“Do what you feel in your heart to be right –
for you will be criticized anyway.
You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Eleanor Roosevelt has got to be my most favorite woman in history. I don’t know much about her, but anything that I ever find written by her or about her always makes a solid and lasting impression on me. This quotation, while I have come across it before, has probably never meant as much to me as it does now. If I look back at all the events and interactions that took place in my life leading up to this present moment, it occurs to me that I often did what I felt to the the right thing. I truly believe that. Unfortunately, I was criticized in one of the harshest ways (in my opinion). And, what if along the way I did the opposite? Well, I would have likely been criticized too.
Aside from this quotation being a very apt description of what I believe right now, it reminds me of a conversation I had with K not too long ago. It is for this reason that I selected this quotation for my little card project. I was discussing with K what I believe to be the real reason behind the whole disappointing match situation: I felt that certain people didn’t appreciate my hard work, or my keenness, or my willingness to speak out in situations that were somewhat inappropriate. In other words, I was always doing what I felt to be right, but all it did was get me into “trouble.” K completely agreed with my sentiment but was quick to assure me that I showed greater character than most other people by simply doing all those things – because they were right things to do and most people wouldn’t have done them. Furthermore, the people who don’t do those things (the very people who criticized me) are often criticized for their lack of action in such situations. To summarize: people were threatened by my willingness and confidence to “do the right thing” (however that was defined), yet it might have reflected poorly on me if I had ever chosen to not do those things. So much like Ms. Roosevelt says: “Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
I feel like now, I am much more cautious that I used to be about “following my heart.” This is especially true when it comes to work related matters. Many times in the past few months, I have stopped myself from doing what I felt was the right thing because I was afraid that it would have similar consequences to what I just experienced. Alternatively, I have sometimes overcome that fear by simply convincing myself that the excuse for not doing what I feel to be right is just not justified. It is hard to not pull back out of fear, but sometimes it is harder to push forward through the fear, especially when you’ve experienced the ultimate criticism. As always, Eleanor Roosevelt has the best and most simple solution: just do it anyway, because it will be wrong (and possibly right) no matter what it is you choose to do.
And just for fun, here are a few of Eleanor Roosevelt’s other quotations that I love:
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”
“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”
“We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”