Letting Your Light Shine

In this week’s blog, I want to do something a bit different and share some of my favourite quotes and insights that I have found helpful along the way. With the advent of social media, we have all become very used to seeing memes or meaningful quotes posted online, things which our friends have shared which have resonated with them, some funny, some thoughtful, some so true they are undeniable.

There is something very human about wanting to find the perfect quote that seems to say just the thing that we hope people will know, about us, or about the world. Perhaps we can’t really rely on ourselves to say it quite right, or perhaps we think that people won’t listen to us if we say it ourselves, so we need someone else to say it for us. Ideally that person might be an expert in their own right, but ‘Anon’ does get a surprising amount of namechecks!

As well as my private practice I work in a community setting, and I’m currently delivering a course I created to help people boost their confidence and resilience, to make changes in their lives or wellbeing. I find that where I can lay my hands on a great quote to illustrate and round off my point, the group will really respond to it.  Something about grabbing an idea and putting it into a succinct and portable format – a few words that can encapsulate the whole concept – provides another channel for people to take the idea away and run with it.  I hope it also means that they can remember it another time, when they come across their notes or the photo they took on their phone.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”

This quote was told to me many years ago by a training consultant, and it has always resonated with me. It has been attributed to Mark Twain online, but also to several others. I like the simplicity of it, the fact that at first sight (or sound) it seems so obvious, but on reflection, it is at odds with how most of us live our lives. We often follow the same well-worn paths, the same routines, same relationship foibles, and wonder why we get stuck in the same places. Counselling can give you the insight to see where you are repeating old patterns, so you can recognise that there are other options open to you. Taking even small steps out of your comfort zone can lead to all kinds of changes in different spheres of your life.

“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

This one is attributed to the grandfather of philosophy himself, none other than Plato. This quote reminds me that the patterns and comfort zones we settle into as a child can simply continue all our lives, often without our consciously noticing. Defence mechanisms and coping strategies that we developed as a natural and necessary way to protect ourselves or to keep functioning in the world, can become embedded and unhelpful as we grow older.

Often we do not realise that we are engaged in self-sabotage, or in avoiding our own potential, as we have achieved the pay-off of feeling safe and secure from the unknown possibilities that lurk in the dark. As the quote says, unfortunately this means we will have also missed out on the unknown gifts and opportunities that also inhabit the unknown world, on the ‘light’ side.   

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

This quote from Nelson Mandela helps us to remember that we are all afraid, and that there is no shame in feeling it. We can get tricked into thinking that we are weak if we feel afraid, or that we should be ashamed of ourselves, but if we stop to think for a moment, that’s a really strange way of looking at it. Fear is a natural and helpful emotion, our bodies’ nervous systems generate fear to warn us of adversaries, it is a key factor in our make-up. The difference is where the fear is not a true threat, but really of the unknown outside of our comfort zones. We have the opportunity then instead to notice the fear, understand it and harness it to give us the energy to get through our challenges. It is far more courageous to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ (the title of a book by Susan Jeffers), than it is to allow ourselves to be paralysed by indecision or fear of failure.  

I will end with my favourite quote, a longer one this time. This one has also been attributed to Nelson Mandela, but is in fact from Marianne Williamson. Regardless, when this passage was handed to me by a hypnotherapist many years ago, it set the course for me, and I hope it might do so for others. Enjoy….

“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? … 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 [what] is within us… 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.”

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