Let Your Light Shine

Several years ago I gave a presentation on creativity and human potential al the newly renovated Union Pacific Depot in my hometown of Lawrence, KS. I chose that site for the specific reason that it serves as a symbol of how creativity can be transforming. Before the renovation, the depot had become an eyesore, but someone looked beyond the surface to the underlying potential of the structure. Once the debris was cleared away, the building demonstrated a presence that attracts the attention of everyone who drives by. With the addition of landscaping and a distinctive fountain sculpture, the depot has been transformed into a beautiful and compelling addition to our community.

I’ve always enjoyed makeover stories, and especially those that reveal potential already in existence, but never brought to light. One of the cable television channels offers a daily series devoted to makeovers, and I love watching this show whenever I have the chance. Oprah has featured a variety of makeover stories on her talk show. Many women’s magazines also offer periodic makeover stories, leading me to believe that there are many others who enjoy it much as I do. Witnessing the transformation process seems to nourish us all.

The usual mode of the makeover story is to first present the before image…someone stuck in a rut of wearing the same clothes, hairstyle and makeup that they’ve had for years, with little variation. To begin the change, new clothing is chosen…something more daring, colorful, or elegant than their usual wardrobe. Next, the participant is given a new hairstyle, with a cut and color that enhances their natural beauty. A makeup artist then steps in to add the finishing touches to the makeover. Though many who go through this process are wary of the changes to come, it is rare that anyone objects to the dramatic results once the transformation is complete.

What draws me over and over again to makeover shows is the joy that is evident once the process is complete. In the after images, many people comment, “That doesn’t look like me at all”, hardly recognizing that they could be as beautiful as the makeover has allowed them to look. But they also comment on how great they feel; that they have more confidence, and feel more sexy and attractive.

The thread between these two stories of transformation is that the underlying structure, what was already there, remains the same. Hidden potentials are brought to light, and the resulting experience leads to more effective expression of that potential. However, it will require effort to maintain the momentum created by the process of transformation.

If the landscaping was not kept up, or the building fell into disrepair again, the depot would lose its commanding presence. Likewise, someone transformed by a makeover could lose their newly found confidence if they return to previous habits. It would be a wonderful research project to follow-up on these makeover stories a year later, and see what has transpired in the lives of those who’ve experienced this type of personal transformation. My guess is that many of them would find ways to uncover even more of their potential, challenging themselves in ways that were previously untried. Even those who return to familiar habits of style and dress would be forever changed by that moment of looking in the mirror and witnessing their beauty in full bloom. The seed of possibility would be ever-present; change becomes a matter of choice rather than an unknown option or something to fear.

As we come to the end of another year, I encourage each of you to consider creating your own makeover story, just to see what happens. Try something you’ve never done before, travel to a place you’ve always dreamed of, get a new hairstyle, or a new wardrobe. Treat yourself to a day at a spa. Get used to the idea that you can be more than you’ve ever been before. Notice how good it feels, and how others respond to you once more of your potential is revealed. As you are transformed, you will transform others in the process. Marianne Williamson sums it up beautifully in the following words, quoted by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 Inaugural Speech:

“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.”

© 2001 Marybeth Bethel