The (Wo)Man in the Arena

I recently watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special – Call to Courage. Twice. Once on my brene-brown-the-call-to-courage_81010166own, with a few tears and goosebumps and a second time with three of my treasured girl-friends. I’m not sure what category her show fits in to – comedy, drama, self-help, documentary? However, it is essential viewing for anyone on a path to a better understanding of themselves and their community. She has the perfect balance of an academic researcher’s brain and a stand-up comedian’s story-telling ability.
The special covers topics ranging from shame, vulnerability, courage and gratitude. All my favourites! I could probably write 5 blogs from the talk. However, one week on, the moment that is still sitting with me is her talk about Teddy Roosevelt’s quote ‘The Man in the Arena’ (pictured to the right and below in larger format).
She elaborates on how this quote impacted her, after reading a barrage of criticism man in the arenaonline following her highly successful TED talk in 2010. It made the hair on my neck stand up, as she spoke directly to my soul, helping me recognise my struggles with failure and criticism.
It’s not about winning or losing – it’s about showing up and being seen.
Redefining winning is not a new concept, but Brene’s explanation of it sunk in for me. Because the winning is done in the moment you decide to stop caring what other people think, and just follow the path you know is right for you. It’s courageous and hard, but the alternative is eking out an existence that never feels authentic to you.
If you are going to show up and been seen – you are going to get your ass kicked.
Failure is unavoidable. You could go through life never risking failure and never achieving anything that is meaningful to you. But then you’ve failed by default because it is hardly a life worth living. I want to choose the path of courage over comfort
Failure is also the training ground for success. If you learn from your failures, then really it was a lesson. Reframing it to think of failure as an educational part of the trail to triumph, feels like a powerful shift for me.
If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.
This was the kicker that brought it all into focus for me. There are millions of cheap seatsbrene brown arena filled with people watching the arena and hurling their criticisms. So why do we listen to them? They are the cheap seats for a reason – they are all too easy to fill! I am only interested in the opinions of those who are willing to take the brave step into the arena, get covered in sweat and dust and risk triumph or failure while daring greatly. If you haven’t taken that step yourself, then your feedback, even good intentioned feedback, is utterly irrelevant.
I think I’ve dared greatly many times in my life. I’ve switched career paths more often than I can count, I’ve travelled extensively, I’ve been impulsive and risked many things. I’ve had my share of successes and countless failures. My way of living has caused family and friends to critique me at times, question my sense of responsibility or wisdom. And I acknowledge that some of my choices have been lacking in foresight and caused me grief. However, I know that I’ve rarely been in the cheap seats. My face is marred in dust and sweat and blood and I’ve known great enthusiasms and devotions!
There are a few areas of my life that I’ve held back though, for fear of failure and rejection. For fear of being not enough or just too much for some. I’m always one or the other! Brene Brown’s talk feels like a watershed moment for me. I’ll recognise my life as before and after I watched Call to Courage. Similar to how I now see my life as before and after I saw the documentary Embrace, by Taryn Brumfitt and learnt to accept and appreciate my body in all it’s flawesome imperfection. I want to live a life without regrets, risking the epic fails while daring to be bold and courageous, in the arena where all the action happens.
I hope to see you in the arena – it’s got the best view!

man in the arena

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