It’s the final morning of our family holiday and the Portuguese sun is already strong enough to send me to the shade of a quiet veranda. The last week has been one filled with relaxation, silly card games, and fun in the pool. For me, it has also been one of reflection. Being away from my normal routine and chores has created the space to notice what Rebecca Campbell would call the ‘whispers’ of my soul. As a result, today’s post is a reflective one, in which I’ll be talking about recognising and letting go of self-doubt and the notion that we have to have everything ‘together’ before we can share our voices.
For some time, possibly longer than I realise, I’ve been feeling called to write and share something. I’m still not sure what it is that I should be writing about, but it’s the reason I started this blog and recording the posts as podcast episodes. This need to write feels like a compulsion - between the posts I publish, I write in journals - pages and pages of things that will never be read by anyone else. Over the last week, with no clients to see or chores to do, I’ve been noticing, journaling, and reflecting what has come up for me and in particular, what might be stopping me from knowing what it is I should be writing!
The big thing that keeps coming up (it’s not news as I’ve recognised it for some time) is that I am stopped by self-doubt. Often I’ll have an idea - something that strikes me as being of potential value to someone else - and my inner voice starts asking me who the hell I think I am to share that. What possible credibility do I have and who would listen? I’ve overcome this a little by sharing my ‘thought for the day’ posts on Facebook and Instagram, but even then I usually find a quote by someone else to anchor the thought. Because my own words won’t be convincing enough, without someone else saying the same thing and giving them credibility. Hmmm.
Whether through attraction, synchronicity, or whatever else you might call it, the laws of the universe work in such a way that when you’re buying a red Fiat, all you see are red Fiats, and because I’ve been thinking about this self-doubt, all sorts of related things have been showing up for me. In Facebook groups, books, on Instagram. Wherever I look. As a student of the spiritual text A Course In Miracles (ACIM), I also follow writer and teacher Marianne Williamson and one of her most famous quotes has been popping up a lot. You might recognise it, although it’s often attributed to others.
“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?”
I certainly don’t feel powerful beyond measure, or any of the things she lists, but the quote goes on to say: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.” Now this is something I can relate to! I recognise that I do play small - I don’t always speak up or make the contributions I could. My Reiki practice has already started to break this habit to some degree. I know that by saying the things I feel or experience during a session (even if it seems unreasonable to say some of them) it usually has a deeper meaning for the client, if they are open to it. That’s often the way they can access the deepest healing. And yet, this hasn’t spilled over into my life outside the treatment room.
Williamson says that “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” That’s certainly something I can get behind. But first, there are some blocks I need to break through.
One of the biggest reasons for my own self-doubt, and maybe it’s one of yours too, is about readiness. It’s the feeling that I need to have everything together myself, before I can be of service to others. That I need to be ‘perfect’, not to make mistakes, to have all my sh*t together. This is nothing new - I’ve had this fear for much of my life. Even as a child I remember being afraid to get things wrong, to make mistakes. I wanted to do my best at everything and if it was something I wasn’t good at (like sports) then I didn’t even want to try. What was the point? Don’t misunderstand me here, I’ve made millions of mistakes - as many as anyone else. But typically at school, and beyond in my adult life, I usually wait until I have the ‘right’ answer before offering it. I tend to practice and study things before jumping into them.
As I took a quiet walk around the grounds of this beautiful rented villa, I came across an orange tree (pictured above). Some of the fruits looked ripe and juicy while others were still green. I mentally quipped ‘when is an orange not an orange?’ and then realised the ridiculousness of that thought. Of course a green orange is still an orange. It’s not its state of readiness that makes something what it is! In that moment, I saw how this also applies to myself. Being ‘green’ is even a phrase! Yes, it denotes inexperience and lack of maturity, but that doesn’t mean something is invaluable - on the contrary, it makes it full of potential! So what if I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still working things out? It doesn’t mean my contribution can't be valuable to someone else.
After that revelation (and it really did feel like one) I was reading some background to ACIM (see footnote) and the way that the (channelled) material was received by the scribe Helen Schucman and her colleague Bill Thetford. If you’re unfamiliar with it, I should explain that it was published in the mid-70s and remains one of the most important spiritual works of the twentieth century, influencing many of the writers and teachers you will have heard of today. I was surprised to discover that Helen was in a far from ‘perfect’ space when the Course was written, in fact she was preoccupied with very human things like going shopping for a coat and personal grudges. She certainly did not have all her s**t together, at least when she began her task!
Then, yesterday I had a somewhat (but not completely) unusual experience. I was laying in the shade by the pool in a very relaxed and meditative state. In my mind (for he certainly wasn’t there in reality) I saw a large liver and white pointer-type dog running joyfully around the pool at breakneck speed, tail wagging, and tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. He was having so much fun. In my reverie, I watched him running away from me and realised he only had three legs. I immediately understood this to be another metaphor for my block around ‘perfection’. Just like readiness, perfection really isn’t necessary to get on and enjoy what you want to do. Use what you have. Work with that.
Later, I caught up with some of Hollie Holden’s facebook live videos from this week, and she was talking about the same thing! Having returned from travel, still in her scruffy clothes, with lego and washing everywhere, she was not having the best day and talked about the way that human life IS messy. That doesn’t mean you can’t share and teach what you most need to learn yourself. Listening to Hollie, far from discounting her as someone who didn’t have everything ‘perfectly’ together (whatever that means), I felt I could relate to her so much more. Her life looked no different from mine. I appreciated her authenticity.
“As we shed the layers of our personality and start letting our unique soul speak through us, we discover that we actually have a very clear message that longs to be shared. The more we speak it, the clearer it gets.”
The advice was to express yourself and to speak to those who can hear you. And so here I am, sharing this with YOU. I’m hoping that if you’re reading, you’ll recognise something in it. Maybe you have been letting fear, or lack of readiness, or imperfection hold you back. Let me know what you think, whether you relate. How can you move beyond your fear?
Footnote: I've recently discovered a revised version of the Course from Circle of Atonement which includes additional text, thorough annotations and lots of additional content taken directly from Helen Schucman's original notes, making the content much more relatable and easy to understand. It's available from Amazon (affiliate) in Hardcover or Kindle editions and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is studying the Course.