The Woman in The Arena

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled 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 knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows 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 know neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

I see you, my fellow women in The Arena. Some of you are very public with your purpose, whereas some of you are fighting very private battles. Regardless, I see your strength, your courage, your perseverance, and your resilience. I know your heart, for I too am a woman who chooses to stand in The Arena instead of sitting quietly in the sidelines.

If you’ve read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly or Daring to Lead books, then you’ve probably read this Theodore Roosevelt quote, commonly referred to as “The Man in the Arena.”  This quote has found its way into books, speeches, office decor, Instagram posts, and even on the side of LeBron James’ basketball shoes.  Anyone who dares greatly can surely identify with being “The Man in the Arena.”

I can’t help but think about what it means to be “The Woman in the Arena” in today’s world.  What it feels like to be both…

cheered and jeered…

complimented and criticized…

adored and abhorred…

accepted and rejected…

applauded and boo’ed…

And, not just in person or through print media of 1910, but through TV, radio, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, reaching an audience in every corner of the globe within nanoseconds.

A woman who throws herself into The Arena dares greatly, knowing that she wears her heart on her sleeve, her every move is being scrutinized, that both her successes and failures are just one tweet away from being broadcasted around the world…

So why dare greatly?

I think about several DARING women I know and what has called them into The Arena:

…. the mother who lost her precious son after a 7 year battle with neuroblastoma and continues his legacy, together with his surviving twin sister, by turning September GOLD to raise awareness and funds for pediatric oncology research.

…. the survivor-turned-entrepreneur who has made it her mission to dispel myths and taboos concerning our bodies, sexuality, and human reproduction through Cycles & Sex, a platform for education and empowerment.

…. the fertility warrior and mother of 4 angel babies who has turned her own pain and grief into a community for women who are childless-not-by-choice: .

…. the cancer survivor who found relief in medicinal marijuana while fighting Stage 3 colon cancer and has since made a name for herself as cannabis educator and advocate, specializing in cancer therapies:

…. the journalist and documentary film maker who used her own personal experience of surviving Hurricane Harvey to capture the stories of survival and recovery in West Houston. Her documentary, “Changed: When the Dams Opened,” has raised awareness about the impact of intentional flooding and influenced the attitudes and decisions of local, county, and federal officials.

What do these women have in common?  They each have their own unique story, beginning with a devastating diagnosis or tragedy.  Each found a way to channel their pain, grief, and loss into a newfound purpose– a calling they had never imagined they would covet.  Through their pain and fears, they courageously stepped into The Arena to share their story, fight for their cause, and bring hope and comfort to others.

I often think about my own calling and what keeps drawing me back into The Arena….

If you knew me a child or a teen, you’d know that I was a little different. I loved to take the stage- to perform, entertain, and influence. I was outspoken and often non-conforming (although still considered a “well-behaved!”). I was often searching for truths in places no one wanted to explore, and questioning the status quo just for the sake of questioning the status quo.  While I thrived on my originality, I also felt lonely and misunderstood.  My sensitivity and “thin skin” wasn’t well matched with my desire to dance to the beat of a different drummer.  But, the consequences of being different weren’t enough to counteract this gravitational pull I felt to speak my truth, to claim my spot in The Arena.

As an adult, this still holds true.  Being a woman in The Arena isn’t always easy… it certainly hasn’t made my life’s path smooth or predictable, nor has it made me more likeable or popular.  It hasn’t made me part of the in-crowd- I have pockets of friends in many circles, yet I belong to none.  I still find myself feeling lonely and misunderstood, knowing that my experiences have given me a different perspective than many of the people around me.

Yet, with time and soul-searching, I reached a stage of self-acceptance in knowing that I was always meant for The Arena—that I’m called to share my own stories of pain and grief to help others…. to follow a different path… to shine a light where there is darkness.   In the Arena, I feel most authentically, unapologetically me.   This is where I choose to stand, and this is where I belong: in The Arena.

You belong here too. The Arena is calling your name, nudging you to dare greatly… to live boldly… to be the woman in The Arena.