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“Our Deepest Fear” and Radical Authenticity

I’ve known about the poem Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson since I was a child. It’s often wrongly credited to Nelson Mandela as part of his inauguration speech, but it was actually written by a woman named Marianne Williamson. I wanted to talk about this poem and how it relates to radical authenticity. 

Our Deepest Fear

“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 is 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 fear, 

our presence automatically liberates others.”

That’s the poem. I highly recommend the book it’s in, which is A Return to Love. I recommend you print this poem out and stick it up on the wall somewhere. I hope you love it as much as I do!

What Is It About?

In my opinion, she’s not talking about talent. She’s not saying, “Oh, if you’re fantastic in this field, you should go do that.” 

It’s almost easiest to work from the last verse, when she says, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” For the longest time, I thought the light was all the good things about myself, and that I should focus on the good stuff and throw away the bad stuff. That’s not what it is. 

The light is just who you are deep down, as a human being. When you show up as your authentic self and create space for vulnerability and connection, that’s your light shining. That’s what I believe she meant. 

And when we’re playing small, that’s us hiding away what we think the bad things about us are. When we hide those things, that shame keeps our light from shining. That shame makes us play small. That shame keeps us from showing up as our full selves. 

As we’re playing small, we can’t fulfill some things out here that are meant for us to do. We hit certain configurations in ourselves and certain things become possible for us. The configuration of Ruthie 12 months ago wasn’t ready for this. My current configuration is ready for this. I am embarking on something that would have only been a possibility, but it’s now manifesting because I chose it. I think that’s true for everyone. 

What Does This Have To Do With Radical Authenticity?

She says, “We’re all meant to shine as children do.” What do children do? Children don’t filter, they tell you how they feel. Silence will tell you when something horrible has happened to them, but they shine. And as we get older, we learn not to shine. We learn that parts of us aren’t good enough, but that’s not what it was meant to be. That’s what we learn. 

I think that through embracing your authentic self, we unconsciously give other people permission to embrace their authentic selves as well. And it’s not that you need permission, but I think that the vast majority of people believe they do. 

If me showing up and getting vulnerable with you guys gives you the courage to go out and authentically shine, then I think that’s what she means. As I continue to show up, I’m not suppressing my fear, but acknowledging it and acting in spite of it. I’m using my fear as a guidepost to understand what I need to be doing the most.

I’ve carried this poem around in my heart for such a long time. And I feel like my spirit, my soul, my mind and my heart have finally understood it. I wrestled with it for a while because I was like, “Ok, so show only the good stuff and I have to hide the bad stuff.” But that’s not what it means at all. It’s not about hiding the bad stuff. It’s about accepting things and believing in your own intrinsic value as a human being, no matter what happens. 

I heard this yesterday; “Failure is not a person. It is an event.” You have intrinsic value as a human being. Our successes and failures don”t change that. It’s just all part of our experience. 

The Vulnerability And Risk of Being Authentic

Sean said in our live episode, “This works for marriages too. When you show up tender and vulnerable, you get the love you need and give as well. Life is amazing.” He’s right. In order to create real relationships, you have to build them on the foundation of something. That foundation is typically trust. And how do you get someone’s trust? It’s an equitable exchange of vulnerability. 

Vulnerability requires that you have something at risk. You could potentially be hurt when you share something. That’s why I talk about equitable exchange of vulnerability. 

It’s not a huge risk for you if you have $1 000 000 and you give somebody $100. If I have $1 000 and I give you $100, that’s huge. That’s what I’m talking about in terms of equity. 

In my case, I practice radical authenticity and I try to be as authentic as possible all of the time. That doesn’t mean that I’m oversharing, but it does mean that at some point I will probably address something that most people would consider to be private. There are certain groups of people that I will share that information with first – which is one way to protect yourself when you engage in this lifelong practice of radical authenticity.