“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’s 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’re liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others” (1)
Commonly mistaken to be the words of Nelson Mandela, although they easily could be, I remember that the first time I saw this quote it scared me. Do we really do this I thought? Do we dim down our potential because we’re afraid of it? Yes, I think sometimes we really do. Success, achievements and happiness have their own problems and in some ways can be harder to live with than their polar opposites because they immediately provide us with something to lose. This is of course the trade off, the price we must pay to love and form attachments in this world, something we just can’t help but do. When we become bearers of things precious to us we become bodyguards of them as well, always watching and waiting for the slightest sign of trouble. And what could be more fruitful than realising our potential and in turn more costly to fall short of it.
So if our success (whatever that may be for each of us) has its disadvantages, do our failures have advantages? Is our fear of failure another way of presenting our fear of success and if so what could we possibly gain from not wanting to succeed? Quite a lot actually. Failing at something is painful but it does however offer a degree of certainty because then we know one way or the other where we stand in relation to it. It provides us with a sense of security, albeit a false one, because we no longer have to tolerate the ambivalence of possibility and uncertainty, both of which are imbued with that dangerous ingredient called hope.
“Hope” says the Architect the creator of the Matrix in the film ‘The Matrix Reloaded’, “It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength and your greatest weakness”. (2)
“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. (3)
(1) Marianne Williamson (1992) A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles". Harper Collins. Chapter 7, section 3.
(2) The Matrix Reloaded (2003). Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.
(3) Susan Jeffers (1988) Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Ballantine Books.