Afraid to Shine?

September 6, 2016

by Kim Childs, CPPC

When I help clients and students go for their truest desires, we quickly bump into any fears that are getting in the way. While fear of failure is certainly high on the list, fear of success can also be there, and it’s a sneakier saboteur.

Why would we be afraid of having, being and doing what we most wish to have, be and do? Well, because it might shake things up in our lives and relationships, rattle our self-image, create new challenges and uncover inconvenient truths. In other words, it may require some uncomfortable changes and we tend to resist change.

But what if it’s also because we fear outshining others and standing out?

Her royal majesty, QEII

As a child, I was smart, pretty, talented, and compassionate. One day, I learned that some less fortunate girls in the neighborhood were calling me Queen Elizabeth.

It wasn’t a compliment.

That stinging memory surfaced in my mid-30s when I was taking a creative recovery workshop on The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and had to identify disparaging voices from my past. I realized that this incident was connected to my fear of shining, because shining – to me – meant that others might feel threatened, that they wouldn’t like me, that I’d leave some people behind, and that I’d end up…alone.

Can you see how those jam-packed assumptions would cause me to sabotage myself?

As I worked to heal my inner child’s sense of shame, guilt and unworthiness, there came a time when hiding my light was no longer an option, because I wanted to offer my gifts to the world, and help others to do the same. Yet now, firmly in my 50s, I still occasionally hear that snarky inner voice asking, “Why should you have it all when others suffer?” and “Who do you think you are?”

What I truly believe about who we really are and why we’re here (besides loving and helping each other on this precious planet) is summed up in a message that came to me during a meteor shower many years ago:

See the night sky, and know…that you are made of the same stuff as those stars in your eyes, and that your time on this earth is for shining.

And yet, we often resist shining for fear of what others might think, and fear of acting “too big for our britches” or being “too full of” ourselves. (Who else should we be full of, I wonder?)

I don’t advocate walking around with bloated egos and arrogance, but with genuine pride in our abilities, talents and accomplishments. It’s the kind of emotion that motivates us to keep improving, as children’s educator and animation philosopher Alexander Grace says in his video, Are you scared to be proud of yourself?

“Pride is one of the first emotions felt by human beings. When an infant masters a new skill, like standing up or walking, a feeling of pride naturally follows this achievement,” Grace notes. “Being so pleasurable, pride works as an emotional reward mechanism, prompting children to master new skills, develop new talents and push themselves to greater achievements.”

Notice how quick we are to shower children with “Good job!” when they’ve done the smallest of things, yet we often withhold that praise from adults, including ourselves.

The fear of shining and the reasons for overcoming it are dramatically expressed in this famous passage from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love:

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, and 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 will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

As I often point out to my clients, our light may sometimes bring forth an other’s darkness. While this is something to be aware of, it’s never a reason to hide, shrink, or withhold our gifts from the world. It is a reason to be a little self-protective at times, and careful about the people with whom we share our most tender dreams and longings.

And it’s definitely a reason to surround ourselves with kindred spirits, fellow seekers, and those who will support us on the journey and celebrate our successes. I’m grateful to have such people in my inner circle today.

Who do you think you are, dear one? As you clarify this, I hope you dare to shine, because the world needs your light.

Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation.



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