“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” ~Hafiz
I keep a prism hanging near the entrance to my home. Its beauty, made possible only by the broken nature of the glass from which it is constructed, serves as a constant reminder that even the broken pieces within each and every one of us can serve as a source of light. It’s a lesson that took me some time to learn.
Shortly after graduating from college, I took a long, brutally honest look at my life and realized that it had become stagnant and nearly joyless. I was entrenched in a profoundly unhappy relationship, working too much, and laughing too little. I decided then to make a change.
I acknowledged that the lies I told myself—that I was unlovable, somehow broken, or a victim of an abusive past—had created a world in which deep happiness was seen only in glimpses.
I accepted as truth that I had not just a right to find happiness but a duty to do so, and I dedicated myself to its pursuit. I ended that relationship, negotiated better hours at work, and set my mind to finding joy.
On an academic level, I did everything I could to ensure the growth of my spirit: I cultivated meaningful relationships, I kept a gratitude journal, I did yoga. I read and discussed countless books and articles about age-old wisdom and the secrets of happiness.
Through dedicated action and a commitment to growth, I was able to rewire my brain to invite and accept happiness in myriad ways.
But, on a personal level, my path was less clear. Some days I was astonished by the sheer beauty of life and felt fully connected and present. I had profound moments of clarity in which I knew that I was a part of the great fabric of the universe and, as such, deeply beautiful.
But some days old patterns of dysfunctional thought would creep in.
I was astounded to find that my perception of my appearance could throw an entire morning off, or that I still struggled to understand why any person should love me.
I battled disappointment and sadness as I grappled with those unwelcome thoughts. In those moments of darkness, I began to question whether I had grown at all.
Meanwhile, friends, family members, and acquaintances would confide in me that my approach to life, cheerful nature, and natural light was an inspiration to them. As I shared some of the wisdom that I had learned during my journey toward self-discovery, I helped those around me ease their own suffering. Yet, still I questioned myself.
I wondered, “How can I help anyone else when I don’t feel whole?”
It was during one of those moments of deep uncertainty that a dear friend urged me to acknowledge my own light.
He asked me to imagine a world in which I hadn’t shared my joy, a place devoid of the little transformations I had made.
I had to admit that if I had allowed those moments of darkness to overshadow the clarity I had achieved, the world would be a tiny bit less bright. I acknowledged that it was my duty to prevent that.
I had to set aside fear—fear that I was not good enough, not complete enough—in order to allow my light to shine.
There is a quote by Stephen Cope, from The Great Work of Your Life, that I have hanging in my bedroom. It reads, “Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.”
With that in mind, I am able to act—to offer love, support, help, and kindness when I can. I am able to shine. It is, in fact, our suffering that allows us to transform the little corner of the world that is ours.
The path to self-growth is not linear. It is a meandering journey through mountains and valleys, and occasionally there are more lows than highs. But it is a journey ever onward, and it is our light—that same light that exists in every one of us—that guides the way, if only we allow it to shine.
Invite yourself to embrace every aspect of your being. Perhaps there will be times that you feel less than whole, but when those moments come, encourage yourself to remember a time when you made the world a more positive place. Regardless of where you are on your path, that moment mattered.
The moment you share your light, the world becomes a brighter place.