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I watched Akeelah and the Bee last night. A wonderful film about a young girl who dared let herself shine despite her deep fear, and despite the less-than-supportive messages she was getting from her environment – or at least the ones that rang true to her.

Funny how we can hear many things, but only pick out the words we feel ready to accept at the time – sometimes giving almost zero weight to words and people that could lift us up.

Now I have to admit that, even though I knew the film was about a little girl facing her fear and hopefully triumphing, I kind of expected to be bored by a lot of it…I mean it is about a spelling bee after all! Well, the film kept me riveted all the way through.

It has tremendous depth and heart and is wonderfully directed and acted. I loved every minute of it, despite my own occasional fear of the “sappiness factor”. It spoke to me on every level.

How easily I related to that little girl who at first couldn’t even imagine herself entering her own school’s spelling bee – much less a national bee. She worried the cool kids would laugh at her – and rightly so, because they did.

Coming from the world she came from, she was paralyzed by both the fear of failing as well as the fear of winning. Sadly, either would get her laughed at. So trying became less attractive than simply fading into the background where you can’t be seen or heard or laughed at – at least not too much.

But (SPOILER ALERT) with the help of some caring people and her own yet barely-tested inner strength, she had the last laugh. And being the person she is, she wasn’t laughing at – she was laughing with!

The Fear Factor

And now to the main point of this post. Fear. We all have it. We all manufacture it. What is it after all without our brain creating it? You can’t hold it. Or bottle it. Or even exchange it for a new pair of shoes, as nice as that would be. It just sits around inside, feeling very real indeed.

But it’s not the fear itself that matters so much. It’s what we do with it – and whether we let it ride us or we wind up riding it!

Akeelah and the Bee uses part of a wonderful quote by Marianne Williamson that made me stop and rewind several times, reading the words again and again. Just letting them sink in. Here’s the whole quote, sometimes attributed to Nelson Mandela, but he actually borrowed the powerful words from Ms. Williamson. Maybe they will speak to you too:

 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 and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. *

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. 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.

That really hit home for me. Looks like it’s ok to shine after all. Not only ok…but something that can potentially lift us up – as well as lifting up the world around us. Not a bad deal.

Makes us think about all the times we kept the light dim for ourselves. Well…makes me think about it for myself for sure.


*Note: I am not especially religious, so when I see the word “God” I simply substitute a thought that works better for me. The message is still as powerful as before.