Why I’m Terrified Of My Own Light

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 frightens us. – Marianne Williamson
Roberto Nickson

A letter to That One Marianne Williamson Quote:

I remember the moment we met.

I was a freshman in high school, and my friend Chelsea Coleman and I were putting a fitted sheet on her bed. I pulled a corner toward the bottom while she pulled toward the top. It was 2004, before you were everywhere, stuck in our journals and our housewares and our teeth. You were written on a white board next to the door, and you struck me. “Yeah”, Chelsea said, “I really like it.” I tucked a sheet corner and changed the subject.

You struck me because I didn’t understand.

I escaped my house as much as possible as a teenager. My house felt like that panic you get when you’re driving toward what could be road kill but could also be a crumpled piece of trash. With all the yelling and eggshells, I breathed, “Do not show him who you really are; he will get mad” like oxygen. At friends’ houses, being flawed was okay – expected, even – and I curled into sheets next to them holding that knowledge. Home was the theatre, I decided. Home was summer camp. Home was Chelsea Coleman’s house, then Cassandra Smith’s house.

Home was where I felt safe, which meant it couldn’t be where I lived.

Like most kids, I grew up believing that being myself was a dangerous and stupid choice. That’s why, eventually, I decided you were a dangerous and stupid quote.

“Have you SEEN my darkness?!” I whispered, incredulous.

My light wasn’t the problem, That One Marianne Williamson Quote! My light got me friends, accolades.  I never went through a rebellious phase with my parents in high school, so those friends were forced to handle mine in college. My darkness gave me the kind of depression that told me to sleep inside my closet for a week because I “felt hunted.” I was growing up faster than I could stay perfect, and I couldn’t decide what was more important: feeling emotionally safe, or keeping other people happy.

I decided upon promising to keep everyone happy and then attacking them when they took me up on it. The fight or flight response that had been stuck on “flight” for so long had suddenly switched to “fight,” and I couldn’t get it to turn back off. I don’t know who first said that college is the best years of your life. Probably a rapist.

Sure, parts of my life were dark. So? Parts of everyone’s life are dark. The real problem was that I took those experiences, internalized them, and created more darkness than necessary because of it. The past few years of my life have been about filtering out certain things that keep me in the dark: beliefs, people, habits. I went through my proverbial closet and said:

“I don’t need to believe that I can’t support myself.”

“I don’t need this shitty boyfriend.”

“I don’t need to verbally attack people when I feel scared.”

Expressing your light (getting what you most desire, living in joy, being your true self) means that you’ve taken inventory of your darkness. You’ve put in the work. At some point, you cared enough about yourself to get in there and take bad shit out of your proverbial closet for the Universe or God or Love to put better things in it.

The consequence of getting rid of shit you don’t need anymore will be a lull, that emptiness between throwing things out that you don’t want and the arrival of what you do want. “Wow, there’s not much in here,” you’ll say, starting to panic. “Everyone else has so much more than I do.” You’ll be tempted to grab new lame stuff and throw it back in there just so it doesn’t look so bare. For a while, you could be alone, without much to show for it, scared that other people are staring at you and talking about how alone you are. But if you don’t take inventory, if you don’t say, “This is what happened to me and this is how I can take care of myself in spite of that,” you’ll keep parading your darkness around as your truth, not convincing anyone who encounters you.

I wish that other people could be my light. I surround myself with great people, and I would be so bright by now if that were the case.

If other people could buy my light, I would feel good enough when I got my Dad’s approval. I would feel worthy when a boy chose me. I would feel fulfilled when my friend forgave me for making some dumb, thoughtless mistake. Instead, when those things happen, they do feel great, but only for a little while. They don’t make me any brighter.

I’ve tried to get around it, but the fact remains: I made all this space in my life, and the only thing that can go there is light.

You win, That One Marianne Williamson Quote. I’ve never been so terrified. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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