I just listened to a talk by Brené Brown where she quotes a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:
“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.”
And something clicked. You see, I have been thinking a lot about my “lack of self-confidence”. Thinking that, to have a great life, the next necessary step is to have more self-confidence. I know that I’m under-selling myself sometimes. Not putting myself out there enough, not marketing myself and my work enough, not sharing with the world what I do enough, not going for it enough. Seeing myself as too quiet, too humble, too soft. Taking too much time, being too scared.
And then I got it. Thinking of the times I opened another email of rejection. At an art festival, when I stood in my empty booth for hours, while the artist in the booth next to me was rocking it. When I shared my feelings only to see the person in front of me look away. When I arrived in a new city and felt so lost and lonely I was paralyzed. Am I scared? Yes. Do I wish I could show up and slay, with high-heels pumps and wild locks like Beyonce? You bet.
Should I tremble and sweat and cry less? Should I speak louder, stand taller, laugh harder?
Sometimes I feel way far from "having what it takes to be successful". Not in terms of talent or dedication. In terms of dazzling talks and go-getter determination.
In those times, this is what I tell myself: in the end, what matters is not how many times I missed the shot and how badly I stumbled. Not even how many people goggled at my clumsy attempts. What matters is that I showed up. That I showed up, took that trip, painted that painting, shared that post, said what I felt, took that chance. And if I stuttered and hesitated and sweated and lowered my gaze for a moment, so be it. And if I felt the hot sting of embarrassment, oh well. What matters is not whether I met that imaginary standard of “enough self-confidence”. What matters is that I didn’t let that perceived lack of self-confidence keep me from trying. I step into the arena and face my biggest opponent: myself and my judgements.
I got it: the critic that Roosevelt is talking about is MYSELF.
With time I might learn how to do it more gracefully, with a samurai-like self-control. Or I might always be scared. I might be like Henry Fonda, throwing up every time before going on stage until I'm seventy-five. What matters is I get on that damn stage every time. And maybe the world will remember me. Maybe not. Maybe I will be Russell Crowe standing triumphant, proudly facing my destiny. Maybe I will be the poor dude choking in his own blood (yeah, I’m going for Gladiator movie references). One thing for sure, I won’t be the one sitting in the crowd eating popcorn (or whatever they were eating in ancient Rome). I will have lived daring greatly.
PS: Brené Brown talk: Why Your Critics Aren't The Ones Who Count - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk&index=4&list=LL6g3RP9nj0UUNHBNUsEoORg