This Little Light of Mine

“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, A Return to Love, p. 190 – 191

It seems that I needed a wake up call. Or something. Maybe it’s the zeitgeist. Maybe it is destiny. Maybe I am seeing patterns where none exist. But when, in 24 hours, I hit all these links in my random walk through the internet, I thought… maybe I need to do something with this.

First, The Feminist Breeder got an A+ on a paper. (Go, TFB!) And she wrote about it in a post titled The World Needs More Women Who Brag About Their Accomplishments and about how she only was able to bask in the glory of the accomplishment for moments before she started the internal monologue about at the things that might go wrong, how she might not be able to repeat, and what other people would think about her. Then I happened upon The Trouble with Bright Girls while I was reading a completely unrelated article on the Huffington Post. And it talked about the way that girls in grade 5 deal with adversity and what that indicates about their self-images. I’m not sure I hold with the conclusions or the gendered analysis in that particular article, but it was more grist for the mill. I also hit HerBadMother’s article about why she won’t conform when they tell her to SHUT UP, in the comments of which she was told, in no uncertain terms, to SHUT UP. (This perplexes me. Why are you reading her blog if you hate her so much? Don’t you have something better to do with your time? There are zillions of blogs that will tell you that you are right. Go read one of them.)

And then, to contrast that, Tara Sophia talked about the benefits of Speaking Up not only for finding your voice, but for finding your community.

And then I cried. Actually, I cried a few times while reading all of those posts, because they all said something that I know so deeply that it is imprinted on my cells, and it is this: I’m not doing the world any good by hiding my light under a bushel. But I’m really, really good at it.

I used to have a pretty serious professional career, and I had some power. People listened to what I had to say, and they invited me to meetings, and boy, did I give good conference. But one day one of my colleagues said to me, “Do you know that every time you say something really interesting, you immediately cover your mouth and fold in on yourself?” And then I paid attention to that. Yup. Every time I added something that I was afraid was controversial, I tossed it into the arena, and then curled up into a ball. Literally – I put my feet on my chair in the conference room and shut up. And other people got credit for a lot of my ideas as a result. They probably didn’t even know that they were doing it; they genuinely believed that they had come up with the ideas, and sometimes even written the materials that I produced and they “final edited” (that one kind of floors me, but there you are.)

Meanwhile, (while I was working that demanding job where other professionals relied on my judgment for their own development,) I was finding that every time I tried to sing “This Little Light of Mine,” with my kids, I couldn’t make it through the first verse without crying. I was bursting into tears in the middle of a children’s picture book when the character apologized for being such a nuisance. That song was on the regular rotation at the Unitarian Church, but it took me years of practice to be able to sing it without crying. So I thought that, since I could now sing the song, and had started writing in public, I was better, right?

Well. I’ve been witholding, haven’t I? If you don’t know me (in real life) do you actually know what it is that I am an expert in? What I used to teach other professionals to do? Probably not. Because I don’t talk about it. I don’t write about it, except on my hard drive or the stacks of notebooks next to my desk. It is firmly under a bushel. So I guess I have a little more work to do. And maybe it’s time for a professional blog, or something. Will ponder. Will probably take a week off to do so. I’ll still be reading, so I’ll see you in blogland.

6 responses to “This Little Light of Mine”

  1. It’s the culture we grew up in. Women are “supposed to” be soft, feminine, etc. ad nauseum…, not be srong and self-assertive. Get over it. (I mean that in the NICEST way.) You are just realizing how much your “programing” has hurt you. Now you are aware, you can address the problem. 🙂

  2. I love your insights! It’s also fitting that you included the passage by Marianne Williamson, one that is so widely mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela. It’s really interesting how so many famous writings and speeches by women (and their excerpts) are credited as being authored by men or “anonymous”.