The 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 triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…

– Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic”

Inspiration is a tricky thing– you never know when you’ll give it or receive it.  One can inspire someone by using their influence and abilities, or simply by doing It could be by starting up your boat to go rescue people when your hometown floods, or it could be by working two jobs while supporting your family.






I fully understand the power of hearing words to inspiring the masses.  Hell, Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote about relentlessly seeking happiness is by leaps and bounds my favorite and even inspired this blog…. Brené Brown was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt and wrote “Daring Greatly.”

For me, there are a couple signs of a good book.

  • I actually read it.  My mom once told me that “life’s too short for a bad book.”  This lesson can translate to most aspects of life.
  • This happens:
  • Displaying IMG_5928.JPG
  • And finally, I implement the lessons almost immediately

“Daring Greatly,” by Brené Brown is a gem and a game changer.  Before I write my takeaways, here is the crux of the book, and only the second page:

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement…

We spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect of bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, what-ever it may be- a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation– with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. this is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

I wish I could  write every word of this book and publish it for free, as it is that important of a read. But to put is simply: vulnerability is a strength, and your face should be “marred by dust and sweat and blood” as real winners are people who come “short again and again.”

This book made me strive to use my vulnerabilities as strengths to strive towards a Wholehearted life.

Let’s dive in:

Brené Brown is a PhD, social worker, and shame researcher– you know all the fun stuff to talk about.

Mainly throughout this book, she describes how guilt and shame permeate in all aspects of our lives.  First, the definition, as she states it on page 71.

“Guilt = I did something bad.

Shame = I am bad.”

Like, mind-blown. Several months ago, while visiting my previous therapist in Chicago, I remember him telling me, “It sounds like you felt very shameful about that situation.”  That was the day I realized that I didn’t fully understand the concept of shame… Or rather, simply understand it?

Shame is simple to understand, frankly– Thanks, BrenéHowever, the conceptualization of how this is used in ALL aspects of your lives– that’s the bitch.  Add in how it interacts with guilt– fuck.

Here are my major takeaways:


Whenever I learn something new, especially something as complex as shame and guilt, I always use myself as an experiment. “How do I relate to this?” “How do I project guilt on people?” Etc. etc.

Most insightful people do this… Man in the mirror reference here?

Before you combat shame or “shame resilience” as Brené  would put it, full acceptance of said shame is required.  Damn that therapy I was in for a year surely has paid off.

  • You have to teach yourself that you deserve not to feel shame. You have to love yourself.  I know this all too well, that this is a long journey, yet an important one.
  • Once you’ve decided you deserve to not feel like shit all the time, you need to recognize where you shame yourself, where you say “I am bad.”
  • Then, and finally, combat it!  This is where you’ll have to buy the book and read it, as I know that this is different for everyone!

Others (projection):

Once you realize where your deficiencies are, you need to see where you project this to others.  Do you shame your partner or spouse— what about your children?

This level of self-awareness is a more difficult level of insightfulness, but not always hardest to combat. I know that on days I can treat myself like shit, but I strive to be nicer to Nick. This, of course, isn’t always the case but it really is important to go in order (Start with self, then your loved ones– you can only go backward for so long before you slip up.)


A common theme throughout this book is the idea of “never enough,” and how our culture reinforces unrealistic ideas about perfectionism as it relates to self-fulfillment or success.  This thread is in all aspects of our lives, especially in our workplace.  Given the imbalance of power (money exchanged), it is easy for things such as shame and guilt to permeate a culture.

If you’re reading this and are currently in a work environment that  feels “not right,” or uncomfortable, I’d suggest giving this chapter a read.  Heck, maybe you feel you’re nailing your professional sector– I’d still suggest it!

Brené states, “Blaming, gossiping, favoritism, name-calling, and harassment are all behaviors cues that shame has permeated a culture.”

Of course, it’s easy to see those words and think, “duh those things are bad,” but really think about it… Does your workplace engage in those things? If so, how does that impact your personal journey?

Is your organization giving you the tools to be the best person professionally?  Do you “fit in” or “belong?” These questions are beyond important to analyze. You may learn that you do belong exactly where you are, but have some things to change within your current system– maybe not?  Either way, knowledge is power, and you’re worth advocating for yourself.


While I don’t have children or anticipate  having any within the next many years, I love reading about parenting.  Several years ago, I listened to an interview with Fiona Apple, and she stated she enjoyed reading parenting books, as she likes to think of herself as the child. She thinks of how she would teach her children, then turn the lessons upon herself– oh, how I love that weirdo.

However, I think Fiona is on to something.  The section on parenting  really ties the entire book together for me. It makes me think of myself, my environment (work), and my future (children), and how all areas are intersecting constantly– with ourselves being the core.  There is simply no way around it– we have to become the best version of ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness, and without shame or guilt.

My favorite  lesson from this chapter is the idea of showing your children the expressions on your face, without guilt or shame. Show joy, pain, fear, happiness– everything pure and vulnerable. Teach them it’s OKAY to be…  Or, from Fiona’s perspective: teach myself its okay.

I practice this with myself each day, and with my dogs, and Nick. I try to show up to the arena without  armor  and be vulnerable… because, after all, if I’ve done it right, everyone in there with me will be just as vulnerable and we will all be daring greatly.








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