Do you ever doubt yourself and your ability to live out your purpose successfully? Do you ever compare yourself to other people and come up short in your estimation? Do you ever wonder what difference you can possibly make in the world when there are so many others doing it better than you? Are you ever tempted to simply crawl back in your hole and let life pass you by because you’re not noticed by anyone anyway?
Whom among us has never felt these doubts and feelings? It’s a part of our tender humanity.
I received an e-mail forward from a friend containing a conversation between two powerful and creative women in the ballet world, Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille. Graham was a dancer and choreographer and regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of American modern dance and the greatest artist of the twentieth century. De Mille was also a highly respected dancer and choreographer who came to fame with her choreography of the blockbuster musical "Oklahoma."
At a time when Agnes de Mille was feeling a lack of respect for her work and a corresponding lack of confidence in herself, she reached out to her mentor Martha Graham. She talks about the conversation in her biography of Martha Graham.
“I confessed,” she said, “that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.”
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
In her response, Graham outlined the futility of comparing your life’s work to the work of others (or your own work, for that matter):
“Your work exists only within you, as your own creative, primal life force. And if you don’t let it out, express it fully, shout it from the trees, make it manifest into reality, the world will be forced to suffer without your deepest gifts.
“If you don’t keep pressing on, if you don’t keep creating, if you fall into a half-awake, slumbering state like the Lotus-Eaters in the Odyssey…
“The world will never savor your great gifts… never be inspired, enlivened, revivified by them.
That is your task."
This is our task. I’m moved by Graham’s perspective. It gives me courage. And confidence. I alone can offer what I offer to the world. My uniqueness provides a contribution that no one else can provide just like I can.
So the world desperately needs me to stand up, show up, and give myself to it. It’s not about comparisons. It’s not about value judgments. It’s not about whether I have anything to offer or not.
It’s about me stepping into confidence and boldness, giving what I can give in a way that only I can give it. It’s about me supporting others who can give in their own unique ways. And it’s about all of us, together, transforming the world with the myriad of colors that come from our partnering, collaborating, and sharing together.
Let’s not cause the world to suffer without our deepest gifts. It’s time we choose to be fully alive and fully present in the fullness of our contributions.
Your Most Important Task
Why Expressing Your Purpose is so Vital to the World