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  • Penny Muller

Hold Your Space

You don't have to listen to anyone who is not in the arena.

Last night, I was watching a show on TV, 'Moulin Rouge: Behind the Magic'. A brother and sister team were doing an incredibly dangerous routine on roller skates. Every night, as the male skater said, he had his sister's ''life in his hands''. Backstage, as they made up and warmed up, the tension was palpable. Night after night, they continued to engage in this risky activity to entertain the audience. I don't know whether I would call this brave or crazy, but without a doubt, this is 'being in the arena'.


Brené Brown talks about being in the arena:


When we spend our lives waiting until we're perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, .... we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.


And it seems that she borrowed this idea from Theodore Roosevelt.


Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France - 23 April, 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 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.


Brené Brown makes another point:


If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you're criticizing from a place where you're not also putting yourself on the line, I'm not interested in your feedback.


And this is the point that I want to reinforce:


We need to hold our space in the arena. Being in the arena means being out of our comfort zones, doing something that takes courage, boldness and perseverance. We choose to be in the arena because we are choosing to grow, to achieve, and to become our best selves. Not everybody is prepared to do this, but there are many people who are prepared to have an opinion. And this is okay. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. We are social beings, dependent on our relationships for our survival and wellbeing. We need to accept that this is a reality and that it is okay to care about what people think. Keep in mind, though - unless they are also in the arena, we don't need to take their feedback on board.


I also want to mention:


To be in the arena does not mean that we have to risk our lives on a daily basis. There are infinite ways to 'dare greatly'. Being in the arena means stepping outside of our comfort zones to the extent that our wellbeing is not compromised. It involves extending ourselves according to our personal values and priorities. No comparison is needed; this is our journey. Being in the arena is freedom, personal fulfilment, and our reason for being. It is an opportunity to share our gifts with the world. Being in the arena is what dreams are made of. It's what life is designed for.


Being in the arena could involve things that make us vulnerable to public scrutiny:


Performing on stage

Speaking to an audience

Publishing a book

Being a boss

Building a business


And also, everyday things that mean that we are left open to criticism or rejection:


Doing our job

Making a new friend

Reconnecting with an old friend

Making a suggestion

Learning a new skill

Dressing a different way

Facing a fear

Asking for help

Saying sorry

Telling the truth


What may seem insignificant to another person, may be a step towards growth for us. Bravely facing the small things will pave the way for stepping towards greater challenges. Success comes from taking small steps in alignment with our goals and dreams. Every little step we take helps to build the momentum that will take us further along our chosen path. Choose to be in the arena when it feels right, when it feels good to you, when you feel inspired, and when 'daring greatly' makes you feel awake and alive. Do it from a space of self-love and self-care. Do it from a place of self-assurance. Step into the arena with the intention of holding your space. The world is your space, your arena. It belongs to you.


Own it!




Brene Brown. (2021). Official website. Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)


Tolstoy Therapy. (2013). Theodore Roosevelt quote. Quotes for Post-its: Theodore Roosevelt's 'The Man in the Arena' Speech - Tolstoy Therapy

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