Marianne Williamson, Not 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 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. 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

Marianne Williamson

This inspiring quote has been commonly misattributed to South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. It is actually from Marianne Williamson‘s classic 1992 book, A Return To Love. You can find it on pages 190-191.

Mandela reportedly included this quote, or a portion of it, in his inauguration speech when he assumed the presidency of South Africa in 1994. But as you can see from the text of his speech in Cape Town on May 9 as well as the text of his address in Pretoria on May 10, this is not the case. Mandela’s supposed usage of Williamson’s quote is nothing more than an urban myth, albeit a persistent one.

Some years back, I heard Marianne speak at an expo and asked her about this after her talk. She acknowledged that she was a bit mystified as to why Mandela was so often cited as the source.

Here (reportedly) is additional reaction from Marianne, which I found while Googling:

Several years ago, this paragraph from A Return to Love began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural address. As honored as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people.



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10 Responses to “Marianne Williamson, Not Nelson Mandela”

  1. cirklagirl Says:

    That is my favorite quote. Thanks for clearing up the mystery around the source! It was GREAT re-meeting you by the way! I wrote about you in my blog! Check it out!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Hey, thanks, cirklagirl!I appreciate the shout-out. It was great to see you again, too!

  3. Janie Peterson Says:

    I love this woman- and have faith that the credit will go to her in the end. Her words are amazing and continually inspiring. Her book never leaves my nightstand.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, it’s a good thing that there was so much confusion over the source of this quote. In the end, it’s making more people aware of Marianne’s work.

  5. chsbp Says:

    Its an amazing quote and pity that I have not come across it before. Lots of lines are copied from else where but in this world what matters is how you rephrase it in to a good speech so that maximum number of people can understand it. But the courtesy should definitely go to Marianne Williamson

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you found the quote and that you found it meaningful, chsbp.

  7. JT Says:

    This quote has just awakened my world. I was walking around asleep for too long.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Very glad to hear that, J.T. It’s one of my favorite quotes too. Very powerful.

  9. Zanelle Says:

    please tell me where do you find all this spiritual wisdom? I have a PhD and all of a sudden I think it was a waste of my time as all the academic knowledge does not help me find the answers I need… I have started discovering unknown things which has put me in unfamiliar territory again, only this time its not scary. I just feel comfortably lost but would like to know more.

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Zanelle, your Ph.D. certainly has added value to your life, but I am glad to hear you have expanded your search for wisdom and knowledge beyond what the academic world can offer. I wrote my new book, “Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World,” precisely for people like you who long for a deeper understanding of life. You can learn more about it at And feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I also recommend the book, “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda. It’s changed many lives, including mine.

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