I feel a special affinity with the Least Bittern.
This guy is often described as “elusive”, and his camouflage and furtive behaviour make him one of the toughest birds to spot in the wild. The least bittern hangs out in wetland marshes, and he freezes in place with his bill pointing up when startled. Sometimes he even sways to resemble the wind-blown reeds, becoming nearly invisible to predators (not to mention intrusive photographers!).
I almost walked right past this one:
Why do I identify with this bird?
I, too, have often felt invisible. For a big chunk of my life, I played the role of a timid wallflower, doubting my beauty, strength and talents. Wanting to hide, yet all the while craving attention and validation. (Hang out in any 12-Step room, and you’ll hear the same recurring theme.)
I remember when I first read this passage by Marianne Williamson in her transformative book, A Return to Love. It begins,
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?
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
It wasn’t so much a fear of failure that had held me back all these years; it was actually a fear of success – and the responsibility that comes along it. At that moment I realized how stingy I had been to “play small”. Settling for a life of mediocrity didn’t serve anyone – including myself!
Ms Williamson goes on to say:
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 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.
Now take a look at this young Least Bittern, bravely venturing out into the open:
If anyone reading this still doubts that you are “powerful beyond measure”, I leave you with the final words of the Marianne Williamson quote:
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.