Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson on giving yourself permission

We’re tempted to think that we’re more impressive when we put on airs. We’re not, of course; we’re rather pathetic when we do that. “Grandiosity is always a cover for despair.” The light of Christ shines most brightly within us when we relax and let it be, allowing it to shine away our grandiose delusions. But we’re afraid to let down our masks. What is really happening here, unconsciously, is not that we are defending against our smallness. The ego is actually, in those moments, defending against God.

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 doesn’t 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 are 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’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

A miracle worker is an artist of the soul. There’s no higher art than living a good life. An artist informs the world of what’s available behind the masks we all wear. That’s what we’re all here to do. The reason so many of us are obsessed with becoming stars is because we’re not yet starring in our own lives. The cosmic spotlight isn’t pointed at you; it radiates from within you. I used to feel like I was waiting for someone to discover me, to “produce” me, like Lana Turner at the drugstore. Ultimately I realized that the person I was waiting for was myself. If we wait for the world’s permission to shine, we will never receive it. The ego doesn’t give that permission. Only God does, and He has already done so. He has sent you here as His personal representative and is asking you to channel His love into the world. Are you waiting for a more important job? There isn’t one.
Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love: Reflections on the principles of a Course in Miracles, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), p. 164-5.


The middle paragraph of this quotation is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela‘s 1994 Address to the People of Cape Town, sometimes mistakenly asserting that the speech was written by Marianne Williamson. This is a web legend. The quotation is frequently listed and adapted, a testament to its resonance.