I read Susan one of my all-time favorite quotations, from Marianne Williamson, the one that begins, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure..." and adds, "Your playing small doesn't serve the world." Susan taped this quotation above her desk. She's using it as the basis for a new life plan—a plan that will require all Susan's skill as an attorney, bureaucrat, and superhero healer of conflicts.

Perhaps you, like Susan, feel in your bones that you have a big role to play in the world. But humility or worry may cause you to push the truth away. Your superhero self will feel confined and restless, and this may come out in dozens of small complaints or repeated dissatisfaction. Where Jane had to accept that something unorthodox, like midlife figure skating, could be more powerful than capturing lots of attention at work, Susan had to admit that her destiny will necessitate standing in the spotlight. She's not doing this for the social cachet; it's her own R2-D2 effect, an impulse that comes from every cell of her body—and always has—when she drops her "humble" lenses and sees things as they are.

Freeing Your Inner Superhero

So there you have it: My actual life-coaching process, which fits better on the pages of a comic book than a self-help treatise. I worked with Jane, Maida, and Susan for only a month—just enough time to adjust their focus. All three started with firm objectives, which, as I hoped, they almost immediately abandoned. Although these were very different people, with dissimilar superpowers, I did the same thing with all of them, something you can easily do for yourself. Find the places where your beliefs are distorting your vision, and peel away those thoughts like the ill-fitting Clark Kent eyewear they are. Then you'll be free to embrace the rapture, do the work, accept the hero's quest.

You and I might not have met, but because of my own superpower, I can tell you this: Your life is not little, and your playing small doesn't serve the world. Your living large, on the other hand—your being your true self despite fear, fatigue, doubt, and opposition—will serve the world more than you can imagine. In fact, it may help save it. And saving the world, after all, is what all heroes (including you) are here to do.

Martha Beck is the author of The Joy Diet (Crown). Her most recent book is Steering by Starlight (Rodale).

From the September 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.


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