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Daring greatly: a journey from being the critic to fighting in the arena

Theodore Roosevelt's famous arena quote says:


"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."


As a recovering or ex-perfectionist I can totally relate to this quote. I've been the critic for a long time, and I'm sure everyone has been there.

It's comfortable, it's easy to pass judgement, and it's only possible if the critic hasn't been in that position themselves. Once they have been in those shoes, the criticism dries up I find.

Take parenthood for example - I find it's very easy to pass judgement on other people's parenting, perhaps it's even easier if the critic doesn't have children themselves. I hate to admit it, but I've been there too - being a critic and (in my head) passing judgement on a parent for whatever reason.


In the last 5 years a lot changed. I trained as a therapist, and that left me unhinged. I understood a lot more about how the psyche works and experienced lots of deep conversations and heard stories from clients.

And I started to come to terms with my own story (we'll be here all day if I start writing about this). At the same time my life turned into a direction where I became a parent myself, and found myself in situations which I used to judge. I moved from being the critic to being in the arena. In the middle of it - where you are vulnerable, where you need to fight. Where you really have to be present and you feel alive. Even if you don't know what the outcome is and what is going to happen.


I look at critics now, and feel empathy and compassion. I understand where they are in their journey and that is completely fine with me. I am happy being in the arena, and I much prefer it to the sidelines. Honestly. Took me a long time to get to where I am, and I am under no illusion that this is not the end. It's a journey which may never properly end. And that is OK too.


Where are you right now? Are you a critic or the man in the arena? Or are you somewhere in -between?

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