Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

Today I spent over an hour helping one of my former students write a scholarship essay, an hour when I was also helping two ninth graders write heroic monologues and keeping an eye on a student taking a make-up test, an hour at the end of a long day that wouldn’t end for several more hours, an hour that was incredibly valuable to me.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

This student is the kind of student that reminds me why I love this work so much. She was part of the second advisory group I ever had, as well as a student of mine, and working with her over the years has taught me so much about to be a better teacher, a better advisor, a better support figure for the girls who surround me every day. She came to our school as a basketball recruit, struggled to recover from a potentially career-ending injury and surgery, and spent several years drawing inward, trying to figure who she wanted to be and how to get there.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

She and I have laughed and joked over the years, shared fondnesses for Destiny’s Child and Scandal. I watched her find The Catcher in the Rye and see herself in Holden Caulfield, a character who in superficial ways couldn’t resemble her less, but who spoke to her in a way books hadn’t before. I listened to her recite Still I Rise in my first March Madness poetry brackets and saw how her voice gained power as she found the power in the words. She introduced me to her girlfriend and I reached out to her in every possible way, trying not to crowd her, while always wanting her to know that I was part of the people in our community who cared deeply about her.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

She wrote her essay about watching Coach Carter over and over during the years where she wondered if she would ever be the athlete she once was, and how her fear of failure kept her from the success we all hoped for her. She wrote about hearing the words of Marianne Williamson through a character in the film, and coming to understand that he was speaking to her too.

as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same

Watching her write today, trying to earn additional scholarship money as she looks toward college this fall, knowing that she hopes not to be a burden on her mother as she strives to become the first in her family to graduate, I was so proud of her, and felt so enriched to have been a part of her journey over the past four years.

As rewarding as it can be, sometimes the power inherent in teaching is so frightening. We’ve all heard the stories of people who had that one teacher, that one class, that one conversation that changed their lives, and that is a wonderful thing. But it’s also a lot to live up to, especially when we love our students so much. Knowing that I had any impact on this amazing young lady, even if it was only to help her express these experiences that are so meaningful to her, reminds me just how much power my profession holds, and how carefully we must wield it. I am so incredibly grateful to get to do what I do, and I must bear that charge with all the grace and strength I can muster, in the midst of all the hurlyburly of the teaching life, despite my own fears of inadequacy.

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.

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