A Letter To My 4-Year-Old-Niece On Power

01/23/2017 11:50 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2017
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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... 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. ― Marianne Williamson

Dear Hadley,

I wanted to take God out of that quote because he doesn’t resonate with me. Especially lately, when it feels like people want to use him to justify things that feel straight out of the Stone Age. And really, I think you are a child of science. The greatest, most elaborate, ongoing science experiment of all time ― where sperm meets egg in the collision of bodies and cells and proteins and DNA.

But that whole thing is pretty divine. And who knows, maybe some God is out there. And maybe when you read this, so many years from now, that capital G will feel right to you.

Either way, the sentiment is exact, and I love Marianne Williamson, and I’m personally trying to remember that it’s good to look at the whole of things rather than pick apart the details, which has long been my specialty.

Things are happening in the world right now that are raising big questions about power. What it means, who has it, who doesn’t. The misuse, the misattribution, the absolute horror of placing it in the small hands of someone unworthy. But the response to that dark side is surprisingly bright. The life-giving, life-changing, twinkling kind of power that makes people kinder, better, braver. I feel it in myself as much as I do from so many around me. People power. Everywhere.

Here’s a truth:

No one gives you power. It’s not granted. It’s not the byproduct of a personal or professional marker of success.

I don’t even think it’s earned.

It’s accepted and validated externally, but that’s not where it comes from. Some of the least powerful people I know walk around with titles that would suggest the opposite. Many are fooled by this. Don’t be.

Your power is in you. You were born with it.

You wouldn’t have the words to articulate it right now (as I write you’re about a month shy of 5), but this is a truth you instinctively know. You don’t question it or search outside yourself for it. Your power is something you just live in, all day long.

But time happens. And things change. And it seems that most of us lose sight of our innate power some time around eleven or twelve. Maybe earlier, maybe later. That part isn’t science.

You might spend years searching around in dark corners and foreign spaces trying to find it. You might think that you can borrow some from a friend who seems to have extra. You might buy new shoes. You might take a job that looks good on paper thinking the answer to your unnamable sense of loss exists in the established hierarchy of things.

Climb a ladder. Touch the top. Fill your bank account. Your keys are still lost.

And then, one day, you’ll wake up and you’ll feel something stirring in your blood. And you’ll walk out the door with a steadier stride, a taller spine. And you’ll realize: there it is.

Your old friend. Inside you this whole time. Asleep, or something.

And in that same instant, you’ll understand that power isn’t a zero sum game. Having more doesn’t require others having less.

Yours, like everyone else’s, is infinite. You just have to wake it up. And give it a voice. And use it for good.

I love you, child of science and strength and magical power that comes from god knows where.

Aunt Liz

For more, visit Letters to Hadley.

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