Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

From Marianne Williamson:

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.

When I saw this quote, it was attributed to Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural address. When I looked it up later, the internet told me that not only did he not write it, he didn’t even quote it in any speech. Williamson’s wikiquote page references this as a common misconception, and links to a page with the full text of both of Mandela’s 1994 inaugural speeches. It must have gotten passed around in email forwards until it became truth, which is amazing. Memes are incredible and display incredible resilience. I wonder if people like quotes more if they’re surrounded by the aura of someone famous and important, and how it makes people feel when they find out quotes are by someone else, or how bad I feel about judging someone as less famous and important because I’d heard of the first person but not the second.

But Williamson is organizing the effort to get us a Department of Peace!

I’ve also just watched this incredible Niel DeGrasse Tyson quote, via maiki. This is powerful.

In high school, I volunteered every other Sunday morning at the Tech Museum of San Jose. It was awesome. When I was applying to colleges, I asked my exhibit coordinator Gabrielle (an incredible, talented, energetic woman, I totally idolized her and now miss her and wonder what she’s up to) for a personal recommendation. She asked me, as an exercise, what I thought my strengths are. I had no idea and said something vague about scoring well on standardized tests, which I guess proved that I was smart, or how I played with the robot at the counter. She said, “let me tell you about what I think your biggest strength is. [Another volunteer] was always shy, but as soon as she was on shift with you, you welcomed her and made her come out of her shell. Now she’s a great volunteer who’s way less afraid to interact with people. That’s amazing.”

When I’m not afraid, I can help other people shine.


  1. I know this principle is true! I have experienced it myself. I would like to nominate you as the Huru of Transformative Courage Proga. You could disseminate tips and tricks on what works for you and what to avoid.

  2. It’s like you’re a catalyst. (Or, more than like. You are a catalyst.) And that’s better, really, than anything else. People who do cool things are great, but people who bring the best out in others can have a real multiplier effect.

    By the way, reading that first part about misattribution made me think of William Gibson’s concept of “attribution decay”.

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