“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
The above quote is at the heart of Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.
Dr. Brown is a woman, mother, wife, daughter, storyteller, and revolutionary researcher who investigates what it means to be human and provides tools for how to be the best damn human you can be.
She wraps language around thousands of pieces of research that dive into the essence of humanity—shame, fear, love, courage, kindness, compassion, empathy, and vulnerability. With over 50 million views, Dr. Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most-viewed TED Talks.
In the 21 minutes that she is on stage, you can’t help but surrender into the truths that she speaks. You nod your head. You wait for more. You feel lighter and more understood when the conversation ends. You breathe a sigh of relief at the beauty of being human and the permission that was just granted to be such.
Through her research, she discovers that belonging to yourself is one of the most important values of living a wholehearted life. In this interview with Marie Forleo and their conversation about Braving the Wilderness, Brené changed my life with the following words:
“Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong, because you will always find it. Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you are not enough, because you will always find it. Our worth and our belonging are not negotiated with other people. We carry those inside of our hearts…I will not negotiate who I am. If I negotiate who I am for you, I may fit in with you, but I no longer belong to myself…And that is a betrayal I am not willing to do anymore.”
Here’s what I think:
I am the one in the arena getting my ass kicked. I am under pressure from so many different areas, and life is giving me experiences you may know nothing about. And if you are not offering your loving support, you can see yourself to the door.
For so many years, I allowed people to yell at me from the cheap seats about all the ways I was doing it wrong or how I wasn’t good enough. Especially when it came to how I parented and loved my daughters. I took what they said to heart, changed my method of action, and lost my way. This left me depressed, exhausted, and shamed. It was a shallow way of living, rooted in fear.
I found my way back to myself by setting boundaries and listening to the voice within that said “not this.” I now explicitly trust that voice. If she tells me no, I do not spend my time justifying my choices—“no” is a complete sentence. I spend that energy on trying new adventures and creating the life I desire.
Boundaries are what allow me to love myself and you simultaneously. Your happiness and comfort are not my responsibility. That means that if and when we have difficult conversations where we expose some unpleasant things, making you feel better about it is not my responsibility. I will not blur my lines to fit in with you. I will not lose myself again. I will, however, take accountability for showing up to that party with love, compassion, kindness, courage, vulnerability, and empathy.
Our hearts are truth-tellers. When we can settle into our light and spirit, we are led to a life that is filled with healthy connection, love, reciprocity, freedom, and purpose. We open the portal to our hearts when we feel safe. We feel safe when we walk away from situations that drain us and from people who continually hurt us. We stop hustling for our worth and we know our value.
We don’t allow the critics in the cheap seats to hurl insults at us (disguised as loving support).
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I do not allow anyone to hypocritically point out my faults and flaws. I do not allow anyone to make me feel inferior. I own that I am human. I own my experiences. My “wrong choices” help provide direction to where I want to go.
So, in my arena of life, I am getting my ass kicked daily. So are you. We are failing time and time again. But we still show up. We try again and again.
We must no longer allow the boo’s from the crowd to bring us down. They’re people who are allowed inside take a seat and enjoy the show. We may laugh and cry together. We’ll experience life together. We love each other, but we will no longer make one another feel less than so that we can feel more than.
My next step into loving my life and myself is to not allow my own asshole critic (ego) to take hold, to listen to her tell me all the ways I am not good enough. She is not in the arena with me. Her face is not marred with the dust and sweat of the hard work. She can sit down, shut up, eat the popcorn, and honor my badassery—because while she is filled with fear, the me in the arena is filled with faith and knowing.