Of Critics and Vulnerability
Inhale, Exhale. "Take a deep breath”,you remind yourself as panic starts to seep through the holes of your metal armor. You are strong, bold, brave, but you are still not impenetrable. and maybe it’s good to be that way. As a creative, you are vulnerable. Putting your work out there for the world to see is no easy task.
This is for you who gets eaten up by anxiety whenever you have to face the result of putting yourself or your work out there - being seen. And I don’t mean this in the physical aspect. Being seen, opening up your thoughts, your words, your art, for others to see and experience brings you to a whole new level of visibility. It’s liberating, it’s raw, it’s exciting, and it’s scary.
Scared. Why do you feel scared? Because being seen entails being judged. Despite the armor made up of the knowledge that “You cannot please everybody” and “Not everyone can be my tribe.”, at the end of the day when it’s just you and your thoughts, you still find yourself getting affected by the thought of other people’s disapproval.
At times like these, I want you to read and reflect on the famous quote from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech. Read the quote, more commonly known as "The Man in the Arena” below:
"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
I say print it, frame it, have it tattooed (hey, Miley and Liam did!), just put it somewhere you could easily see or have access to whenever you feel judged or criticized.
Let’s take a better look at it:
"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.
In this age of social media and digital consumerism, critics are everywhere, all the time. If these critics are those people merely fast enough to point their fingers, not fully knowing the struggle and pain of trying and doing, then their opinions mustn't count. If one’s intention however is to add value and lesson, then those are opinions you can consider, otherwise, you don’t have to listen to what they have to say.
"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…”
As Brene Brown put it in her TED talk, “Unless you are also in the arena, …. then I’m not interested in your opinion.”
What I also love about this quote is that it characterizes the braveness and vulnerability of putting yourself/your work out there or "being in the arena”: to strive to do the deeds, to spend yourself 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
Those words says it all, to not even try, to not do anything because of the fear of failing, is in itself, already failing.
So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by critics, just take a deep breath, Inhale. Exhale. Are they in the Arena? No? Then they don’t count.
Remember why you are doing what you do - “...so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.