If you’ve been following my writing for a while now it’s not news to you that I quote Brene Brown often. Brene’s research on shame is groundbreaking. Early on in my reading of her work Brene quoted FDR. The quote is:
“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.”
To me this quote says it all, summing up what I’ve been writing about for quite some time. I’ve written to you over and over again that you get to decide the value of your own life. That others have a way of pressing their opinions and beliefs against you to question your own value. That you often speak to yourself in a way you would not speak to a friend. And that there are people out there who are either in the ring with you or the critic outside of the ring.
Living the Best Life for You
Don’t you see? Trying to live your best life, despite what happens to you, what you achieve, or buy is where authentic self-love is born. It’s a roaring fire stronger than any blaze outside of the ring, yet the chants of those in the stands still try to drown it out. The crowd on the outside can be actual people or false, limiting beliefs you’ve imposed on yourself. The trick here is to know that while you may have thought your biggest vulnerability is your weaknesses, it is to know you are not your weaknesses and that you are powerful beyond belief. Not to be too sappy here but love and truth do conquer all.
As a society, there are two classes of people. There are the ones who see you are in the ring and applaud your effort, cheering you on. Then there are the ones mocking you, criticizing you, and being all-around lazy. Because the crowd can be so loud, we often tune out the noise from inside the ring, which makes us think the crowd will overcome us. But the only way that it is possible to let the outside crowd overcome us is to consciously allow them to. Really.
A long time ago I was gifted with the phrase “opinions are like assholes, everybody has them.” I was offended the first time I heard this. Everyone’s opinion matters! Fast forward about a decade and I’ll tell you clearly, nope, they certainly don’t. The only opinion that really matters is your own. The only outside opinions you should even consider are from those who not only love you fully but are also there when you fall in the ring and are there to wipe the blood and sweat from your face. They will not take the war over for you but they will step into the ring so you can succeed.
Accepting Genuine Offers of Help
I used to believe that a large part of my worth came from doing everything myself. To not be vulnerable. To handle shit. This past fall, however, as I crawled into grief, absorbed by PTSD & divorce, the most incredible thing happened. My family crawled into the ring and nursed me back to health. I was not in a position to turn help away yet time after time as they injected loving care into me I grew stronger. I felt love again. I felt OK not being perfect and held as I healed.
I also learned that leaning on people can be safe and that there are also people who are not safe. This brings me back to the FDR quote. As I’ve been writing to you over these past six months I’ve been trying to articulate the importance of taking good emotional care of yourself, setting boundaries, and choosing the life you want. To let anyone and anything keeping you from this burn to the ground. The critics in the stand need to burn down. While their voices may be loud, they have no value. You, my love, have plenty of value. If someone is tearing you down and has spent no time supporting you without judgment, taking them out of your life opens up space for the people who will join you in the ring. I promise.
I know this is not easy. I’ve personally lost my marriage and all but a few members of my dad’s family to my divorce. I didn’t want to let my family go and yet I knew I would not stand for bigotry, sexism, narcissism, and judgment. Hard lines for me. As I set these boundaries and lost a family of quantity, I gained a family of quality. Of the few family members that stayed, they honored me and where I was in the ring. By allowing myself to see clearly who is in the ring and who is in the stands I’m able to surround myself with people who honor the love I have for myself and reflect it back. I do the same for them.
Fight for Joy but Learn from Sorrow
We are all only given this one wild and precious life. It will hold many battles and many joys. You cannot walk upon this earth without experiencing both. But so long as you believe that you are worthy of self-love joy will win every time. To be kind you need not invite every person you meet into the ring. Be honest and kind with yourself first, then choose wisely. Know that your value and worth are important above all else. Should a critic become offended at your boundary, voice, needs, or vision, well… that is not your fucking problem. It’s theirs.
If you are trying to live a life where you are true to yourself and kind to others you are cultivating the sword and shield you need for the battle of life. Wield it wisely my loves. You get to decide how your story ends.