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My friend Martha said something to me the other day that stopped me cold. “I have an idea for you,” she said. Having no idea what her idea could possibly be, I said, “Go for it. Tell me.”
Now, Martha knows me well. She knows my strengths, my weaknesses, my fears. She’s stood beside me when it was dark and she has constantly and consistently pushed me into my own light. When a person like that says they have an idea for you, pay attention.
Martha went on to tell me that a mutual friend who had recently been in a meeting with me remarked, “I didn’t know how smart Maria is. I didn’t realize who she was until that meeting. Why is she holding back her power?”
Martha continued, “Why don’t you take a week and walk into every encounter – personally and professionally – and say exactly what’s on your mind? Why don’t you take a week to feel your own personal power? Don’t be afraid that you might offend people. Don’t be afraid you might scare people. Don’t be afraid of your own intensity. Step into it and see how you feel.”
There was silence on my end of the phone—from me, that is. Silence because she not only made me think, but because deep inside I knew she had a point, as did her friend.
Like many people, I have—more times than I care to admit—dimmed down my own power, my own light. Perhaps I was scared of what was inside of me. Perhaps I was scared of my own anger, rage or intensity. Perhaps I was afraid of feeling vulnerable and pushing people away. Perhaps I was scared that everyone would leave the room if what was inside of me actually came out. (On more than a few occasions, that’s actually happened.) So over time, perhaps without even realizing it, I’ve dimmed my light in certain situations.
But then I met Ken.
I hadn’t known who he was before our first meeting. He’s smart, successful, knowledgeable. He and his team showed me and others a presentation they had made about the Alzheimer’s crisis. They thought it was great. I thought it sucked.
When Ken asked me for my thoughts, I said, “It’s good!” He stared at me and said, “I don’t believe that’s what you really think. Tell me what you really think.”
I said, “Oh, no. You don’t want to hear what I really think.” He assured me he did. And so, I unleashed. Out from inside of me came a torrent of power. When it was over there was silence in the room. Total silence for what felt like an eternity. Then Ken spoke directly to me.
“That,” he said, “was a thing of beauty. It was an honor to witness a mind like that, a fierceness like that, a heart like that. Thank you.”
I could feel my eyes well up with tears.
“You don’t scare me,” he said. “You dazzle me.”
Ken blew my mind. He sat across from me and smiled. He loved what came out of me, and in turn, he let me love what was inside of me. He gave me a priceless gift. He did it again last week when he sat in yet another meeting with me. When I told Martha my Ken story (which was a bit like her friend’s story), she pointed out to me that Ken couldn’t have given me that gift unless I had shown him my power.
“Go on,” she said. “Step into what’s inside of you. Don’t be scared of it, go for it! The time for dimming is over. The time for dazzling is now.”
I share this story because I know there is something in each of us that we are scared to let out, so terrified are we of the power within us. We may think it’s anger or rage. It might be, but it’s also our truth. It’s our personal power. We worry that it might scare people. It might cause people to leave. But what if it reveals to you the Kens of the world? After all, they are the ones you are supposed to be sitting across from.
Dimming your light and your voice isn’t fair to anyone, especially yourself. Dimming your light prevents your whole self from shining through. Dimming your light leaves you feeling inauthentic and dishonest. Dimming your light leaves you feeling unheard and unseen.
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