What Does Marianne Williamson’s “Deepest Fear” Quote Really Mean?

Meaning of Marianne Williamson's deepest fear quote
Most of you have heard Marianne Williamson’s famous “deepest fear” quote. You don’t have to agree with her politics, enjoy her books, or like her. Still, Williamson deserves credit for this passage from her bestselling self-help book, A Return to Love—credit she isn’t always given. Her words deserve to be carefully read and understood because they offer an opportunity to grow both personally and spiritually.

If you don’t know the “deepest fear” quote, here it is:

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 doesn’t serve the world.”

The “deepest fear” quote has been used by many speakers since 1992, most of whom have misattributed it to Nelson Mandela. Yet, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, he never used the quote in his speeches.

It’s no wonder people choose to repeat this quote, though. It’s a powerful, stirring, inspirational passage tailor-made to remind you to be your best self.

You may have read this quote before and felt something stir inside you, but did you take the time to think about why it impacted you?

Williamson’s words hold so much meaning—more than most people realize. That’s why I suggest taking time to study them more fully.

So, let’s unpack the seven sentences, so you can allow the quote to motivate and inspire you on a deeper level.

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

The first two sentences are best read together and are probably the most frequently quoted. They indicate that you are more afraid of how capable, complete, and powerful you are than of any perceived incapability, incompleteness, or powerlessness.

I commonly hear people say they aren’t good enough in some way…or in all ways. And they are afraid they will be “discovered” as inadequate. But what if that’s a smoke screen, and you just don’t want anyone to know you are totally adequate…even more than adequate?

You are afraid to demonstrate to yourself and the world that you are more than good enough/ You fear living up to your potential and being the person you know you can be. Because if you are powerful, then what? What does that say about how you have lived to date? What does it mean about what you can create from this moment forward and the impact you can have?

You don’t want to acknowledge how magnificent and powerful you are, even to yourself. Because if you are powerful, that brings into question how you will use that power—for good or for evil? Will you inadvertently misuse it?

You don’t realize that you use your power every day—often without realizing it. You have created everything in your life and can create something new.

It’s our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

You are a spiritual being having a physical or human experience, and you possess a spark of the Divine. That spark—the light—is the essence of who you are. It’s your soul, which is pure and good.

Become an Inspired CreatorFor some reason, most humans are afraid to show their essence to anyone—even themselves. Perhaps you, too, are scared to be or express the spiritual part of yourself. Maybe you worry about what others will think if they see your light—who you really are.

Consider what it might be like to live from connectedness…from your innocence, goodness, and purity…from your light. What would become possible if you shined your light rather than being afraid of the impact of doing so?

You spend so much time saying you’re afraid to show anyone your darkness, yet more often than not, you hide your light. As a result, you don’t show up authentically.

Why are we so afraid to acknowledge and demonstrate our light? The answer comes in the following line of the passage.

We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”

You came into the world totally worthy and deserving and then allowed others to tell you that you were not these things. Or you interpreted your life experiences to mean you weren’t worthy and deserving. Then, like so many people, you begin to feel unworthy and undeserving and live and create accordingly.

And you continue to believe this about yourself. After all, if you believe the opposite, you’ll struggle to understand why you don’t have what you desire and why others treat you as unworthy and undeserving. Ultimately, you’d have to give up your story about why you haven’t created different circumstances for yourself and claim your brilliance, beauty, talent, and power.

And if you did that—gave up the story about being unworthy and undeserving—and admitted that you are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous, what then? You might hide this fact out of fear of how you will be perceived, if people will dislike you, or if you will be outcast.

After all, how do you look at people who you think are brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous, and powerful? If you have negative stereotypical beliefs about them, you won’t want to be like them—even if that’s who you are. To be your authentic self—in all your brilliance, beauty, talent, uniqueness, and power, you must give up those beliefs and reframe how you think about yourself. Seeing yourself in such a different light might feel like a scary proposition.

Actually, who are you not to be? Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

These two sentences must be read together. When I do so, I hear a little voice saying, “Who do you think you are not to express your true essence? What gives you a pass?”

In fact, I have no excuse, no reason for not showing up as brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. And neither do you.

You thumb your nose at God when you don’t show up in all your glory—brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous, unique, and powerful. (Choose another term, if you prefer, like Creator, Universe, or Source.) You disrespect that which created you and clearly show that you don’t like or care about being the magnificent creation God intended you to be.

You are part and parcel of that which created you and possess a Divine spark and a soul connected to your Creator. When you refuse to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous, you deny who you are—a child of God.

You are a child of God.

Being “a child of God” is interpreted differently by various religious traditions. A general interception might be that you were “birthed” or “created” by God.

I prefer to say you possess a spark of divinity and are a creator in your own right. In other words, you are “God-like” in nature.

No matter what meaning you give to this statement, know this: when you don’t live as a child of God, you show up inauthentically. Plus, you tell the Creator that you—Its Divine creation—are not good enough or faulty. Therefore, you must hide who you are or risk being embarrassed for showing up fully.

Rather than expressing your brilliance, beauty, talent, and power, you hide who you are. Unfortunately, that leaves you no choice but to play small. Rather than live like the powerful spiritual creator you are, you allow your fear to stop you from fully expressing yourself, which also curtails your power.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

You came into this lifetime to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. Your soul chose to enter your physical body and learn your life lessons so you could fulfill your potential and purpose.

And everyone has a purpose—even if it appears to be a small one, like caring for your children, supporting your partner, or serving others by making their burgers and fries. You were created to make a difference.

You make a difference when you express your true self. However, that’s impossible to do if you play small. To play big, you must let go of your fears and beliefs about not being good enough, worthy, deserving, or powerful. Instead, you must believe the opposite.

It’s time to stop believing those things since they aren’t true. Instead, admit that you are a spark of divinity, a soul housed in a body. You were created to shine your light and demonstrate that you are powerful beyond measure.

Reread the Quote

Take a moment now to reread Williamson’s quote. It has taken on a deeper meaning, has it not?

I believe Williamson’s words are a call to stop saying, “I’m inadequate in any way.” They challenge you to acknowledge, “I am the light and a powerful creator.”

Read this quote often, so you remember to shine your light into the world. Then, daily, tell yourself, “I am deserving and worthy. I am brilliant, gorgeous, and fabulous. I’m a child of God, and it’s time to shine my light and play big.”

Know this is who you are, and embrace that identity. What becomes possible when you are being a child of God…brilliant, fabulous, gorgeous, talented, powerful, and creative?

Don’t Shrink to Make Others Feel Better

There’s more to this quote, by the way. And the last six sentences pack a real punch.

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. 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.

You are both spiritual and physical. I’m sure you realize that doing what Williamson describes in these passages requires growing personally and spiritually.

You move through fear, worthiness and deservedness issues, or concern about being powerful with a focus on your personal (human) growth. Admitting you are an amazing child of God and shining your light so you fulfill your purpose takes effort to grow spiritually. Do what it takes to show up authentically in all your glory.

As Williamson points out, by shining your light, you role model this possibility to others and tell them it’s safe to shine their light, too. If you lack a sense of purpose, let this be yours: to shine your light as a way to give those you encounter permission and courage to shine theirs.

What do you take away from Williamson’s “deepest fear” passage? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with a friend or on social media.

If you want to increase your ability to show up authentically, shine your light, and play big, let’s chat. Get on my calendar here. Or join the Inspired Creator Community for group personal and spiritual growth coaching every month.

Inspired Creator CommunityIt’s time to transform, is it not? Join the Inspired Creator Community. As a member, you will discover how to change from the inside out. Finally, be the person who does the things that allow you to create what you desire. Gain access to a world-class Certified High Performance Coaching program, a proprietary Inspired Results Coaching program, Author Coaching, and strategies for living a life that feeds your soul. As you will discover, you are a powerful creator. It’s time to create what you want. Join now!

Photo copyright: canbedone

3 thoughts on “What Does Marianne Williamson’s “Deepest Fear” Quote Really Mean?”

  1. Dear Nina,

    I bless you with joy forever for penning this insightful essay…it is just brimming over with wisdom at every turn…! And the way you have expressed the deeper underlying significance of Nina is just fabulous…!

    Keep writing,
    Keep sharing,
    Keep shining.

    Stay blessed,


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