We’ve all seen the “Let your light shine” memes, bumper stickers and fridge magnets. But what does that mean? What is this light? And what keeps us from shining it?
I think our light is what Elizabeth Gilbert calls creative entitlement, which is “believing that you are allowed to be here and that merely by being here you are allowed to have a voice and vision of your own.” In other words, you be you.
I have felt profoundly the consequences of not being me. When I either consciously or unconsciously fail to honor my voice I get sick, resentful, and depressed. In essence, losing my voice means I lose my power. I lose sight of my purpose and why my precious soul was incarnated at this particular place and time.
So if all that is so clear, what causes us to hide our light? It could be the result of a chaotic and unstable childhood, narcissistic and shaming parenting, physical or psychological trauma to name a few. We are also hardwired for belonging, for being a member of a tribe and thus we are attuned to the feedback of others, so shaming environments, even in our adult lives, can play with our minds and challenge our sense of self. And not to mention, if we are highly sensitive, empaths, or generally nurturing and caring people we can really pick up on the negativity and criticism of others.
The obvious answer would be to get rid of all those judgy people. Clear your life of the “ick”, as my friend calls it, and surround yourself with nice people. We should definitely do this as much as possible. But we can’t always choose who is in our lives. Maybe it’s the critical boss or the frenemy who is part of a friend group you don’t want to leave or maybe a family member who challenges you. What do you do then?
Again, when you can, choose the people who nurture your soul. When you can’t, do a little preemptive work before entering the space of someone who makes you want to curl up in a ball and hide in your turtle shell. Have a clear sense of your boundaries and decide ahead of time how much time you will spend with this person and what topics are on or off the table. Maybe you can also include some creative and uplifting mantras in your spiritual practice, morning walk or yoga routine. The mind is very powerful and we can counteract the darkness with light. It takes consistent work, but like anything self-love is a muscle that must be exercised.
As Mark Nepo writes, “Our constant challenge is to accept how life wears away what doesn’t matter until the miracle of life is revealed in everything. Once living this barely in the open, our work is to let the light of Spirit come through, never thinking that we own it, but letting it use us to brighten and warm the hearts of others.” What doesn’t matter is your self-judgment, your inner critic that denies your pain, your fear, your shame. What doesn’t matter is what the mean insecure people think–even if you share DNA with them. What does matter is you. The world needs your version of light. We’re waiting for you, so that you can “brighten and warm the hearts of others”.