“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.
I’ve found this quote didn’t sit well with me over the years, but have only recently been able to articulate why that is.
We aren’t scared of our power. We are scared of finding our glass ceiling.
My university career has had a similar pattern each semester. I get the course syllabus in the beginning and have four months of information in my hands: every exam, every assignment, every expectation required for me to get 100% in the class. So why would I keep finding myself pulling all-nighters to turn in an essay, or waking up at 6am to study for the first time for an exam at 1pm?
Putting full effort into anything requires taking full responsibility for the outcome.
We perpetuate ideas of limitless potential. The movie Lucy was based on the theory that we only use 10% of our brain capacity at any given time: a favourite concept that circulated well past the conflicting scientific data emerged. We watch the movie, talk about it with our friends, post Marianne’s quote on Facebook, avoid doing the work, blame it on extenuating circumstances, read the quote again and think: I’m just scared of finding out how incredible I am. What if I used more than 10% of my brain capacity? I could be an amazing person if I just tried harder. Maybe next time.
As a society, procrastination, distraction, and excuses are rampant. I certainly see it in my own choices. I think it’s far easier to blame circumstances, which are controllable, than it is to blame skill sets or brain capacity, which are somewhat more fixed.
This ties into my earlier post about the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset. If we put ourselves on the line and accept the outcome, for better or worse, we can read the results in two ways. The first is to hit our glass ceiling and to stay there. We studied for three weeks, we made no excuses, we wrote the exam and still only got a B. I’m not smart. I’m a B student. So what do we do the next time around? Well, we might repeat the process of putting in full effort and taking whatever grade we get. Alternatively, we might make ourselves so chaotically busy that we barely study, write the exam, take the grade and remind ourselves: if I’d just studied harder, I could have gotten an ‘A.’ After all, I think most of us would rather be known for having bad study habits than for just lacking overall intelligence.
The second way we can react is with the growth mindset. Instead of accidentally bumping into the glass ceiling, we slam into it. Find it. Seek it out and get a sense for how thick it is. Do we have the tools to break through it? How much effort will be required to wear it down? Sometimes, it will be sheets thick. If I wanted to become a professional opera singer, it would take a serious investment of time and resources for a questionable outcome at best. Other times, it is breakable. To become an A student might take an extra two hours a day, a tutoring session each week, waking up earlier, going to bed earlier. It might mean repeating a course once, twice, three times. The growth mindset allows us to proactively view limitations as opportunities to earn the next level.
Maybe some of us are scared of how powerful we are, and limit our input out of fear of the output. But my hunch remains: we are more scared of realizing that we are normal, that we have flaws, and that it takes hours of work to progress through certain weaknesses.
“In the game of life, we all receive a set of variables and limitations in the field of play. We can either focus on the lack thereof or empower ourselves to create better realities with the pieces we play the game with.” – T.F Hodge.