“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...As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I've been fighting an internal battle for a while now. I have an innate desire to create and to be excellent in what I do. Some who are close to me would even call me a perfectionist. I won't deny that label, though I've been working my way out of the fallacy that is the perfectionist mindset...But that's another story, for another day.
There's a common expression that something or someone won't let a person be great. Right now, I'm calling myself out for hindering my own greatness. Don't get me wrong, I do consider myself to be successful in several ways. I founded a social impact organization that is entering it's ninth year (not an easy feat). I have two talented and intelligent children who make me proud daily, great friendships, and above all, I'm truly happy with the work that I do. Still, I can't say that I'm completely satisfied.
I know that I am not fully walking in my purpose.
No, that's not my inner perfectionist trying to sneak out. It's me being honest enough with myself to admit that I am holding back, not taking necessary risks, pushing myself just enough to reach a plateau, but not the summit. I suspect that at least one person reading this can relate.
I started meeting with a business mentor/coach to help propel me to the next stage of my career and to break out of my comfort zone. My coach often urges me to turn up my fire. He uses an analogy of a stove, with a pilot light flame, which at a minimum, needs to be present in order for a stove to be operable. It's easy and comfortable to exist in pilot light mode. Not too risky - everything is working fine and if needed, the flame can be turned up to start cooking. It's safe.
Turning up the flame to it's highest level presents greater risks AND the greatest possibilities for rewards. I've heard it enough times and have even seen it myself: when my flame is turned up,
I'm ON FIRE and can inspire others to elevate as well!
So, how do we get there? How exactly does a person who's been holding back give themselves the permission to be great? Here are a few quick tips to help you get started:
Pick one thing that terrifies you and Just Do It
That one thing can be big or small. I take issue with vulnerability, more specifically, with letting people see me cry. One day I had been crying in private. Instead of tossing the tissue and rinsing my face before going into a room with other people, I kept the tissue in hand and passed by the people, which surprisingly caused me to feel more confident. To some, this is an insignificant occurrence. For me, it became a memorable achievement that I can (and do) recall whenever bigger fears or uncomfortable scenarios present themselves.
Keep the promises you make to yourself
This is another nugget that I got from my coach. As an empath, I tend to pour into others and try my best to help people who convey a need for assistance. Empaths are known to be relentlessly supportive with helping others reach their goals.
The problem is, empaths don't always approach their own goals with that same fortitude. They will walk to the ends of the earth to help a friend but will often times neglect their own needs.
It's very noble to have a genuine interest in helping others succeed. However, there is no commitment that is more essential than the commitment a person makes to themselves.
If it can be done, you can do it
This is the simplest pep talk I give to myself and my children. It makes me think of The Matrix and the notion that the limitations we create in our own minds are the only things that are truly holding us back. I firmly believe that there isn't anything that cannot be done, just things that we haven't figured out how to do, yet. It also lends to the idea that the major thing that separates the extraordinary people from the ordinary people is that extraordinary people are aware of their greatness. They believe in themselves to a fault, even when they are knocked down, or when they have nothing tangible that other people would consider to be great.
Think of all the great inventions that we take for granted today: airplanes, cell phones. GPS, to name a few. Think of success stories that we've heard which often go something like this: a person had a talent/desire to do something great. They ran into various obstacles that could have prevented them from being successful. People around them encouraged them to quit and try something that was safer or easier. The person persevered, often drawing solely from inner strength or belief in themselves. Alas, they had a big break or some catalyst that opened the door to them becoming the person that is now recognized as a leader in their field.
The key ingredient to their greatness was not just talent or sheer skill; it was tenacity and belief in their own abilities, even when no one else believed in them.
We all have the capacity to be great
and to draw greatness out of others. But greatness - like anything worth achieving - is not something that just falls into your lap. It starts with making a commitment to yourself, challenging yourself to break out of your comfort zone, and above all - getting out of your own way.
Kashanna Eiland is the co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment through Education and Exposure, a nonprofit agency that promotes post-secondary education and career opportunities for Chicago youth. She is also a Social Impact Strategist and Speaker who helps socially conscious individuals and organizations bring their bright ideas to fruition.