I love quotes. I REALLY love quotes. But it is rare that one makes me gasp in acknowledgement of a truth so obvious and deep that I can’t believe I did not see it before.
“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.”
― Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
This is one of those quotes. I could have been thrown off by the power of a message it would have been easier to ignore. I could have allowed myself to be put off by the mention of god. I didn’t, I let this idea in and offered it some space to get cozy.
That was 10 years ago and I still struggle with this. I still struggle with the voices inside and outside of my head trying to keep me small. It’s risky to shine bright, the brighter you shine the more people will be inspired but also the more people who will lash out and be watching and waiting for you to stumble or make a mistake.
I didn’t trade my light for acceptance by the general public though, at least that is not my main issue. I traded my light for connection. I made myself smaller in order to not overshadow the insecure closest to me. I spent years doing that only to realize in the end that there is no smallness I could achieve that could ever make that person feel ok. So when that relationship broke up I made a commitment to myself that I would not trade my light for connection, I would not sell my light for someone else’s soul. It simply doesn’t work, you can never be filled up by someone else’s light or truly feel brighter by someone else’s lack.
So why am I still struggling with this years later? Is it habit? Is it deep fear? I am sure those are part of it. I have also added a new facet to my struggle. I’ve begun to practice Insight Buddhism and I’ve embraced some of the beautiful lessons of the Tao. Both of these have brought me to a place of backing away from how our culture celebrates individuals. They have brought me to a growing respect for humility.
My job now is to accept that I have valid light to shine, that others will benefit from it not be reduced by it and break the habits of smallness that I’ve been practicing for my whole adult life while also keeping a firm grasp of my complete unremarkableness. Maybe the key is to always remember that I have the potential to shine greatly JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Then to make sure that I never ever forget that any shining I do, does not make me better than anyone who has not found their own way to shine in that moment.
The image that comes to mind as I write this is a bright but gentle light. An illumination, not a spot light or a flood light. I am reminded of one of my favorite hymnals.
When I breathe in, I breathe in Peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out Love
Maybe if I breathe in humility, when I shine my light will be filled with it. Maybe it will give others permission to shine.