Cultivating Bravery with Caroline Paul


Interested in learning how to de-condition away from fear and towards bravery? According to Caroline Paul, girls are socialized to be fearful instead of brave – and it’s not doing us any favors. As one of the first women in the SF Fire Department and author of the children’s book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, Caroline has great insights on the relationship between being adventurous and being creative.

Caroline talks about how interacting with nature can help us cultivate bravery, and shares powerful insights on the relationship between fear and exhilaration. She also does a fantastic job of breaking down the cultural rituals between men and women, which can help explain why women sometimes feel uncomfortable in male-dominated workplaces.

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

Highlighted Excerpt

Majo: Why do you think parents are protecting girls more than boys.

Caroline: I think it’s because they believe we are inherently weaker on all these different levels.

Majo: One counter-argument could be: Well, isn’t the world more dangerous for girls and women? I mean there are stats like, one in four women are assaulted on college campuses… we’re seeing stats like that…

I think about my own mother who was always a little afraid for me, because she felt that the world really was and would be harder for me.

Caroline: The thing about offering girls fear instead of bravery in situations, is that fear doesn’t give you anywhere to go. Bravery doesn’t mean you’re gonna walk down that dark alley, but what it’s gonna do is when you’re out there as a young woman and you seea dark alley, you will have had all the tools to assess the situation. So you have all these lessons that you’ve learned as a kid about making decisions – good decisions. Not based on fear, but based on courage.

What we offer girls now is overwhelming fear. That’s it.

Majo: You wrote your children’s book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure… Did you write it in mind for girls and their parents?

Caroline: I wrote it really for girls, ages seven to– well, just before puberty. I really wanted to talk to that age group, because that’s the age when I think girls are most open to this idea of going outside to learn these lessons of bravery and courage, like resilience, focus, and a healthy relationship to your own body and to other people…

But it turns out that girls of all ages like the book. I’ve gotten letters from women who have said that they want to learn to be more brave. And that’s the thing about bravery – is that it is learned.

Show Notes:

  • Growing up as the shy twin: how being an identical twin uniquely shaped Caroline growing up. [4:52]
  • Discussing the research on girls during the pivotal pre-teen years, and what that time was like for Caroline. [9:39]
  • College years, being baffled by the idea of careers and what she wanted to do, and how she came to be one of the first women at SF Fire Department. [13:32]
  • Caroline shares about the early difficulties of working in such a male-dominated field, and the different cultural rituals between men and women. [19:35]
  • Being the first to volunteer for things, striving to out-brave the men and the backlash that came with that, and the different flavors of bravery. [26:25]
  • On why parents protect girls more than boys, and the revelation Caroline’s mother had that led her to encourage her daughters to be more adventurous. [29:24]
  • On Caroline’s book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. [32:09]
  • How we begin the process of de-conditioning ourselves away from fear: Caroline’s advice to practice bravery in small steps, and her powerful final thoughts. [35:08]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).


Caroline's website

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure

Caroline’s TED Talk: “To raise brave girls, encourage adventure”

Caroline’s New York Times Op-Ed: “Why do we teach girls that it’s cute to be scared?”


by Lucia Lilikoi

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