Marianne Williamson has lost her marbles.
Or at least that’s what I thought when I read her famous “Powerful Beyond Measure” quote for the first time (in 2001.)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
I cocked my head like a confused dog. So…what you are trying to say is that my deepest fear is that I am powerful? ”Powerful beyond measure,” in fact?
Sorry, Sweet-hot. You are forgetting the answers.
I have a lot of fears, you see. A wicked lot of them. In fact, I try to give myself a false semblance of control over said fears by obsessively compulsively doing entirely illogical things like inhaling when hearing good news and exhaling when hearing bad news (so as to welcome the good and protect myself from the bad; obvi.)
Accordingly, I am no stranger to my fears. I have made my list, I’ve checked it thrice, and–let me tell you one thing–the fear of being powerful beyond measure? It’s not on here. Access to Scary Club O’ Fears: DENIED.
But that was a whole 11 years ago. When I heard the Powerful Beyond Measure quote at a leadership retreat in 2001, I had myself so convinced of a subconsciously fabricated story that I actually THOUGHT I HAD THINGS FIGURED OUT!
We might call that time my “Pinnacle of Delusionment.”
During said Pinnacle of Unenlightenment, I was maintaining a 3.96 GPA at Boston College (delusion #1: “I am lovable because I am smart”), exercising two hours a day (delusion #2: I am beautiful because I am in shape), and volunteering 12 hours a week (delusion #3: I am a good person because I do nice things). I was participating in a host of extracurricular activities [you fill in the delusions now; I'm tired of that exercise.] I was partying late and lots because that’s what college kids are “supposed to” do, I was exploring the art of flirtation to lure men into my net and was relishing the power that came with denying them what they wanted (playah, please: I am sexy but I am not easy.)
Generally, I was basing my entire self-worth off of other peoples’ checkboxes, because–hell–I was good at checkbox-checking.
And I like being good at things.
Plus, I was happy. I mean, wasn’t I? Well, sure–I spent a lot of time crying behind closed doors, which should have been one of many easy-assed clues that something was wrong, but I can write off crying to PMS at least three out of every four weeks in a month. Plus, maybe I secretly (and I am just realizing this right this minute)–maybe I subconsciously actually LIKED that I cried a lot. I mean–doesn’t that fit the profile of Overachieving Collegiate Female–a role that I unconsciously hand-picked and clung to in order to mask my lower feelings of inadequacy and unlovability? I mean, if you’re an Overachieving Collegiate Female and you’re not crying a lot, then–let’s just stop whacking around the bush here–you’re probably not much of an overachiever, now, are you? Get out there and champion another cause, girl. Stress yourself out ’til you crumble. THEN–and only then–can you check the overachiever box, Sweet Thang.
It wasn’t until the blessed tides of childbirth came crashing into my shores in 2009 that it became undeniably clear that my castle of “I’ve got things figured out” was built upon pillars of sand (pillars of sand, pillars of sand.) At some point during my postpartum maelstrom, it occurred to me: “Holy hell. I am no longer just a student of life. Now I am also a teacher.”
Did I have the mettle to deserve that medal? There is no application process to becoming a biological parent (oh, Injustice, you really are an evil bitch), so, since no one else was determining whether I was fit to mother, I was forced to ask myself the difficult questions.
Could I be a good role model for this precious child? I’m not talking about modeling the easy things. I know I can teach him not to litter, to pay his taxes, and (so long as I buckle down some serious self-discipline) there’s probably also some hope that I can teach him to share and not to swear.
But can I model self-confidence? Can I stand in my own skin–fully conscious of a plethora of flaws and also conscious that I’m not even conscious of ALL of my flaws–can I stand in that authenticity and shout with the ferocity of a freedom warrior, “I LOVE ME!!!!!” without feeling undeserving, boastful or inauthentic?
The answer to those questions was also a resounding “no,” which was excellent news for my therapist. Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of her since then.
Fast forward three more years. I’ve done (and am still doing) the work. I’ve cried, I’ve sweated, I’ve shaken. I’ve lied to myself. I’ve yelled, I’ve laughed, I’ve sobbed. I’ve cut through those lies. I’ve researched theories, tried new techniques. I’ve done well with some, I’ve done poorly with others. I’ve punched, I’ve bled, I’ve fallen. I’ve gotten back up. I’ve pushed people away, I’ve kept my guard up, I’ve knocked those same walls down. I’ve read, I’ve workshopped, I’ve reflected. I’ve prayed, I’ve meditated, I’ve begged. I’ve listened. I’ve paid attention. I’ve identified my fears. And slowly–slowly and magnificently surely–I am learning what it feels like to truly love myself.
I like it here.
I like it a lot.
What do I have to say to Ms. Williamson now? For starters, this: YES!!! OMG–YES–MARIANNE!!!! YES, YES–FROM THE ROOFTOPS–YES!!!!! Our deepest fear IS that we are powerful beyond measure!!!!!
All along, I thought I was an overachiever when really I wasn’t achieving at all. Afraid of failure, criticism, isolation, and inadvertently insulting those who are smothering their own lights, I was distracting myself from the things I was meant to be by vigorously pursuing the things that I thought put me in the best light with others. I pursued the things that felt the safest.
I, the “overachiever,” was actually doing everything within my power to KEEP myself from achieving.
I distracted myself from my inner wisdom because pursuing the things that we were born to pursue? That shit is scary. The stakes are high and success is contingent upon a willingness to be vulnerable.
Me? I do a lot of things, folks, but I do not do vulnerable.
If I DO go there–if I DO honor that voice of my heart and my soul and truly let myself shine, then I’m going to have to shed all of the “tools” that I have developed to “protect” myself for so long. My “tools” of perfectionism, independence, and nose-to-the-grindstone productivity distractions are comfortable to me. For all intents and purposes, they’ve been rather useful, too. Without them, I am a swordsman without a sword.
I could really get hurt, folks.
But if I DON’T honor my inner voice? Well, now. That’s even scarier. If I DON’T strip out those old behaviors and let myself feel vulnerable, then I will be trapped in my bad habits for the rest of my life. I will never be able to say honestly that I think I am improving. And I will never be able to model–for my son and also now for my daughter–what it looks like to be a strong, comfortable-in-my-own-skin, self-loving person.
The fear of THAT? The fear of that throws kerosene on the fire inside my soul. It’s why I’m writing today.
So, here I am. Me. Bona fide, certified. My intention with this blog is to courageously show you my authentic self so as to continue my own personal growth and also to educate, entertain, and inspire others to live their most authentic lives and achieve their highest potentials, too.
In this post and with future posts, I would like to work towards eliminating the secrecy surrounding depression. It’s difficult enough to experience the sadness; we need not bundle secrecy and shame on top of it.
So let’s stop hiding our struggles from each other; mmmmmmkay?
HERE’S WHY: as soon as we hide ANY PART of ourselves from the world, we are in direct and imminent danger of believing that we–the ESSENCES of who we are as individuals–are unlovable. Fearing that drawing attention to ourselves will allow others to see and confirm our unlovability, we avoid standing out from the crowd for ANY reason–good OR bad–so we hide the GOOD parts of ourselves from the world, too.
We stop shining.
THAT, my friends, is precisely what the world does NOT need.
I now see that what I once perceived as my biggest weakness (a tendency towards depression) is actually my biggest strength. It has led me to a level of self-awareness (via extensive self-analysis) that I would never have endured without the fear of darkness nipping at my heels. My personal challenges make me more compassionate and understanding towards others.
And they sure as hell make me appreciative of all of the goodness surrounding me.
Dare I say it? These parts of me that I always believed made me unlovable, unattractive, bad and unworthy? These are the very same parts of me that CONTRIBUTE to how lovable, attractive, good and worthy I am. They MAKE me beautiful.
If my writing, my optimism, or my willingness to let myself shine can help ONE other person get to where I am standing right now (on the other side of darkness, though admittedly always actively evading its prowl), then every criticism or judgment I may incur on this vulnerable journey will have been worth it.
As Marianne Williamson says, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
I believe that. I believe that, regardless of whether you are aware of it, whether you are nourishing it, whether you are pretending to honor it but are really ignoring it, or whether you are distracting yourself from it–no matter what–you have a light inside of you.
I believe your light is powerful. Powerful beyond measure, in fact.
Do you believe that?
If you are cocking your head like a confused dog right now, (as I did, originally), do not pressure yourself to absorb all of this at once.
Today I just want to plant a seed in your head.
[If we were having this discussion/monologue in person, I would be shaking you by the shoulders right now--desperately--as if you are asleep but I am afraid you are dead. Hear the urgency in my voice:]
What if you ARE powerful beyond measure? What if every fear standing between you and your optimal life was planted there by YOU–subconsciously but intentionally–to prevent yourself from being all that you can be? Is it possible that you are AFRAID to let yourself shine?
[Hint: answer = "yes."]
Consider it, friend. Because I have not lost my marbles.
And neither has Marianne Williamson.