Saturday, January 22, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

“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 own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. The first part in quotation marks is from A Course in Miracles.

Once, when a group of American psychologists met with the Dalai Lama, he asked them about difficulties encountered by Western students of Buddhism. They told him that self-hatred was one of the strongest challenges. He did not even know what that meant. Apparently, the concept is unknown in Tibet.

Why is unworthiness such a common shadow belief in Western culture? And how do we free ourselves from it? My mother struggled with feelings of unworthiness all her life. Even in her final months, this was the theme of her conversations with her pastor. No matter how much she had accomplished in her life, no matter how many people’s lives were better because of her, no matter what assurances she got from her friends, her family, and her pastor, it was not enough to make her believe that she was worthy of love and happiness.

And I inherited her belief, as perhaps she had inherited it from her mother. I struggled, too, until I made the decision to change my life and embarked on the path that has led me here, to my happy place, a place of deep abiding joy.

Along the way, there came a moment when I felt so overcome with shame, shame that I couldn’t even identify. I didn’t know why I felt it. It was terrifying and suffocating. I thought I would die from it. And at the moment when I thought I could not stand it another second, I heard a voice, soft and gentle and loving. The voice whispered in my soul, “It is not yours.” I let it go.

If you want to sing out
Sing out.
And if you want to be free
Be free.
‘Cause there’s a million things to be.
You know that there are
–Cat Stevens


  1. Galen: I love your mind. My response might seem a little disjointed.

    Eastern Buddhists do not feel the same way. Western Buddhists tend to be more insecure. The Dalai Lama, in my humble opinion, knew exactly what they meant.

    I am not brilliant. I doubt I am gorgeous or fabulous. I do have some talent, as do we all.

    You are a strong person. Find your chi (ki).

  2. My belief on low self esteem is that we have such an influx of messages coming at us from all directions via media, society, family, friends and even my dog gives me "that look" sometimes, and I believe that we don't get the messages, our subconscious mind gets them and plays on us until we believe them. Our egos are drowned out through negative self talk. Just my theory.

    Now to turn that around, you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing, you're right where you're supposed to be and remember that God doesn't make junk~ :-)

    I look at my life that if God loves me, forgives me, and doesn't beat me up then who the heck am I to think that I can do all of that to myself. My life is a gift and I choose to treat it as such, I'm falling in love with myself all over again thanks to your post. Thank you.

  3. Hi Galen,

    I too have struggled with feelings of unworthiness. Like you I inherited this idea from my parents who inherited it from their parents and so on. I did not however hear the voice to let it go. Instead I have always identified with characters who fight for what they want. I chose role models who patiently planned and worked their ways towards their goals, overcoming every obstacle that stood in their way. Even to their dying breath, no matter how hard the going was, they never gave up. I do not really bother with feelings of unworthiness nowadays. I know that in a matter of life and death, self-pity will be my undoing and so it is unimportant. All I know is that I have a goal that I want and I will chart my course towards it.

    Thank you for sharing this article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  4. I don't think I have a sense of shame, except about my weight. Other than that, I think my self esteem is pretty good.

  5. Thanks for all of your wonderful musings. They are helping me keep balance in a very uncertain time in my life. I am try to be optimistic with some very sad circumstances in my life right now and even though I have no clue what to do to help ameliorate my great sadness and fears,I look forward to your posts and the cheer that they bring to my life. trying to stay balanced... librarian

  6. Love will conquer everything and you have a lot of love in your life. I read it in your "About me."
    Love and Peace.

  7. JJ, I love your comment!

    darlin, Your comment reminds me of a line from a eulogy. "To him, life was a lover." I like the image of falling in love with ourselves.

    Irving, You have a warrior spirit. You are like Richard the Lion Heart, son of one of my heroes, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

    onemixedbag, Weight is such an issue in this culture. What do you think has contributed to your self-esteem?

    Anonymous, My heart went out to you when I read your comment. I don't know what sadness is in your spirit, but I hope you can find comfort. Here are a few thoughts that have brought me comfort in challenging times. Pema Chodron suggests that we can realize that no matter what we are feeling, there are a million people in the world feeling that way right now. We are never alone. Thich Naht Hanh suggests that we cradle our difficult feelings like we would cradle a baby. And Psalm 30:5 assures us that "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." I am sending good thoughts your way. I hope you will stay in touch.

    Manzanita, Love does indeed conquer all. And yes, I am blessed with a lot of love in my life. Thank you for reminding me!

  8. Hi Galen :-) I love this post. And thank you so much for it!

    This is a subject so close to my heart as well. As a mother I thought it essential to instill in my children the love of self that I did not receive as a daughter. Of course I was loved and I knew that much but as far as what I was capable of... ? We are a product of our time I think. My parents didn't believe in praise... but I so DO believe in it!

    Praise can work wonders to raise self esteem in anyone who is lucky enought to receive it. But praise is so short on in today's society don't you think? I reckon it's the one sure thing that could heal the whole darned world.

    If only we knew how magnificent we really are! But no-one's going to tell us... so it's up to us to know this about ourselves... to own it... and to pass on the gift of [sincere] praise to anyone who will listen. I have a theory praise could change the world... but I could be overstating it! LOL

    Thanks so much Galen. I always love what you have to say.

  9. Jean, Thank you for your comment. It reminds me of a sermon I heard on Speaking the Blessing. The idea is that our words have the power to bestow blessings on those we speak to. I don't think you are overstating a thing!

  10. I really like myself and am challenged by my health and weight(related) and I just truly work to just do the best I can on a daily basis - then I hear this critical/analytic voice of my mother and grandmother overwhelming all the good that has been going on inside.

    I think this negative/critical analytical side needs to be used to help others, but so often it is off putting to others. I can fix broken groups and people and myself but I have to get down to the earthiness of the problem...when I can see the bare bones, I can then build a bright and new cover. Getting real can be oh so painful and without doing that, like hearing your mother's needs and recognizing them as hers, one can not create new.

    I am not a Pollyanna, I am a change artist and that has bumps in the road - each time needing to dig deep
    I just made the comment for myself :0 I needed to say this to me Thank you


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