Why Shining Your Own Light Allows Others To Do The Same
During the time when the new year of 2015 was just around the corner, I read a book that forever shifted the way I think about things. The name of it is The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
In the book, the author talks about the four main barriers to why we aren’t more successful. I can still remember reading through the first three barriers and thinking to myself, “If I’m not number four, I’m done with this book.”
I was number four.
The Crime of Outshining.
The general premise of the crime of outshining is that I don’t want to “shine too brightly” or have too great of a life experience in any area, because that might make other people feel bad about themselves, their choices, and essentially, their lives. Who am I to have more delicious experiences than the people in the world around me?
This quote has been the epitome of my existence:
“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 learned somewhere in my childhood that it’s not nice to make other people feel bad. While that can be a great thing for a child to learn (and it is within certain context), I took this to a different level of sorts, and I’d been living it ever since.
For a long time I heavily identified with the word “mediocre.” I was always somewhere in the middle. I was mostly a B student with a couple of A’s and C’s. I was pretty alright at the sports I played, but usually not the best. I was in the middle of my student class in high school – not popular, but not unpopular. I was the nice girl. Because when you’re nice, you’re not making anyone feel bad.
Other words I identified with: considerate, reliable, sincere, compassionate, enthusiastic, honest, a good friend. At most I was creative and maybe a little adventurous. Words that were certainly not for me: smart, sexy, highly successful, a pioneer, courageous, innovative, powerful.
When I read The Big Leap, I realized all the ways I was dulling and dimming my own experience because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad.
There were a few things here I needed to uncover:
- One light can’t outshine another. Me having a great life doesn’t equal other people not having a great life. What’s also true here is that me dulling my own experience isn’t helping anyone else either.
- By living the fullness of my experience, I’m unconsciously giving other people permission to do the same thing.
- All the ways I had been making judgements and assumptions about other people. Just because someone makes different choices than I have doesn’t make either of us better or worse.
- All the ways I’d been trying to manage the experiences of other people. I more and more realize that I still do this and it’s a continual process to let go of. This is actually extremely arrogant, for a few reasons: it assumes that I know better solutions than the person does, that the person needs or wants “saving”, and lastly that the person is incapable of solving their own problems.
Finally, and perhaps most important, the thing I continually have to remind myself: I literally cannot make someone feel bad. If someone feels bad, it’s generally that they’re being triggered from a lifetime of experiences that had nothing to do with me. I happen to be the thing that’s causing the trigger in the moment, but any of a million other people/places/things can cause that same trigger in that same person. The common denominator isn’t me, it’s the trigger within the person. That’s a whole other post, for now this feels complete.
I couldn’t continue taking responsibility for other people’s experiences. It robs them of the opportunity to grow, to learn. To go through things like I have that make them the person they have yet to become. And I couldn’t continue to dim my own light – it’s a disservice to the endless amount of people that can look at me giving myself permission and say, “Hey, I’m gonna give myself permission too.”
Since I’ve known that this was the thing that was keeping me small, this crime of outshining, I’ve decided to face it over and over again, and see it for what it is. It’s a daily practice, noticing all the ways I do and say things (or don’t, for that matter) that is me simply trying not to make other people feel bad.
I get to choose again and again a different path than I would’ve chosen in the past.
The most recent word I added to my word vision board? Pioneer.
Because it’s my choice. Because I get to shine, as do you. And because I am.