By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
One of my favorite quotes is the title of Brene Brown’s recent book, “Dare Greatly” and comes from the following excerpt of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910:
“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 of 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 have to say that I absolutely love this quote and the way it talks about how we may fail and fail again while we are on our way to success. What a helpful reminder to those of us (like me) who struggle with making mistakes and with placing ourselves in a daring spot in the arena.
I’ve been reflecting this week on many things including how we let go of things that do not serve us, such as our expectations of ourselves. I believe part of that process is letting go of our pasts and expectations of ourselves by moving into greater daring positions in our day to day life. It’s almost impossible to stay rooted in our heads when we are working towards a new challenge and opportunity.
I also believe that working on our self-care, self-compassion, unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and the way we think about ourselves and the world are dramatically important in allowing ourselves to surrender and then step into the power of vulnerability through daring greatly. Often, I find my greatest opportunities for growth in my life have come from entering into challenging situations and allowing myself to surrender to them while allowing them to mold me into a different, stronger version of myself.
One particular example of how I impaired my own success by my expectations and thoughts about myself comes from an experience I had running (eh, perhaps more jogging or walking at times) several years ago. The truth about me is that I truly have never enjoyed running, even during my high school soccer and tennis days. Running for me has been a chore and something that I did either because I had to for a team or because I thought it was the best way to become more physically fit. Beyond just running though, I have always been someone who struggled with being athletic… not fast enough, can barely throw and catch, clumsy, afraid of heading the ball in soccer. You get the idea. So, pretty early on I think I interpreted all of this to mean that there are just certain things I can’t do – most being physical things of course since that is a big area of challenge for me. With that background, I’ll return to my story about running a few years ago. After I took on the challenge of walking in the breast cancer 3 Day walk in San Diego in 2007, I honestly could not stomach the idea of walking for a while! This led me to dive into training myself to run again. The interesting part of it was that I actually enjoyed the process and pushing myself further each time I ran. After a while, I somehow had gotten into the habit of running for 30 minutes at a time, which for me is quite an accomplishment so I was pretty happy about it. Interestingly though, I found myself habitually stopping at the 30 minute mark and not pushing myself any further. Somewhere in my head I had decided that was all I could do. One day I took a chance and kept going… I believe I ran for about ten more minutes pretty successfully! I still remember having this huge moment of clarity where I thought, “imagine what I could do if I got out of my own way.” A light bulb went off in my head and I realized just how much my thoughts and expectations of myself could limit me.
This moment still stands out to me because I think we all chronically believe different things about ourselves that can be so self-fulfilling and self-defeating and we rarely take the time to challenge those thoughts. In the spirit of taking on great challenges and “daring greatly,” I think we all need to take some time to evaluate our thoughts, preconceived notions, and expectations for ourselves to identify where we might be holding ourselves back without even realizing it! Once we see some of those areas, I think it is easier to push ourselves to step into the arena, make some mistakes, but at least be fighting rather than leaving ourselves on the sidelines of our lives.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments section!
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