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 shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself on 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
I read a book this summer that changed my life. It taught me that the courage to be vulnerable is everything, and how to tell myself that I am enough.
I know, it sounds silly and sappy. But, I promise you, Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, is anything but silly. It’s 100% no-bullshit. And if you’re willing and ready to listen, it’s not easy to read.
The premise of the book, and Brown’s research, is based off the Roosevelt quote above. Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher (you can see her TEDtalk here). She argues that vulnerability is “at the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences.”
Our willingness to be vulnerable and take chances (or as Roosevelt says: “daring greatly”) is the key to living fully. It could be daring to love someone or yourself, to let go, to speak out, to listen to others or yourself, to be creative, or to make a life changing decision. We can’t wait until we’re “bullet proof” or “perfect” to do anything because those qualities don’t exist. When we wait for unattainable standards, we end up missing out on real relationships and key opportunities.
When you dare, you chance to fall. Brown doesn’t shy away from that.
In fact, the potential shame connected to failing is what prevents all of us from being vulnerable. But we need to let it go. We need to have the courage to tell ourselves, I am enough, and know that regardless of what happens.
Many of us (including myself) sit on the sidelines hurling insults, judgment, and advice at those in Roosevelt’s arena to make ourselves feel better about our own shame. Instead, we need to walk into the arena too, heads high, and “dare to be seen.” Then, we need to selectively listen to criticism. My favorite line:
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
I kept thinking about that line during the “nasty woman” craze. This is what we meant: Hillary Clinton is the gold standard for daring greatly. She has been in the biggest arena her whole life. She’s been smacked down again, and again, and again. And yet somehow, she still gets back on her feet – with elegance – every. single. time. That’s pretty stinking inspiring. If I can be half as vulnerable as her, my life will be a success.
It’s the season of gratitude, so I was thinking about those I’m thankful for. In that process I noticed many of my friends aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. Then I stopped to think about it and was floored by my realization that: I surround myself with nasty young women.
So, to close, I want to shout out to each of these ladies and let them know how inspiring they are, and how thankful I am for them. I figure writing it here means you can all see it at once (save me some time!).
P.S. – You should also all go read Daring Greatly.
Note: Older nasty women: you’re just as important to me, but I’m saving this space for the youngins. Just know I love you too.
Kelsey: You’re my oldest friend. With you, I’ve always dared. You always let me be whoever and do whatever I want, even early in life when the slightest public discomfort terrified me. Now we’re both “grown” and I am thrilled every day to see you continuously, tenaciously, find ways to improve yourself and your surroundings.
Corrie: You’re the most organized chance taker I’ve ever met. You made the biggest move: to New York to become an actor. And you’re making it work! I never doubted that you would – you’re the queen of opportunity maximization.
Emily: You are so, unapologetically, you. I’ve always been in awe of your ability to own who you are and what you believe in. You’re fiercely independent and building/climbing your own career ladder. You thrive as a nasty woman, and you love every second of it.
Johanna: In the face of uncertainty and setbacks you always push forward. You’ve moved several times in the last few years and you continuously allow yourself to be vulnerable, making new friends again and again.
Mary: Your drive and grit has been a constant inspiration. You listen to your voice and follow it, even when it leads you to Canada on whim. Dream big or go home – that’s always been you.
Kristiana: Lady, you gamble with everything: new job every year, adventures wherever you want, you’re becoming a yoga instructor(!). You never settle for anything less than what makes you happy, even when it means you have to work harder than any other person I know.
Kaitlin: I don’t even know how to sum up how strong you are. You might be the most incredible woman (person, really) I’ve ever met. You refuse to let anything diffuse your optimism or drive you off course. When you know what you want, you go for it. I’m so proud of you for going back to school.
Kendra: All through college you motivated me to take chances with you. Then you moved to South Africa to teach (talk about daring). You came home, and knowing that D.C. was calling you, you just moved there with no plan. Look at you now!
And my new friends too!
Bridget: You convinced me to take my first chance in Durango, quitting that job because we both knew I needed to. Then you made a similar jump, leaving the same toxic place and putting all your energy into designing and managing a new bar. You’ve done such an incredible job. You work so hard and it will pay off enormously.
Amanda: You started your own business! And not only is it taking off, but through it you’re bringing together incredible women from everywhere to make a difference. Wild Women’s Project and Bold Brew were both huge gambles, and now you’re reaping the rewards: relish it.
Kelly: You’re making huge changes! You just moved to Durango on a whim and now you’re changing the whole course of your life to follow a new dream because you know, instinctively, that it’s what you need.
Liz: We’re from the same mold (actually, though). Since we met, you’ve inspired me to take chances and make change. You moved here on a daring whim (and traveled for half a year on that same whim) and I truly believe it will pay off.
Nichole: You are so selfishly dedicating your time, energy, and life to better the lives of others (and our community!) through your new nonprofit. It’s incredibly admirable. I’m so excited to be a part of it.