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Gay Hendricks

The Sin of (Out)Shining

Will you hate me if I tell you I own two pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes? Will you like me more if I tell you that each time I bought a pair I worried that I couldn’t afford them?

Would you keep reading if you thought I was wearing a size 2 Marc Jacobs dress as I type this? Or would I be more likeable if it were a size 12 dress from J.Crew? Or what if I told you that I’m writing this in my nightie and slippers at my home computer with my hair in a ratty ponytail? – Sarah Hampson 

Umm…whoa. I know that place. You know it too, right?

I want to share with you the radiant, shiny joy that I feel in my life, but I don’t want to make you feel badly that you may not have what I have, so let me show you all the ways I or my life has sucked. Let me open up the kimono on my finances. Let me tell you about my weight struggles. Let me tell you about the dark places in my marriage. So we’ll both feel better.*

That there is a slippery slope, my friends. One of many set up by the Impostor Complex.

Oh, I get it. We ALLLLLL get it.

Underneath the behaviour of shrouding my joy is fear. That you will walk away. That you will “unfriend” me. That I will be alone.

I know you know this too.

Maybe because it actually happened to you. You committed, as Gay Hendricks calls it, the crime of outshining…unwittingly. You were in favour with people and then suddenly, the ground fell away beneath you. Maybe you garnered attention from someone important, or won an award, or wore the newest style before anyone else, or were simply too happy, smart, or sporty. Then your friends started to pull away.  Maybe they became unkind. Maybe you were cut off.

Yup. I get it, because I was.

Listen, the Mama in me wants to tell you what your Mama told you when you were a kid:: they were never your true friends.

That’s a fact.

Still, that didn’t ease the sting, did it?

And that crap happened to you when you didn’t even DO anything, right? You were just being sporty, being smart, being happy. Being you. Glorious, wonderful you. And being wonderful became a dangerous place. So you shrouded.

Just as we are terrified of having our shadow places exposed (our worries, flaws, fears, faults) so too are we terrified of having our light exposed (our joys, our shine). And so we shroud. And then we shroud some more.

God forbid we own, appreciate or, CELEBRATE that which is going well in our lives and in our work. Our own natural wonderfulness (and oh, Honey? You are so wonderful).  Add that layer called CELEBRATION and then we’ve moved beyond what Hendricks called a crime and have moved well into the land of sin.

The sin of (out)shining.  

And it’s veritable minefield of labels, sticks and stones. But let’s explore anyways, shall we?


Yeah. Your Mama was right. Those kids in grade school were shits (my words, her thoughts). They weren’t worthy of you or  your smarty, happy, sporty self. Your YOUness. You’re savvy enough to see NOW that their unkindness was a product of their own insecurities, worries and deep fears of being alone too. It’s a troublesome spiral, to be sure. And we can circle back and find compassion and empathy and kindness for their souls (and maybe even forgiveness) at any moment, at any time, always and forever, but for the moment, let’s be here with you. With the impact of their taunts and shunning.


Take their words, their behaviours, and their labels. Take every little (and big) piece of hurt that you’ve been carrying since grade school, or since that meeting in the boardroom, or since that Facebook comment on your status. Every last word that has haunted you. Write them all down. On one piece of paper. Write as small as you need to get it all in. And do get it all in. Every teensy assertion intended to diminish your light.

And then? Take that paper and light a match to it. Let it go. Watch as the untruths burn and curl in on themselves, ashamed for their part. Give over the hurt, the pain and the sadness. Give over that which never served. Because it NEVER served.

Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.



Here’s the stone cold soul truth from my girl Hannah:: You glowing lights other people up.

Ah, yes.

Not everyone, mind you, but YOUR people.

So gather them up. Find your flock with whom you can preen each others beautiful feathers. Find the fiery witnesses to your love, to your joy and to your pain. They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere and they are looking for you too.

Stay open and available to their grace.

And then what do we do?

We need to trust ourselves. We need to trust each other. – Justine Musk

Let’s trust ourselves.

Let’s trust our purpose here. We are not accidents. We are divinely intended.

Let’s trust that we are integral to the choir.  And that our voices need to be heard so that others can sing along. Let’s trust that our essence, our art, our heart, our soul is required.

Then, let’s trust each other.

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. ― Marianne Williamson

Trust that you will not diminish me with your success. Nor will I diminish you with mine.

Trust that I can hold your joy and your sorrow and your ecstasy and everything in between.

Let’s trust each other with our humanness. Let’s trust that we will fall. We will stand back up. We will stumble. We will cry. We will bleed. We will create. We will dance.  We will be it all and we will be nothing. Together.

And finally, let’s sin together. Let’s shine together.

State your joy. Full stop. No qualifiers, descriptors or shrouding allowed. We don’t do that anymore. Allow me to state my joy. Full stop.

Authenticity is authenticity. It’s not the light with qualifiers and conditions. It’s not the shadow with qualifiers and conditions.


Your shining makes me shine brighter. Your success is my inspiration. I will trust that the same is true for you.

Sin with me. Shine with me. Brightly and beautifully. A million points of light.


{Can you hear the inherent arrogance in there? Like somehow YOUR happiness is related to MY happiness?} This post isn’t about that…but ultimately it is. More to be explored. Be sure to sign up for posts so you don’t miss it.



The two words feared most by the Impostor Complex

In my over-preparation for my TEDxWomen talk, I found plenty of resources speaking to the prevalence of the Impostor Complex in academia and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. (Refresher for you on the impostor syndrome:: it’s that enduring feeling that it’s just a matter of time before everyone finds out that you’re a fake.) For the sake of efficiency, let’s just say it strikes MOST of us. If you have high standards for yourself, a desire for excellence and a value of integrity, I suspect that at one time or another, you’ve felt its power over you. And it IS as powerful even when it presents as innocuous.

It can look something like this.

You are told:: You are so committed to your yoga practice. It’s awesome and inspiring. You respond:: Yeah, well my handstand is a train wreck.

You are told:: This pasta is exquisite. You respond:: Naw, I put in too much salt.

You are told:: You are my go-to when I have a style question. You respond:: What? I’m a sloppy mess.

You are told:: You’re a really great writer. You respond:: Ach. My sentences are fragmented.

When we undercut, diminish and dismiss what we are being offered as the gift of acknowledgment, that’s the handiwork of the Impostor.

Why do we do it? SO.MANY.REASONS. Here are the ones flaring off like fireworks all around me lately::

  • We want to be in integrity and make sure that everyone has the “full story” about us. (Lauren Bacon wrote an excellent +  robust piece about recognizing the difference between expertise and infallibility.)
  • We are perfectionists not actually content with ANYTHING until it’s good enough (“for whom?” is the real question here).
  • We cannot perceive the real value of our contributions (especially if we're "naturally gifted" and haven't suffered for our art).
  • We have been raised to be humble above all else.
  • We are superstitious. That by accepting ownership over our excellence, we’re jinxing ourselves.
  • We do not want to commit the crime of outshining (fabulous term coined by Gay Hendricks).

I have so very, VERY much to say about all of those reasons. 

But for now…

The next time someone dares to see you and share with you what they see in you, in your contributions, in your abilities, instead of showing them where they’re wrong (they’re not) try saying this:: 

Thank you.

That’s it.

Thank you.

No more, no less.

Thank you.

Neither discount nor deny their gift of acknowledgment. Just as you wouldn’t find fault with a present given to you from the heart, so too should you not find fault with the acknowledgment. Accept it with the grace that only “thank you” affords.


The Impostor Complex despises this because you are, in two words, owning (or, at least, for the time being, BORROWING) the truth. You are doing good.  Full stop.

Added bonus

Train your brain to say those words and you’ll be sending sweet synaptic love notes to your subconscious with this immutable fact:: that you ARE worthy of praise and acknowledgment.

Because you are.

Sure, it’s possible that your handstand, pasta and sentence structures could use a little more attention. (Which is awesome news for you and your high standards…you get another turn up the upward spiral called life in pursuit of excellence).  But for this moment, this very moment, rest in the knowledge that you, your yoga practice, your pasta, your style, or your writing has moved, delighted, or even inspired someone. Saying Thank You locks and loads it.

And THAT is excellent.


Sign up for updates about the next run of my Step into Your Starring Role program. We’ll be tackling the Impostor Complex head-on so we can finally step into all that we deeply desire. It’s time.