Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I often spend my Sunday mornings watching Super Soul Sunday, which is how I’ve been spending my Sundays for as long as the show has been on OWN. I remember once when the show was about The Shadow Effect, a book by Debbie Ford, which is about acknowledging the darkness within ourselves so we can bask in the light. I was particularly struck by the quote about our deepest fear from Marianne Williamson.
I’ve read A Return to Love, the book from where the quote comes, but recently I realized that the quote spoke directly to the part in me that has been struggling the most lately—the part that feels like it needs to dim the light I have been striving for years to ignite. Williamson says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” I had what Oprah calls an “Aha! moment” as I realized that I’ve been playing small to make those around me feel better.
A friend at work was so happy for me when a local magazine featured an article about me that she posted a link to the article on our school’s message board. As soon as I saw her post, I thought, “Oh no. This isn’t going to be good.” I learned a long time ago that people aren’t always happy when good things happen to someone else. When I was still living in California, an article about my writing and publishing appeared in The Los Angeles Times, and I told a few teachers I worked with about it. I thought it was cool, that’s all. I had worked hard to get some notice for The Copperfield Review and now there was an article about it in a major newspaper. The next day I heard from a friend that the talk in the staff room was about me: “She thinks she’s so special now?” As an intensely private person, I shuddered internally at the knowledge that people were speaking negatively about me, especially over something I meant to be positive. That’s when I slipped the dimmer over my light and stopped sharing anything about my writing or publishing successes with anyone except a trusted few.
The story hasn’t changed. After my friend posted the link to the article on the school message board, a few teachers went to her with the same “Who does she think she is?” One teacher congratulated me, but otherwise it was silence (crickets) from the rest of the staff. I tried to explain to someone that if I’ve had writing success it’s because of my life choices. Most people marry and have children, but I didn’t marry and I don’t have human children (my children say meow and sit on the keyboard while I’m writing). I can spend my free time however I choose, and I choose to write. In retrospect, I realize my response doesn’t really work since there are plenty of people with full-time jobs, spouses, and children who manage to pursue their dreams. But at the time I thought I could explain away why I was receiving attention for my writing.
Suddenly, I began slinking around, my head hung low, avoiding eye contact with anyone. I was embarrassed (again) that anyone had been talking about me. Finally (I’m a little slow sometimes) it occurred to me—why am I the one trying to hide? What have I done wrong? Does the fact that I’ve stayed stubbornly true to my dreams mean I have to feel embarrassed about it for the rest of my life? Seeing Super Soul Sunday simply expounded the “light bulb moment” I already had. Why do I feel the need to explain away my successes when I don’t expect anyone else to explain away their successes? I’ve been letting others make me feel small, but that’s my fault, not theirs. People can have whatever reactions they want. It’s up to me to remember to, as Marianne Williamson says, “make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” When I’m writing, I’m manifesting the glory of God that is within me. It’s what I’m called to do. No apologies required.
I’ve decided that I will no longer hide from my successes. I’ve earned every single one with years of hard work. Whenever I’m tempted to cower from public acknowledgement of that hard work, I’ll remember Williamson’s words: “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”