The Man In The Arena

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, and brave, but still not impenetrable. 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, or 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 other people’s disapproval.

At times like these, I want you to read and reflect on the excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, "Citizenship In A Republic," delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.

This famous quote is more commonly known today as "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 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.”


I say pin it, print it, frame it, or have it tattooed (hey, Miley and Liam did!), just put it somewhere you could easily see or have access to and read it whenever you feel judged or criticized.

"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, we sometimes feel that critics are everywhere all the time. If they are those people who are just merely fast enough to point their fingers not fully knowing the struggle and pain of trying and doing, then their opinions mustn't count.

"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 Brené Brown put it in her TED talk“Unless you are also in the arena, then I’m not interested in your opinion.” One of the things that I love about this quote is that it characterizes the braveness and vulnerability of putting yourself or 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 say it all, to not even try, to not do anything because of the fear of failing, is in itself, already defeat.

It reminds me of another TED talk I've watched by Leticia Gasca, where she said, “Don't fail fast, fail mindfully.” It teaches us to make every failure of great value, to make every failure worth it. Let us fail mindfully, and let us fail while daring greatly.

So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by critics, just take a deep breath, Inhale. Exhale. Are they in the arena? No? Then their opinions don’t count.

Remember why you do what you do - “...so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” | B