“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.”
I’m a sucker for a good inspirational quote. This one by Marianne Williamson is one of them. It makes sense, logically. But it’s only recently that I’ve felt the sense it imbibes.
I like to think of myself as a risk taker; as someone who embraces – even welcomes – change. But I’m beginning to realize that even my risk taking has been within my comfort zone. I also like to think that I know myself pretty well. I’ve spent a good part of my life being “independent” and having offhanded conversations with myself, so besides the fact that “myself” succeeds in becoming elusive just as I’m actually getting to know her, I know myself pretty well. Remember how I said I like to think of myself as a risk taker and as someone who knows herself pretty well? Both assumptions have been shot full of holes over this first quarter of 2013.
Let’s take the more familiar situation first of getting to know myself. I think people learn themselves in various ways – through conscious living (as in actively trying to figure yourself out), through coincidence (this and that happens a number of times, you react in the same way each time, you come to a conclusion about yourself.), through experience (you go through something that forces you to learn yourself anew) and so on. I think I’ve covered all three bases in the getting to know oneself sphere and these days I try to stick more with the conscious living. A few days ago I decided to try out Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation challenge. I might not know any complicated yoga moves, but I certainly know how to sit with myself in silence. Or so I thought. I got comfortable with my hands in my lap as suggested, took measured deep breaths in, out, in out, and then, closed my eyes.
It was dark. Duh, it was dark. It’s supposed to be. Sitting there for 15 minutes, trying to silence my thoughts and reflect on “health”, I felt like a stranger on foreign soil. What’s worse, I didn’t realize I was afraid until a voice in my head said “Why are you scared?” Dark, I could deal with. Scary? I hadn’t expected that. And then I realized: Yes, I was continuously learning myself, but I’d been doing it from the outside-in. From reading inspiring quotes, meeting people, hearing a song and raising my hand up to identify and say, “Yup, that’s me”. This was probably the first time in a long time I’d attempted to learn myself from the inside-out. Damn. No wonder it felt alien, foreign, strange. I hadn’t visited in a while and cobwebs were starting to grow. So yeah, now I’m gonna wear my clothes inside out as I try to make my acquaintance from the inside-out. At the very least, I’ll take a humility pill on the “I know myself” front and maybe clear those monsters out from inside my head.
Last December I donated blood for the first time. I also fainted in the process (totally my fault, I didn’t eat enough before donating). It was a weird feeling – I’ve never lost all control and awareness of myself like I did in those few minutes. One minute I was telling my sister and the nurse how I probably shouldn’t be drinking hot milo in the hot weather, the next I was waking up and asking “Who is moving me?”. While I was “out”, I remember thinking “Is this it? Is this how I’m gonna go?” and then, “It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? To pass on to the next realm after giving blood?” Anyway, that didn’t happen. I can assure you, this ain’t no ghost typing this :P
My friends and family couldn’t understand why I was so excited about having a fainting spell (sounds so Victorian LOL). Well, it’s really simple. Through that experience I had a very real …well, realization about just how fleeting and inconsequential human existence is. We’re here one moment, then we’re gone in the next. What happens in between? Well, I guess that’s up to each of us. Anyway, call me crazy, but my fainting spell was liberating. I don’t know what happened, but since then I’ve been on a constant overdose of passion. There’s this spark within me – a burning really – and I’m restless. I can’t sit still.
I decided at some point in January that my dreams can wait no longer. I’ve been planning and planning, mulling it over in my head since 2008; it’s time to put things in motion. And I am. I believe in the power of the written word, so during my spring break I’m going to put all those ideas to pen and paper. I’ve started interacting with people who I can learn from and the great thing is all this excitement I feel seems to be contagious! So I guess in some ways I’m an entrepreneur in the making :) That said, I’m also scared about going out on a limb on what I truly believe to be (one of?) my life’s calling(s) and to take risks. The question now is, just how risqué am I willing to get?
Some weeks ago I joined some classmates for a leadership retreat. We had very candid discussions about leadership, leading, life and so on. Most of the people I got to interact with had taken some leap of faith at some point in their lives. I don’t mean the “Oh, I’m going to move to so-so-and-so country because I got accepted into this job or school” type of risk o. I mean the “I don’t have a job, I know nobody in this country, but I feel this is where I should go” type of risk. That got me thinking — I’m a risk taker (or so I like to think), but have I ever actually gone all out? To just take the plunge, and I guess by extension, to just trust? Sure, there was this one time I said I was gonna go ahead and write my first book for publication, but it’s over two years later and no book (way to call me out Jemi!). Have I ever actually taken the kind of risk that people would call crazy? Without a backup plan or a cushion? The more I think about it, the less my self-definition of being a risk-taker seems to hold. True, I took some risks in the past, but now my comfort zone has expanded to include even those. Just how risque am I willing to get?
How does all this tie into Marianne’s quote? Well, I guess I finally understand what she means by “It’s our light that scares us”. When I think about all the things I could potentially do, I feel excited. But I also feel afraid. Because, “what if it doesn’t work out?” And the conversation usually ends there. I’ve met many people recently who are making me want to extend that conversation, to rethink what it means to be a risktaker and what it means to know oneself. Unconsciously, they are giving me permission to question, stay open, learn, grow, and for that, I am thankful.
So. You know that idea/project/change you’ve been thinking/talking about? Just how far are you willing to go?
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.