“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’ll be the first to admit that I used to be afraid of showcasing my gifts. The easiest thing to do would be to call it humility. The honest thing to do would be to call it fear. See for me, being humble wasn’t difficult. Especially being surrounded by so many talented people, humilty is like second nature. What is not second nature, is “…shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” That’s just being afraid you just might be as good as you think you are.
It’s a weird thing to consider. Making yourself small, so others can feel big. Being afraid of actually being talented. It seems like an insignificant thing to do. The danger that lies in this, is other people will begin to do your job for you. They’ll start putting you down, to lift themselves up. They’ll begin to ask, “who do you think you are?” They’ll begin to feel threatened by your light. Because they never thought that you’d surpass them, the moment you begin to climb up, they begin to tear you down.
I don’t think anyone wakes up saying, “I’m going to make myself small today”. Or even wanting to put others down. I think school plays a huge role in this. School creates the first social classes we experience as young people. You have your “AP/Honors/Gifted” elites. Your “Average Student” middle class. And unfortunately, the “Special Needs” or “Learning Disabled” doesn’t escape this class-ism either.
The one thing that leveled the playing field for me, was sports. This was the only time I got to be around other students. This gave me a unique perspective on how praise works. We genuinely give praise to others for being good at what we are not. Example: my athletic friends gave me props for getting it done in the classroom, and my academic friends gave me praise for making plays on Friday nights.
Neither would really ever praise me in the proper domain though. My academic friends would be highly competitive about tests, grades and etc. My athletic friends would tell me there’s no way I’d become a D1 athlete. Everywhere I went, the skills that were highlighted the most were the ones that didn’t directly compete with the skills of those around me.
This wasn’t by design though, this was how the educational system raised me. I had to give others a chance to raise their hand. I might of been the best reader, but we had to give others a chance to contribute as well. They called it, “participation points. Well, “participation points” lead to participation trophies, and I’m not a big fan of either.
It gave me this false impression that I had to be good at everything. What’s ironic is that after being exposed to so many different things, you’re then told you have to pick one. One topic, one career path, and one job to do for the rest of your life. After receiving such a general and broad education, now all of a sudden you need to specialize.
This is why the poem above means so much to me. The entire time of this process, I wish I would’ve just focused on my gifts, and let my light shine as bright as possible. Instead of playing down for others to shine, I would’ve played up to give others the confidence to shine. It might make others insecure, but that’s not something you can work on for them. The rest will feel empowered by it. I started letting my light shine a couple of years ago, and it’s taken me very far.
I sat down with a buddy of mine about a week before I went to China, and he couldn’t believe how real self-doubt was for me. Regardless of my accomplishments, there was always this feeling of being incomplete, inadequate if you would. But I could tell by that conversation alone, it was liberating for him. To know that he’s not alone. That his deepest fear, was also mine. That the “impostor syndrome”, runs rampant in all of us.
On this Christmas, the greatest gift you can give to others, is the light you have within. Whatever it is, wherever it points, follow it. It doesn’t matter if it makes people uncomfortable. It’ll actually act as a repellent for those who hate, and an attraction for those who love. The truth is, there is enough darkness in the world for all of our lights to shine. It can’t just be one of us, but all of us.
If you struggle with letting your light shine, just remember: