The (Wo)Man In The Arena

“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, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Excerpt from “Citizenship In A Republic”
delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

Thank Teddy, couldn’t have said it better.

My parents had this philosophy with me while I was growing up. They both stressed the importance of getting up after you fall, not caving in when it comes to your personal well-being and reminding me it doesn’t matter if you get your ass beat as long as you stood up for what you believe in (figuratively and physically) because that shows courage.

So, before I read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly novel, entering the arena actually meant going into battle. I’d enter the arena prepared to defend myself against whatever I was faced up against.

Now, imagine the uncomfortableness that washed over me when Brené Brown uses this same philosophy as a metaphor for emotional development. Like what? You want me to enter the arena vulnerable with no defense strategy and only protect myself with the strength of ‘being seen for who I am,” and the internal feeling of self confidence to battle through tough situations.

My first thought? This is how ‘people’ heal? GTFO. This is how people get crushed and then take years to recover. Nope! Not for me!

And then I kept reading…

For over two decades I have spent time and effort perfecting my battle strategies to keep me strong and brave in the eyes of my opponent. This arena (when I picture it) looks like the Roman Collosuem and my strategy mimics that dance matador and bull performed back in the day, meaning the victory is never given to the bull. I am victorious each time.

This arena is actually a battleground. Brené Brown’s arena is filled with only you and all of your worst thoughts, emotions, and uncomfortableness. The battle is not being fought with anyone else but yourself, and honestly, I’d rather the bull.

Yesterday I woke up frustrated with just about everything going on in life. I started to rehash old arguments where I’d say all the things I wanted to say, began to convince myself this ‘need to connect with others’ was complete bullshit, overrated, and only for pussies, while also imagining how I could blow up every relationship I’m in now so that I could finally succeed at being left the fuck alone.

Oh yeah, and then I was frustrated by the relationships I wish I had with my brother and sister. I spiraled through this angry chaos, happily. Because this is comfortable.

I even called my Mom to vent knowing she’d listen to me bitch, ask me one question that indirectly puts the blame on myself, to then spending the rest of the convo to vent her own problems (and ignore mine) so that when I’d hang up, I’d have good reason to be fucking angry.

Messed up, right? I set myself up to be angry because it’s comfortable. SMDH

The hardest transition I’m ever going to have to do is redecorate my arena, and repainting those blood-stained walls is going to take more than remembering Teddy’s quote.

So what’s the point of this blog, what does it do for you? I’m hoping some of you reading also struggle with vulnerability and not wanting to ‘be seen’ as incapable of going into battle (physically). That you can relate to my struggle and find the courage to also figure out how to de-armor yourself despite the many years it took to build it.

I want to end with another quote I read yesterday that spoke to me and my need to constantly feel like I need to protect myself from everything. This quote from Viola Davis gave me another perspective.

“They tell you to develop a thick skin so things don’t get to you. What they don’t tell you is that your thick skin will keep everything from getting out, too. Love, intimacy, vulnerability.

“I don’t want that. Thick skin doesn’t work anyore. I want to be transparent and translucent. For that to work, I won’t own other people’s shortcomings and crticisms. I won’t put what you say about me on my load.”

I owe it to myself to let in love, intimacy AND vulnerability. There’s no way to let in only one, you’ve got to own ALL of it in order to enjoy it.

Now to keep up with my promise to practice gratitude to fight my tendency to forbode joy: Currently feeling grateful that I woke up in time (forgot to set my alarm) to go for my routine morning run with my puppies. What are you feeling grateful for? Tell me in the comments. 

Cultivate it.

I play better on Instagram than Facebook but regardless, come be my friend online. RamblinRandol is my personal journey about understanding myself more with the hopes it’ll help someone else in the twenty-something/pushing thirty struggles.

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Shannon Randol

Sharing life and what's helped me grow through what I've gone through.

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