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 and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
This quote has been following me around for a couple of years now, nipping at my heels. I love it. Well, I love it NOW. For a long time I loved the idea of it- y’know, like kale, or pajama jeans.
I’m just kidding. I legit love pajama jeans.
Until recently, mine has been a life guided by fear. Well, fear and shame. Now, fear and shame may not be exactly the same thing, but they are fraternal twins. They are born of the same womb.
I think when you experience severe trauma as a child, you tend to be prone to catastrophic thinking. It’s very easy to go to the worst case scenario, because you’ve lived it. When you think that way, everything becomes loaded. Stakes seem higher than they are. That makes the idea of mistakes- which I think we can all agree are part of the human condition- much more daunting. It can tend to make you risk averse.
Any time your decision making stems from a place of fear, you are not well served, and neither is anyone in your life. If you live big, if you live up to your God given potential, then your mistakes are bigger, too. Your failures are OUT LOUD. If you hold yourself in, and make yourself small, then your mistakes are smaller, sure, but so are your successes, so is your growth. So is your JOY.
The thing is, if you are afraid to make a mistake, you will required to live a very small life. A careful life. In my personal life, I lived very small. I had areas where I was confident- where I was more me. I wasn’t small when I was teaching art, for example. I was confident in my ability- daring even. But at home and in my relationship I made myself as small as possible. Part of it was not wanting to bump up against the sharp edges of what my relationship had become, but part of it was just my fear. The, “who am I to be bold?” fear. I spent a lot of time and energy making sure I stayed under the radar.
When your self esteem is nil, you lack confidence in your ability to discern the best course of action, you second guess yourself constantly. As a result of that, when I was married, I tended to leave all of the big decisions to my husband. I deferred to him constantly. It probably seemed passive aggressive, in retrospect- but really, I was just paralyzed. I didn’t feel like I could afford to be wrong.
When I think about that from his perspective, while it gave him a lot of control, that was also an awful lot of pressure for one person to bear. You can’t have a true partnership with that dynamic in play.
I gave a lot of people a lot of power over me. And I don’t think it was because I didn’t think I was powerful, I think it is because I was afraid that I was.
Dita Von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches” It used to be very important to me that people like me. I would be undone at the knowledge that someone didn’t. I would go to great lengths to try and FIX it if someone didn’t like me, or didn’t seem to like me. That’s another way of living small.
If you are living up to your true potential, if you are living in the sunlight, if you are living truthfully, you are going to piss some people off. Count on it.
I am finally at a place where I would rather be disliked for who I actually am, than be liked for a diminutive, inauthentic version of myself. I’m gonna shine. You wanna put on sunglasses, knock yourself out.
I attended Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference in October. I keep trying to write about the experience, but I haven’t quite been able to get my arms around it just yet. One of the recurring themes was, Your Story Matters. I have been thinking about that since He wrote it down. was published. So many people offering up their stories. I read them all, and every single one mattered. All of them.
The other thing Donald Miller said was, What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story? When he first said it, all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It didn’t feel like a rhetorical question. It felt like a question that needed answering, way deep down. In my soul.
Friends, there was a long, long stretch in my life where my answer to that question would have been, Nothing. Not one damned thing.
I don’t believe that any more.
I have things to say, and I have things to do. I am sure of it. I am certain I will fail along the way. I am certain I will faceplant from time to time- but that no longer fills me with dread. I am not afraid to dream big and fail bigger, if it means finally living the life I was born to live. The life I am capable of living.
We are all given gifts in this life. Some are beautiful, some are terrible. All gifts serve a purpose. Every single one.
Who are we not to use them? Who are we not to share them with each other? Here is what I am realizing, more and more every day. When you step into the light, when you decide to shine- everybody wins. When you take the gifts God gave you, even if it is the gift of pain, and put workboots on it- when you go out into the world and say, HERE I AM! we all feel less alone.
I am no longer content to stay under the radar. It’s true- the fall from up here is a doozy, but my God, is the view spectacular.
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