Earlier this week, one of my friends, Benjamin Rice, reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about our inner light.
“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 which most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and 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 will not 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 is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
This quote is from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love. I’m not sure I agree with the entire quote, but I think it rings true for many people. What I really love about the quote is it accurately captures a concept I’ve seen in many people: Fear of our light.
Does this ever happen to you? Do you fear your light, brilliance, radiance, power?
For a moment, consider why anyone would fear their light, goodness, power, brilliance?
I have a few thoughts on why this could happen. Some of these thoughts come from research, but others come from thorough experience and observation working with a good number of clients over the years. Here are a few good candidates for why someone might seemingly be afraid of her own light.
- Discomfort with Change: People are simply very uncomfortable with change at times.
- Fear of Failure: If we try to shine, and don’t meet with what we term successful outcomes, we believe we will feel like we failed. Or perhaps worse, we believe we will be failures. Thus, in this case, fear of success really turns out to be fear of failure.
- Fear of Losing a Sense of Control: People are sometimes afraid to confront their light because they are fearful of giving up control. If I believe in control but don’t attempt to exert that control in pursuit of some outcome, I can still believe that I will have control when the conditions are right. I can save face, so to speak. There’s some safety in that. But if I let my light shine, and I get rejected or don’t get the outcomes I’m looking for, my confrontation with the limits of control is more stark and forceful. This seems risky if I am not ready to confront the limits of my control. Here again, fear of success turns out to be fear of failure.
- Fear of Being Powerful: Marianne Williamson’s quote above has an important suggestion for why we might fear our light: Maybe we simply fear standing out as special. After all, if we are special and not doing much with our lives, aren’t we squandering our talents?
If you’ve read Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, you probably know that she defines a miracle as a change in perspective. So following her lead, if you are stuck fearing your light or darkness, I’d like to point in a different direction for you. See if these perspectives help you embrace your light.
- Discomfort with Change: If you are having discomfort with change, relax. You certainly aren’t alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. If you are truly letting your light shine, rather than making a grab at the illusion of outside sources of happiness, you will be fine.
- Fear of Failure: We create our experience of the world with our thoughts. Success and failure are mental concepts, not physical ones. When we fear failure, we aren’t typically thinking about being a novice high wire walker practicing without a net. We When we fear failure, we are usually fearing the imagined consequences of failure. This is usually not a productive endeavor. It’s more accurate to understand that you can and will change your interpretation of success and failure as your thoughts shift (and they will shift as surely as the winds will change direction and intensity). You can also understand that you aren’t defined by outcomes, and you can focus on the moment.
- Fear of Losing a Sense of Control: If you read my writing, I hope you already have an understanding of the illusion of control. Control actually contracts your influence and potential. Lose control, and replace it with belief in your powerful influence, and you will feel your light shining brightly.
- Fear of Being Powerful: I think Marianne’s words point in the best direction here. She wrote:
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine……
Please do not fear your inner fire. We are all powerful beyond measure, beyond our wildest dreams, and when we let this light shine, we can help light the world for others, pointing them toward their own inner brilliance. Use the gifts you have to influence the world in front of you. Don’t worry about making a huge contribution to the world, your contribution should be to your world, which is your team, your family, your friends, your community, your organizations. Rise and shine today. Be brilliant.