When I was 16, I heard a quote by the author Marianne Williamson: "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. [It] is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light and not our darkness that frightens us."
At 16, I can assure you I felt more dark than light. But recently, I found out there’s more context for that quote.
“Our greatest 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? Your playing small does not serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
“Your playing small does not serve the world.”
I remember the week The Smile Project became a certified nonprofit organization in the state of New York. At the time, I was living with a friend from middle school who had just that same week made a big break in their industry as well—Broadway.
That night we sat across from each other, one on the radiator, the other on the sofa, talking about some of our dreams being realized… talking about how far we’d come since middle school art class.
I remember asking if they were scared.
I remember feeling scared.
“The thing is, it’s just like, now we have to do it. Yaknow? We’re doing the things and we just have to keep doing it.”
My friend seemed confused. Of course we do. And of course we will. And of course we can. Who were we to be “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” We were us.
There was a reason we were finding success in our work. There was a reason some of our wildest dreams were coming true. It was our light.
It’s been 13 years since I first heard that quote. And in those 13 years, I’ve explored my darkness and my light and all my deepest fears and only recently have I come to terms with what Marianne Williamson said.
The light can be hard. The light can be frustrating. The light can be downright infuriating.
And it can be scary. “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”
Who am I not to be?
Who am I to try to change the world? Who am I to share my story? Who am I to write something worth reading?
Who am I to give up?
There is a quote by author John Irving that I had taped to my bedroom wall for years: "If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."
I hope you find the courage to live it.