the inner light that shines inside us

Somewhere inside of you is a part that is fearless, authentic, and real. She (or he) might be right up near the surface, shining bright for all to see. Or she might be a tiny little spark, buried deep down, a warm little glow only you see and feel.

She may, in your mind, look just like you do now, showing up when you’re with your family and friends, going around in public, and doing your work. Or she may still be young and innocently bold, the You before life said, “Please settle down,” “These are the rules we expect you to follow,” or “It would be better if you were thinner or smarter or prettier or richer or ______er or _______er.”

Being our fearless, authentic, real selves can be amazing and feel awesome or it can feel downright scary. We may choose to dim our inner lights so we don’t offend anyone or disrupt the stable order of things. Lots of people do this.

But those people run the big risk that one day, they will look back and think, “Wow, if I could do it all again, I’d be bolder. I’d be more ME.”

This is just what happened to hundreds of people hospice worker Bronnie Ware cared for in their final days, and whose stories she captured in her 2011 book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. She described their most common regret as: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, instead of the one others expected of me.”

Isn’t that tragic? If I had a magic wand, I would give all those men and women a second chance.

Some people DO get a second chance, and for them, being authentic becomes a high priority. People who, like me, have had a serious health scare, get a jolt that makes them realize, “If I’m ever going to have the courage to live life fully and fiercely, now is the time.”

The Year of COVID has brought this home to so many. In an article by The New York Times titled “Emerging from the Coronavirus,” Jeffreen Hayes of Chicago is quoted as saying, “I am falling back in love with myself… How I plan to live my life going forward: no more doing for others what I do not want to do. I am centering my attention on the things that give me peace.” Aline Mello of Marietta, Georgia, declared, “I am not going to try to be polite anymore. I am going to hopefully become a less behaved, less likable, ballsier, more outspoken, more dangerous woman.” You go, Aline!

We might not think about this big topic every day. Sometimes it takes a brush with mortality to bring it into sharp focus. But it doesn’t have to be a scary, negative process. It can simply mean making the decision to give that little warm glow inside you the chance to grow, to expand, to brighten. To give it a little oxygen and let it breathe.

If this makes you say, “Yes! I want to shine brighter!” here are three things you can do to fan your flames:

  • Remind yourself of what makes you truly happy – what *lights you up* inside. Make a list or download this free template from my website.

  • Take a scientifically-validated survey to discover your highest values and deepest strengths – these will be things that really matter to you and that you might want to dedicate more energy to.

  • If you could use a little more courage to speak up for yourself and advocate for what you want more or less of, I’ve written a book about that. It’s called ISPEAQ: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Have Difficult Conversations. You can read about the six-step process it contains in this blog post or read reviews/order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or The Book Depository.

You have options. Every day that you wake up is a second chance. Honor your fearless, authentic, real part. Let it out. Let it SHINE.