Last Monday I introduced one of the books that made my “short stack” to bring with me on my writing retreat. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. (Here’s a good review by Margarita Tartakovsky, an Associate Editor at Psych Central: “Three Myths About Vullnerability.” Tartakovsky has a regular blog at Psych Central called “Weightless,” which is about body image issues.)
So, this morning, after watching a beautiful, cloudy sunrise here at Seagrove Beach, I began my journey to learn more about how vulnerability can change my life. It’s not that I haven’t already been living a fairly courageous and transparent life, because I’ve really been trying. Really. But those nagging fears and waves of self-doubt sometimes hold me back. People who don’t know me well will be surprised to hear me say that, because I present a self-confident image to the world. I crave excitement and adventure. I’m a risk-taker. And that combination sometimes looks like courage.
But close friends and those who have been reading my blog for awhile know that it’s just a mask. And that I’m always seeking ways to remove the mask and embrace the authentic person behind it. One of those people is my Goddaughter, Katherine Thames, who emailed me about this book a couple of weeks ago. Her husband, Hardy, is reading it, and she picked it up and thought about me. Thoughtful people, Katherine and Hardy.
The phrase, Daring Greatly, is from Theodor Roosevelt’s speech, “Citizenship in a Republic,” from 1910. Brown opens her book with this excerpt from that speech. For greatest impact, I recommend reading these words aloud:
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 whoa the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….
*Standing ovation.* I face fear of failure every time I sit at my computer and write. Every time I submit an essay for publication. With every query I send to literary agents hoping for representation for my novel. And even when a gift comes my way—like this invitation to submit an essay for inclusion in The Shoe Burnin’ Anthology, and the opportunity to read from that essay at the literary and musical venue from which it takes its name (this coming Saturday in Waterhole Branch, Alabama, just outside Fairhope)—even now I struggle to believe I am worthy of the request. A photographer will be there to record the event for a magazine article. Audio recordings of our readings will happen. I’m pretty sure videography will be involved. I am not only anxious about my essay (is it any good?) but also my appearance. I’ve been shopping and bought two new outfits for the weekend—ones that I hope make me look skinny, of course. But also clothes that I feel express something about who I am as an artist, and as a woman. (The name of my essay for the anthology is “Dressing the Part: What I Wore For Love.”) I’ve got an appointment to get my hair done at a salon in Seaside before driving over on Friday. And then, with my courage strapped on, I will enter the arena. (Art is by Erin Smith at erinsmithart.com. I bought these coasters at The Zoo Gallery in Grayton Beach yesterday.)
Brown writes about entering the arena in the introduction to her book:
When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that ma not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our back on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make…. We must walk into the arena… 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’m going to be posting some of my reflections on this book for several upcoming Mondays, so stay tuned. And as always, I’d love to here from you. Please leave a comment here or on my Facebook link.