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Have you ever been the person who ‘played small’.
In my early teens, talking with a group of kids, I happened to talk about some country I’d lived in…just as a passing comment. It was a throwaway line and nothing extraordinary…most of the kids I knew were army brats and travelling was second nature.
But not this time. This time, some of the kids had never set foot outside the town they grew up in, never mind outside the country, and they were less than impressed and even less than interested in my travels. And someone sarcastically told me how wonderful it must be to have been everywhere and obviously know everything.
I was mortified. Apparently, it was easier to never be ‘different’ from the crowd. I learned that it was more comfortable for me if I played small. If I practiced keeping my eye on the next step in front of me, I wouldn’t get tripped up again. I’d stay safe.
Playing small is all about the need to be safe, or the need to be just like everyone else. Being different wasn’t cool, wasn’t the making of popularity, and travelling, although a normal part of our life, was sometimes a hard part, having to uproot ourselves every two years and start over. We needed to be able to make friends quickly, and being different was not the way. Or so it seemed to the fourteen year old me.
So there I was, instead of striving for greater things, I was striving for the mediocre. Aargh.
I didn’t know what Marianne Williamson had to say:
[success] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. [/success]
I didn’t know that if I just decided to be me and free myself from the tyranny of wanting to be just like everyone else, I’d be freeing others to do the same. That concept came many years later.
I’d like to tell you that playing small turned out pretty well for me. But it didn’t. It felt lousy. And today I’d tell my fourteen year old self and anyone else out there who’s playing small to remember a few things:
You can’t please everyone all the time
Every now and then, you can’t please anyone. So don’t try. Be kind, but be yourself.
There are times when we have to make hard decisions
Simply to stay in alignment with who we are. And sometimes that means disappointing people. Some decisions really are just hard. But if you keep your attention on happy outcomes all round, it has an amazing way of turning out really well. Even though it doesn’t seem possible when you’re in the middle of it.
Keep your eyes on the prize
and the prize is growth and expansion, not perfection, not pleasing everyone.
Choose to live large
and be peaceful in the knowledge that everything you need is within you. You can create the largest, greatest, most magnificent life possible. Use the power of your imagination, it’s your creative source for all things. You don’t have to seek it, it’s yours and it’s here right now. All you need do is use it. Playing small won’t allow you to access much of your power.
Radiate joy and success
this means giving up complaining, or feeling sorry for yourself. No pity parties here. You’re bigger and greater than that. Remember that we’re always attracting who we are via how we feel, (wish I’d known that when I was fourteen)…that birds of a feather saying is so flipping true.
Edit your life
decide what’s important to you and let go of over committing. It might mean stepping back and maybe having to say, sorry. Sorry, I over committed. Sorry, I need to go in a different direction. Sorry, I’m just not that person any more. Life needs to be lived and enjoyed, not rushed through in a flurry of ‘must do’s’.
Stop filling your life with your to do lists and then feeling lousy because you didn’t get them all done. Be happy if you check off your top three. That’s enough to give yourself a pat on the back.
Don’t start pursuing perfection
and if you’ve already begun, stop. It only flows from the belief that you’re not enough. Allow yourself and others to be imperfect…it actually doesn’t feel too bad, plus perfectionism gets in the way of your growth. Giving up the pursuit of perfection creates a space for greater good to flow. You’re not clogging up the pipes. And anyway, let’s face it, we’re never going to be it…perfect that is.
Stop valuing yourself based on someone else’s approval
You don’t have to look outside of yourself to know how to feel good. No matter how much outside approval you get, it will never be enough. Approval begins within.
Never forget life and everyone we experience are just reflections of what’s going on within. So the need for approval begins with you. Approve of yourself because you’re…well…you, and you’re pretty cool. In fact you’re amazingly unique. Do you know there’s never, ever, going to be another you? All you need to do is to make up your mind that who and what you are now is more than enough for you to feel happy. And you’ll be amazed at how many people you meet who have come to the same conclusion…who you are is just great.
Do you think fourteen year old Elle would have listened? Boy, it would have saved her a lot of time and trouble.
Share in the comments where you’ve been playing small.
Encourage one another.