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 obsessive 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 Delusion.”
During said Pinnacle of Delusion, 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 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, 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? …..YES!!! OMG–YES–MARIANNE!!!! YES, YES–FROM THE ROOFTOPS–YES!!!!! Our deepest fear IS that we are powerful beyond measure!!!!!
I’ll save my understanding of this beautiful quotation for another post. In the meantime, please chew on this: 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.
A Licensed Joyologist, Waxer of Philosophy, and Optimal Living Evangelist, Bethany Pearson O’Connor dreams that her own journey with learning to “Let It Shine” may assist YOU in unapologetically spiraling towards the greatness that is YOUR destiny, too. If being “Authentically You” sounds scary to you (as it once did to her), then she prescribes a healthy dose of Gratitude, Humor, Loving Kindness, and Optimism…all of which are available for free on her Catching the Light Blog. Check out her Facebook or follow her on Twitter @_catchinglight.