and then work from there. It's basically the same message you have for your clients with the bravery, you know, clearly,

Alex Ray
but it always helps to have somebody else telling you.

Conny Graf
Of course, of course, didn't we just have that discussion before we turn the microphone on that is sometimes easier to take advice from other people than from ourselves, even though we actually don't want to be told what to do. We still want to be told what to do.

Alex Ray
You're not the boss of me but tell me again, what am I supposed to do?

Conny Graf
Yeah, exactly. It's so funny. The human brain is so funny. Yeah, well, Alex, this has been really awesome. Do you have any last words of wisdom or a tip you would want to share or did I not ask anything that you feel like you need to get off your chest.

Alex Ray
I think if we were just gonna tie, like, one last beautiful bow around bravery and decluttering and that chaos is like, Yes, you're going to have fear around it. And exactly what Conny said of not overwhelming yourself with so much, and allow yourself to just feel terrible about it and do it anyway. That's the best thing because it helps you also in the long run, to develop confidence in your ability that you can keep doing it. Because if you've put away the one thing from the dryer, right, like I'm gonna have to go do that now. I did the one thing, I could do one more, I could do one more and then you know in a week I'll be putting the whole load away

Conny Graf
You may also think like well if I'm here already I could also take three items out of it or five items you know it doesn't take that much longer than one, whatever. Whatever works, you sometimes have to trick yourself. Well this was really awesome Alex thank you so much for being so open and sharing your story with us. I'm pretty sure this is going to help a lot of people also for them to hear that there is a way out of fear and anxiety and there is a way out of hard times. So where can people find you if they want to reach out to you if somebody feels like I need to talk with Alex where can they find you.

Alex Ray
I try to keep it really easy if you search "Coach Alex Ray, anywhere I'll come up so https://www.coachalexray.com, Coach Alex Ray on Instagram and Facebook those are the only ones that I use.

Conny Graf
That's good

Alex Ray
I don't have Tik Tok, I don't use it I don't even have the app so don't don't look for me on Tik Tok.

Conny Graf
Okay, I don't think, I don't know, I don't want to assume but I don't think my audience is on Tik Tok because I'm not. Thank you very much Alex and I want to end with this I want to say like when I saw your website and your name, your name is like a ray of sunshine to me and when you look at your website that too, and I wanted to say that because that's the thought that came up for me, when I saw it.

Alex Ray
Thank you. it means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

Conny Graf
Thank you, thanks for being here. Thank you, bye bye.


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