Trust and Shining your Light. What a topic for the month of June! I think, it’s the culmination in trust. How can you even ponder the idea of shining your light, if you don’t feel you can trust yourself? The lack of trust is quite common and I’m passionate about encouraging women to trust themselves. I’m on a mission and I’m so excited to tell you the big news, I’ve got planned for you. I can hardly wait. Stay tuned for an update on what’s coming very soon.
I can’t say much about it at this stage, but I can give you a hint. It has to do with trusting yourself and community. Almost everything is easier with a supportive community. This certainly is the case for trust and shining your light.
But before we get into this month’s topic. I would like to share an insight with you, hoping that you can experience something similar.
Here it goes: After starting to post on the topic, I came to the realisation that it requires a considerable about of trust in yourself to even start thinking about shining your light. I thought, choosing this topic was a little premature, given that there still 6 months in the year to contemplate about trusting yourself.
This got me thinking about my planning and I concluded that I didn’t think this through. Getting excited about new things, starting something without elaborate detailed cost-benefit analyses, yes, this sums up how I do many things in life. And, if anything has gotten me into strive in the past, it was exactly this. Not thinking things through. Even though, I still do this, one realisation came out of this latest example. Amazingly, I didn’t beat myself up about it. Well, that is very encouraging. Not that I don’t want to better myself anymore, of course I’m still working on myself. However, the key here is that I did something which previously would have triggered negative thoughts in my head, and this time, they weren’t there.
It is part of the human experience to have negative thoughts. It’s been said that humans are negatively wired. We have evolved spotting the unusual, the problem, and coming up with solutions. Of course, I still have negative thoughts and they serve me well. It’s about eliminating automated negative thought patterns, not negative thoughts all together. There’s a difference between the two. Automated, negative thought patterns are like bad habits, such as smoking, slouching, or biting fingernails. They don’t do anything for you apart from making you feel bad habitually.
Noticing the absence of negative thoughts about this, I started to pay more attention to repetitive thoughts in my head in general. I was amazed to find that they were mostly positive. Certainly not the typical judgemental and berating thoughts that I was plagued by in the past. I was so happy about this discovery. I must have cracked the code, yeah! I’m especially pleased about this, because if I can get rid of negative, repetitive thought patterns, so can you.
So, choosing this topic earlier than initially thought, was a great idea. Read on to learn how getting rid of negative thoughts relates to trusting and shining your light.
Let’s start by unpacking what ‘Shining Your Light’ means. At first glance, it has a spiritual background. A couple of thousand years ago, the following verses were included in the bible (Matthew, 5:15-16):
15: Neither do people light a lamp, and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand; and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16: In the same way, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father in heaven.
This passage is part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and these verses – as many others from the bible – have influence Western culture for centuries.
While these words come from a Christian background, other religious and spiritual teachings convey the same idea. Even if you are not religious or spiritual, there is an ancient wisdom in these words that still apply to us today.
It’s about being confident about who you are as a person, recognising the unique gift that everyone has as well as the importance of community to using people’s gifts for the greater good.
The trust issue comes into play immediately after thinking about the meaning of shining your light. Many of us shy away from shining their light and sharing their unique gifts with their community. Why do we do this?
We have been influenced since early childhood about how to behave and what to believe about ourselves and others. Some of these teachings were good and useful for society. It’s good to raise children who are kind and considerate of others. However, there are others that are not helpful. Unfortunately, beliefs such as not being good enough get perpetuated in the collective unconscious over generations. A typical example would be the unfamous stamp on children’s foreheads that they are not interested at academic pursuits at school. You could have heard something like this yourself or uttered to one of your classmates:
You won’t amount to anything.
You’ll never learn English.
You’re bad with numbers.
You are dumb.
Naturally, especially after hearing such words continually, children start to believe them, and then tend to repeat them in their own heads until they become self-fulfilling prophecies. This is only one example of a negative influence. Often, these words are spoken carelessly by someone (teacher, parent, relative etc.) due to their own upbringing, usually out of frustration or anger and sometimes not even due to the child’s behaviour.
It then depends on the individual child what their response might be. Some kids are shut down easily, whereas others do the opposite and want to ‘show’ it to whoever said the negative judgement.
For example, my English high school teacher recommended not to take his course, because he thought, I would not be able to learn English well enough to succeed in this high-level program. Back then, I was hurt. My reaction to this hurt was unfortunately self-damaging. I believed that I would not be able to learn English and abandoned any interest in the language, even into contemporary pop music. Instead, I listened to French chansons. Luckily, life had other plans for me and threw me a curve ball. Of all places, I migrated to an English-speaking country, Australia, attended university here, and I currently work on my PhD. This involves tutoring first year students and marking undergraduate university assignments. Somehow, I must have learnt English in the meantime. Today, I find the incident at high school amusing. I can now look at my teacher’s remark from an adult’s perspective. I can see now that my teacher was concerned about me, my overall marks for the final high school certificate, and he didn’t necessarily want to put me down.
However, not everyone is lucky enough to reframe childhood judgements or overcome deeper wounds and trauma. Sadly, how to deal with emotions and judgements by others is typically not taught at school. Instead, kids are left to their own childlike explanations of the world. As adults, they then still operate under these childlike explanations and get triggered by seemingly harmless stuff.
According to various psychological models, the brain operates in a fascinating manner. It likes to order impressions (or stimuli) into categories (or schema) amazingly fast. Imagine that the brain goes: Ah, we had this one before, let’s process this under this previous experience, done, next …
And before you know it, you reacted automatically to an incident just the same way, you’ve always done. If you are working on yourself, you may find this very frustrating. I know, I found it frustrating. I’m not as frustrated these days because I have worked a lot on releasing these old habitual behavioural patterns. However, from time to time, I come across an old habit and I can identify it as stemming from an event from childhood. It does take practice to recognise and release old patterns, and then some more practice to learn new, more empowering patterns. Finally, it takes even more practice to be kind to yourself, when you fall back into old habits.
Negative thought patterns and habitual childlike behaviours due to your personal history are not the only challenges to overcome if you want to trust yourself more and shine your light. There’s also a whopping influence from the society you grew up in. In my case, I was not encouraged to shine my light. It was perceived as boasting and showing off. In Australian society, we have the tall poppy syndrome, which ensures that people don’t get ahead of themselves. The message is, don’t stand out.
But, that’s exactly what happens when you shine your light in such a society. No wonder, most people don’t want to even go there. Just to make things more complicated, Australia has awards that are given to outstanding members of the public. Some of the recipients, when interviewed, say things like, ‘that was nothing, mate’ or ‘not a big deal’ or the famous ‘no worries’. It’s as if they want to say, that they are not intentionally sticking out above the crowd.
You have most likely read the quote by Marianne Williamson, which states the true nature of the collective fear of being successful or shining your light. If not, here it is:
“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.”
If negative thought patterns, unresolved childhood wounds and societal influences are not enough to preventing us from shining our light, there’s emotions too. Usually unpleasant emotions tend to be pushed down, aka suppressed, or avoided by various behaviours. We don’t like to have those emotions full stop. All this is normal. However, that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. It would be a lot better, if we were able to notice those negative emotions and use this as a trigger to pause and listen to our bodies. Check out what I had to say about this here. Reading all this, you may think, there’s no hope. Actually, there is. You can train yourself out of a negative thought pattern. It does require effort, but it’s so worth it. A lot of this work is individual work. However, if you do it in a group of likeminded people, it can make all the difference.
 Holy Bible, (1984). New International Version, United States: International Bible Society.
 Williamson,M. (2009). A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. United States: HarperOne.