For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with journals, writing, paper, pens, sharpened pencils, colored pencils, and adorable notebooks – in other words my idea of heaven on earth is a stationary store. With that in mind it should be no surprise that I have this cute little journal that says “Be Inspired” on the cover and has a quote at the top of every page. I was thumbing through it and felt drawn in by this phrase from Shakespeare,
“Be not afraid of greatness.”
Besides the immediate feelings of affection and delight I have toward Shakespeare, my first thought is this quote seems a little strange. Aren’t we all pursuing greatness? Why would we be afraid of greatness? I mean the opposite would be mediocrity or normal. Pondering all this reminded me of this post. I wrote awhile back where I quoted the fabulous Nelson Mandela. Here’s what he said that I loved so much:
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 and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela
I particularly love the part about “your playing small doesn’t serve the world” because I think a lot of times people hold back. I know I do. Sure, you wouldn’t think people are holding back based on what’s on the news or what’s on social media but in the real world, in real society, I think we hold back. We wear masks. I’ve always said I don’t care what people think of me because I don’t but the flip side of that is I rarely share deep thoughts or parts of me. Perhaps I can dismiss others’ opinions of me because I know they don’t really know me and I’m not trying to hide, I’m not playing hard to get, I just don’t trust people. I don’t trust people because, well, honestly, I don’t think people are very trust worthy to put in bluntly. But at the same, I want people to see the real me and I want the real me to inspire them. Ultimately, that’s what I want whatever art I’m creating to do for people is inspire. So there are these two extremely conflicting things for the artist. I want to be who I am, and inspire people or shine as Mandela says, I don’t want to be afraid of greatness as Shakespeare calls it. I want to be great – I despise the thought of being ordinary; of course I want to be extraordinary and yet I don’t trust people. This is what fear says. This is what we’re afraid of, having to jump, having to trust people.
I tried to find a quote about why we wear masks to help elaborate on what I am trying to express but most ideas about masks don’t really work with these thoughts from Shakespeare and Mandela. The prevailing idea behind wearing a mask is being able to hide the bad parts about ourselves. Or being a complete and utter hypocrite. But I realized that I wear a mask not to hide what I view as negative or bad things about myself, instead I wear a mask to hide positive things. I wear a mask because I don’t want to intimidate others. I don’t want to reveal my greatness. I’m not shy, I’m just “playing small” as Mandela says. I think this is why Shakespeare saying so succinctly, “Let us not be afraid of greatness.” stunned me so much because we people who are suffering from the human condition are craving applause therefore we should welcome it, and yet completely illogically we are afraid of it.
I fantasize about what our lives would be if we were being who we are fully supposed to be, what would be revealed about the people around us. Mandela’s closing words give me great hope “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” There is an idea in psychology that is referred to as “mirroring” I believe. It is the behavior in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another. When people are in love (or like or infatuation) they subconsciously mimic the mannerisms of the person of their fancy. When people are arguing if one person raises their voice, the other is likely to do the same. What would happen if we were liberated from our fear as Mandela says? Others would mirror us. It is something involuntarily that occurs. Let us heed Shakespeare’s advice and “not be afraid of greatness.” because how fierce would that be?
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