the loveART blog


your playing small doesn’t serve the world

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In an interview this week with the Washington Post, Sir Ian McKellen says that his remarkable professional success came only after he revealed publicly that he was gay:

…he also credits the uptick in his show business profile with the growth of his comfort level with himself, a peace of mind that developed after revealing that he was gay in 1988 during a BBC radio program examining the Thatcher government’s policies toward homosexuality. “It all happened since I came out, ironically,” McKellen says of the Hollywood phase of his professional life.

The belief among some in his field that opportunities automatically get narrower after such candor is to him mythology. “I’m living proof the opposite is true. You get more self-confidence. You don’t have that bit of dishonesty,” he says, adding that acting “is about disguise. But it’s not about lying.”

At 70, Sir Ian enjoys the rare distinction of being both a world-renowned pop-cultural icon (with his roles as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and as Magneto in X-Men) and a leading classical actor on stage and screen, “one of a select few who has all but defined Shakespearean performance for our time,” according to the Post. The Shakespeare Theatre Company just honored him with their annual Will Award.

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He is also a very public activist for gay rights; his website has sections on Activism, Gay Rights, and Acting Is Activism, among other things.

The wordARTist finds it easy to believe that Sir Ian’s creativity was somehow unleashed when he permitted himself to be seen fully, in public, for who he really is. Furthermore, the wordARTist posits that by taking that risk–a large one, in the public profession of acting–he opened the door to taking other kinds of risks in his work, risks that have benefited him, and us, in visible and invisible ways.

Coming out of the closet means defeating one’s shame. And don’t we all hold back, in countless ways, a little bit or a lot, each day? I am reminded of the famous quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love (often misattributed to Nelson Mandela):

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. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are 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.

Think about this now: in what dusty corners are you hiding some piece of yourself, restraining it from public view? It might be in your creative work; it might be in your relationships; it might be in the ways you pursue happiness, or don’t. Sir Ian is a beautiful example of what happens when we confront our shadows, shine a light on them…and then transmute them into a source of strength.

(Photos of Sir Ian McKellen from Photobucket.com.)