“We believe this fallacy that there are places for dreamers, and it’s probably far away from where you are now … You don’t need to be on a coast or in a big city to create something amazing. You can do it right where you are.”

It’s this idea, stated by Jeff Houghton in a video produced by The Mystery Hour, that serves as an underlying core concept of The Bravery Board.

The Bravery Board, established in 2016, is comprised of four women — Michelle Houghton, Kate Alsup, Jenn Fortner and Lindsay Donaldson — who strive to empower other women through honest conversations about tough topics that allow women the chance to be heard and be vulnerable.

The original founders of the board included Houghton, Alsup and Madison Hedlund, who has since left. Fortner, current member and Houghton’s twin sister who is a licensed counselor, said the conception of the board arose from discussions the women were having about their counseling professions, which resulted in a desire to create something for the community that was wellness-driven.

Along with that, Donaldson said they wanted to create a forum in Springfield that women could be a part of and use to share their experiences and learn from others as well.

The board regularly produces podcasts about topics relating to things they are personally facing at the time, which Donaldson said keeps it “real and relevant.” Their podcasts also feature a variety of special guests.

Their most recent podcast is centered around the need for control and the ways in which those individualized needs have impacted their lives.

“Some of those things may be hard to discuss and talk about,” Fortner said. “But I think we see our vulnerability inspiring other people to come out and talk about the things that they’re grappling and struggling with themselves.”

Quarterly gatherings, which take place at Eurasia Coffee & Tea, are another way the board works to connect women in the community through speakers and discussions with one another.

“I think it is way too easy nowadays — especially with how connected we are all the time via technology — to feel really lonely in our own experience,” Donaldson said. “A thread that runs through our podcasts and gatherings would be vulnerability in terms of the mask for that pretense of ‘I’ve got everything together.’ We try to pull that away and ask the question, ‘OK, what’s really going on here?’”

When searching for guest speakers, Donaldson said they try to find people who can bring knowledge about certain topics to conversations they can’t.

Though each member has a versatile range of titles including counselor, speaker, writer, attorney, pastor, artist, musician and humanitarian, Donaldson said the difference in educational experiences allows for two different approaches.

“We’ve definitely invited our fair share of therapists, counselors and psychiatrists,” Donaldson said. “Their ability to speak with incredible emotional intelligence is a great asset at the gatherings.”

Donaldson referred to a book by author Shauna Niequist titled “Present Over Perfect.” One chapter, Donaldson said, challenges the idea that we are powerless to create the life we want, but instead encourages the notion that gradually, one decision at a time, it is possible to live a life we love.

Donaldson said this type of mentality is what they want women to feel through their podcasts and gatherings — the idea that “incrementally you can create a life that you do love, and it does make you happy, and you don’t have to feel alone on the journey.”

As the latest member to join, Donaldson said she was floored when Houghton asked her to join the board; she’d initially placed them on a pedestal she said she felt she could not reach because she saw them as creative and successful women who always had it together.

Instead of letting that be a reason to shy away, Donaldson decided to view it as an opportunity to surround herself with women who have achieved things she hopes to one day.

“They are just normal women with great days, terrible days and everything in between,” Donaldson said.

The board has an upcoming gathering on June 1 about the lie of inadequacy which will feature speakers Kesha Alexander and Donaldson.

For more information about The Bravery Board, including how to access their podcasts, visit www.thebraveryboard.com.

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