"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?..." -Marianne Williamson
It’s funny to think that someone else’s life and the way they live it, could give you permission to do or be something within your own life; that someone else's energy could beckon you to live more fully, confidently and boldly. But this is exactly what has happened to me over the past year on my track and field 'walk-about.' It's been as much a year of mental training as it has been a year of physical training, and as I seek to improve my own performances, I find myself observing others' (athletes, artists, actors, musicians, physicians). I was reminded of this story last weekend, while speaking to a high-achieving actor. The lesson is this: inner power, intention, resolve, and a tangible gravitas -- all of which one could summarize as 'self-confidence' lie deep within the DNA of high performers.
Pound for pound, Jack is one of the most physically powerful athletes I know. When he “high-fives” you, or does one of those playful hugs, you quickly learn to brace yourself, lest you topple over involuntarily (trust me, it's happened!). At 5'7" and 185lbs, he power cleans ridiculous weight for warm up and deep squats (butt below parallel, people!) over 400lbs without flinching. I would rather go to war or be fed to a hungry wolf than be his competitor in any physical contest. He moves with real and ridiculous power. As it turns out, that same power exists, lives, breathes and indeed originates in his mind (like a vat of rumbling lava, lazily rocking about, rolling back and forth in a furnace poised to spit; or a sleeping lion lazily sleeping, with slow and controlled breath, intermittently peeling one eyelid back to survey a vast territory, waiting for a reason to activate).
One day, we found ourselves at a cafe talking about some of the ills of the world (one of our preferred, but certainly more dismal topics), everything from the top 5% controlling 80% of the wealth, to religion and it’s good/bad rhetoric, to the difficulty of rediscovering that pure childhood happiness (i.e. after growing up and realizing, as Langston Hughes' penned, life ain't "no crystal stair”). And what amazed me about our conversation was the palpable force, conviction, directness, passion -- indeed, the power with which he spoke. Speaking with him was like a experiencing a verbal manifestation of his physical strength in the weight room. The same energy showed up -- he filled the entire room, from floor to ceiling, with BELIEF. And strength of belief. And himself: his ideas and personality and worldview and unique, perfectly quirky, one-of-a-kind self.
Some would call it "mental toughness," "conviction" or "self-confidence," I suppose. I have certainly seen the same quality in some of my closest friends who are artists (writers, actors, thinkers): the same strength of conviction, the same convincing movement(s), the same resolute stance, physically and mentally. What consistently strikes me is the fact that the mind is indeed powerful. Infinitely so. Powerful enough to will the body to move heavy weights, and powerful enough to move the soul to believe in whatever it believes in. Powerful enough to heal, and to calm, but also to activate, to inspire and to ignite.
The famous passage above in Marianne Williamson's A Return To Love ends with the sentence “As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” I think our challenge is to try our bests to live in that confident (fear-less), liberated state. I'm talking about waking up and walking around, interacting, thinking, and talking like that; with self-confidence, fullness, and authenticity. Just LIVING in that state, whether we are athletes, artists or engineers. Jack seems to have figured it out.
No matter how or when, confidence in self (i.e. inner power, mental toughness, resolve) is something worth seeking, protecting and nurturing.
As Williamson wrote, it enables us to be 'powerful beyond measure,' whatever our pursuit.