how bright can you shine?

This is one of my all-time favourite quotes.

“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

I find it deeply challenging on a personal level and I think, if we truly absorb its message, it has much to say to us all. It is a commentary on culture as much as it is an encouragement to an individual.

Three thoughts …

  • “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”

In some ways, I think we can make an idol of timidity and shyness. It’s something that we not only excuse but sometimes even hold up as a virtue to be valued or aspired to. But it doesn’t serve the world. Holding back your gifts, your thoughts, your capacity or your passion because of shyness or some sense of self-consciousness or fear is robbing the world of the reason you are part of it! “You are made to SHINE as all children do – it’s not just in some, it’s in everyone!” This is not about arrogance and self-advancement, it’s about a genuine recognition that we all have something to offer the world and the capacity to make it better – for one, for many, for all. Playing small serves no one. Step up and bring your best. The world needs you.

  • “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

In relation to my ‘single’ status, a well-meaning friend once said “Perhaps you’re too intimidating!? Maybe guys are put off by how confident and capable you are?” Really? So, what exactly ought I do about that? ‘Shrink’ so that I’m less intimidating? That’s not me, that’s not who I am, that’s not the best version of myself. But that IS what we can find ourselves doing and it is an expectation that we can – intentionally or not – convey to others. What might it look like to create a culture where no one has to shrink? Where everyone is championed for their unique capacity to contribute beauty, creativity, joy and wisdom as they are able. Where each of us deals with our own jealousy, insecurity and intimidation rather than allows those things to inhibit our celebration and support of others.

  • “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same… our presence automatically liberates others.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who have given me permission to shine my light and foundational to that, helped me identify what that light actually looks like or the potential for influence and impact it contains. I have been inspired by the example of other ‘light-shiners’ and encouraged to be one who gives others permission to shine brightly. Getting alongside others in similar life circumstances to those I’ve experienced, championing young people as they wrestle with the challenge of their emerging adulthood, encouraging others in identifying, developing and employing their gifts and skills; intentionally liberating others to shine brightly. I get excited when I imagine communities full of people doing this for one another. Not just ‘unconsciously’ but with great purpose.

Are you a ‘shrinker’? What can you do to shift your posture and boldly shine your light? Are you ‘insecure’? Preventing others from shining too brightly lest they push your jealousy or intimidation buttons.
Are you a ‘permission’ giver? How are you encouraging those around you to shine at their brightest?