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 best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
— Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
If you’ve heard at all about Brené Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly, you’ve probably heard this quote. Ever since reading the book it’s been swimming around in my head. We enter the arena in so many different ways, each day. When we share our truest selves with someone else, or when we put our art into the world, we are daring greatly.
It’s easy to get hurt, when you make yourself vulnerable in some way. We protect our hearts by pre-rejecting ourselves, not stepping up to participate at times. I almost did that this weekend, for an exhibition submission that was out of my comfort zone. I took a deep breath and submitted anyway. We protect ourselves by apologizing in advance. In order to avoid the hurt of someone else criticize us, we apologize for the things we fear.
I see this all of the time in online sharing. “So sorry,” someone will write, “Just one more shot of fill-in-the-blank. I promise.” I hear that as fear. Fear of bothering other people with something we love. Maybe fear of abandonment. As if everyone will completely desert the artist for sharing just one more image of something he or she is passionate about. Apologizing gives an out. So if someone says, “Yeah, I was getting tired of seeing fill-in-the-blank,” we are armored up and ready to hear it. It confirmed our fears. That may not be why they write those words, but I identify with them, and see my own fear reflected. I see myself in them, wanting to apologize for sharing just one more image of trees, or scooters, or whatever I’m really excited about at the time.
But here’s the deal… The passion someone has for what they do is usually what draws us to them in the first place. We resonate and reflect that passion back. It inspires us. It’s fun to see.
I don’t think we should ever apologize for sharing something we are passionate about. I think we need to take a deep breath and stand tall and say, “Here I am and this is what I love. When I share this, I am sharing part of who I am.” It’s time to dare greatly, and stop apologizing, stop pre-rejecting ourselves and stop all of the other little things we do to keep ourselves safe. If someone stomps on that, after you’ve nursed your hurt a little bit, I encourage you to look very closely at where it came from. Treat the person who stomped on you with compassion: It’s probably their own issue; their own fears talking.
So what is it you would do or share, if you wiped away your fear? What is it that makes you feel like you are daring greatly, putting yourself out there? For me, it’s submitting to an exhibition outside of my comfort zone. Or agreeing to do something that puts me in the public eye. Or maybe, just maybe, sharing a tree image for the hundredth time.
But one thing I’m not going to do anymore… I’m not going to apologize for what I love to create and share.
One of my activities this weekend was to create a gift for the folks who worked on my team on big project I talked about last week. We had an intense and stress-filled few months, right up to the deadline last Thursday, and they gave it their all. I had shared the “daring greatly” quote with them a couple of months ago, and decided to make these framed prints as a gift to give them at our celebration lunch today. I had no idea I that the art I’ve been creating these last couple of months that would look so good with a quote on them! I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. These 8x8inch frames are available in a 4-pack at Michaels and were perfect for simply finishing the prints. This is another great example of why I love to be able to print my own work.