6th grade. That’s when I first heard this quote. It’s inaccurately been credited to Nelson Mandela but was actually written by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love. However, had it not been miscredited to Mandela, I most likely would have never heard it. As far as I know, we don’t know how or why, but somehow these words were attributed to Mandela after his ’94 inaugural speech when the quote gained momentum and spread around the internet. It was said that these words were a part of his speech, although they never were. According to nelsonmandela.org, Mandela never uttered these words in any of his speeches. Regardless, I know it came across my path at age 12 due to this fortunate mistake.
Words are powerful. I remember when I read this quote in 6th grade and how it resonated with me at the time. I remember thinking, “Yea. This makes sense!” Most importantly, I remember acting on it. It resonated so well with me that it changed me. I remember approaching situations with the understanding that if I was my best, if I let my light shine, that other’s would be able to do the same, and I began to see that it’s true!
I bet I reread this quote once a month. I live it, but it’s always a nice shot of inspiration, a nice shot of staying positive, motivation to always be my best, and a reminder of the impact that my choices can have beyond myself.
This is a principle we should teach our kids. I think many of us hit on “be your best” and “shine your light”, but I think we should hit harder on how those choices can liberate others to do the same.
We’ve all heard, “kids are mean”. I see and hear adults focus on this quite a bit. But I have to say, in the big picture, I see a lot more of kids being kind and helpful than kids being mean. The beauty of my 5th graders is that they want to help those around them, they want to feel helpful and appreciated. I think this is a message kids will understand; I know I did at age 12. I think kids are less selfish than we give them credit, and they’ll be further inspired to be their best if they were taught that they empower others when they do so.
Words are powerful.
Full Quote: “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? You are a child of God. 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. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. 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.” – Marianne Williamson
Picture credit: Montessori Children's Academy