Excerpted with permission from WriteSuccess newsletter by Mary Anne Hahn
“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. 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. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
From My Desk to Yours: Let Your Writing Light Shine
I generally opt for pithier quotes than the one I selected for this issue, but as I skimmed through Web pages of inspirational words, this one stopped me dead in my tracks. I thought about editing it a bit, you know, making it a little shorter . . . but to me, every word of it counts.
If you skipped past it, I ask that you go back and read it. If you read it quickly, I urge you to take it in a second time more slowly. And if you’re already familiar with the quote, I encourage you to take it to heart, perhaps even memorize it.
What is it about these words from Nelson Mandela that strike such a chord in me? From a personal standpoint, I often find myself “playing small,” justifying the mundane actions that I prioritize as necessary, while postponing the ones that just might make a huge difference in my life or in the lives of others. I don’t tackle the great novel because what if I never finish it? I put off working on ideas I have to help certain kinds of writers find lucrative work because what if it fails? Or worse yet, what if it takes off and I don’t have the energy or ability to keep it going effectively?
These self-doubts plague many of us on different levels. We writers, who so often bare our souls and expose our vulnerabilities, may wrestle with them even more than other people. When I journal about mine, I generally think that they stem from feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. Or I sometimes wonder, who am I to pursue a greater destiny than the one I am currently living?
What captivates me about Mandela’s words is the challenge that they present to all of us to be our best selves and give our lives and work our best efforts. He says in effect, “I dare you to step into your greatness. In fact, you not only do yourself a disservice by ‘playing small,’ you are letting down every single person who needs you.”
All I can say to that is, “Wow.” Because here’s the thing—people need us writers for so many things. They need us to keep them informed, make them laugh, motivate them to make a change, guide them in learning a new process, entertain them, get their messages across, promote their products and services, influence others to take some action, or tell their stories for them. Rich and famous people need us, companies of all sizes need us, our readers need us. Ours is a marvelous, important profession. We must never think of it as being otherwise, or belittle our calling by placing it behind all other things on our “to do” lists.
For whatever reason, we’ve been called to be writers. Let’s not “play small”—let your writing light shine.
Here’s to your writing success.
MARY ANNE HAHN edits and publishes WriteSuccess, the free online ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers, as well as shares writing contest, news and job leads on Twitter. A freelance “writerpreneur,” she provides ghost writing and copy writing services to coaches and Web-based business owners. Visit writesuccess.com
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