My Struggle To Shine

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Shine:  To attract attention by standing above others in a quality.

That’s my personal definition of “shining”. On the last blog, I talked about how you don’t have to dim someone else’s light to shine because we all have an opportunity to shine bright together.  I now want to talk about another side to this shining thing—dimming your own light.  It’s a thing.  And I know this because I have done it. Hell, sometimes I still do it.  

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A few years back my great friend, Autumn Jones, suggested a book called “The Big Leap”.  It was written by Gay Hendricks and I highly recommend it.  Without going into the details, I’ll tell you the part of the book that spoke straight to my heart.  He talks about something called the “Upper Limit Problem”.  He defines it like this:  when you attain higher levels of success, you often create personal dramas in your life that cloud your world with unhappiness and prevent you from enjoying your enhanced success.  It’s basically self sabotage—but in an unconscious way (which basically means you aren’t really aware that you’re doing it).  

To go a bit deeper, he says there are four fears with related false beliefs (something you believe about yourself that isn’t true) that hold this Upper Limit Problem in place and allow for you to self sabotage yourself.  As I read through all four of them, I recognized mine immediately.  I never really thought about it before, but there it was, staring me in the face.  It was “the crime of outshining”.  This means that sometimes I might have a hard time doing anything to my fullest potential, because if I do I might outshine others and make them look or feel bad.  Whoa.  It was heavy.  And as I thought more about where it might have come from, it made total sense.  

I have always been an overachiever and a perfectionist.  I have a very hard time not giving my best in everything I do.  It’s super duper ingrained in me.  As a child, this was often met with criticism from other children.  Let me be clear, the criticism was not mean spirited.  I was liked by most of my classmates and I truly believe they weren’t trying to hurt my feelings.  I think it was just a passive aggressive way to get their feelings out.  For example, in elementary school, I was damn good at winning our weekly classroom spelling bee.  One week, before we got started, a classmate yelled out, “Why are we doing this?  It’s a waste of time.  Lindsay is just going to win.  She always does.”  That was followed by an eye roll.  Ouch.  Another time at an awards ceremony, they were calling my name a lot because I was winning awards.  Before they would announce the winner the kids next to me, behind me, and in front of me would sarcastically say my name in a very low voice, “Liiiiindsay Laaaangston.  Go get ANOTHER award.”  And if I didn’t win, it would go something like, “Whoa.  Finally someone else gets a chance to win!”  These are just two examples, but this kind of thing was pretty regular.

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I had mixed emotions.  Of course I was proud and happy that I won because I had worked so hard.  But I was also a little sad that my classmates felt so defeated all because of me.  So it began.  I still continued to overachieve and be a perfectionist, but I wasn’t loud and proud about it.  And this subconsciously started to make me feel a little guilty for reaching my full potential because I didn’t want to make others feel bad.  This mainly pertained to those close to me—family, friends, co-workers, etc.  Once this came to my attention, I noticed it came out in so many other ways.  When someone would compliment me, I would water down the compliment instead of just graciously taking it.  When someone asked me a question about an accomplishment, I would talk briefly about it and turn the attention back to them.  And if I won a contest at work, I would dread the announcement in front of the team.  I have and always been confident because I believe in myself and my abilities, but I just wouldn’t put a spotlight on it.

Photo by Catherine McMahon on Unsplash

But after I read this book and came to terms with how ridiculous this is, I slowly began to change it.  I regained my control.  I put a spotlight back on my confidence and my abilities.  I started to be loud and proud about all my accomplishments.  When someone complimented me, I graciously thanked them without a self deprecating story.  When someone asked me about me about my achievements, I took the time to answer the question about how awesome I felt about it.  And if I won a contest at work, I happily owned it.  I stopped trying to dim my own light.  I decided that if I chose to shine my light SUPER bright, it could motivate others to do the same thing!  That shift in my mindset was huge.

I am not struggling anymore.  I realize my worth and I know that I’m awesome.  I now share it with the world.  And I want to help other people realize this for themselves.  I want to help ignite the light of others so they can shine bright.  

This is what we should all do.  Be ourselves.  Love ourselves.  Do the things we love to our fullest potential.  Be proud of our talents and accomplishments.  Share them with the world and bask in any compliments we receive.  Be excited and proud about being in the spotlight.  And help others who may be struggling to do the same.