I know you. You play it small. You limit yourself in some way.
You limit how high you climb at work. You limit your personality. You limit the kind of work you do. You limit your love life. You limit your influence. You limit your visibility.
You don’t do it consciously – it’s the result of something else. Of not wanting to be different. You limit yourself because you don’t want to be different.
In other words, you play it small because you want to fit in.
This behaviour often started as a child, because being different wasn’t encouraged or even welcome. If being yourself – i.e. different – wasn’t welcome, how did you feel? You felt afraid and ashamed of who you were. So what did you do? You decided to be the person you needed to be to fit in. And this meant you stopped being yourself.
When you stopped being yourself, you felt good… at first. What a relief it was to fit in! You quickly learned who you needed to be in all sorts of different situations – as if you were an actor in a play. Which is exactly what you were. Except that you were never off-stage. You could never be yourself. You became absorbed with playing your roles – often The Perfectionist and The Good Person – and became so adept at them that you forgot your main role. Being you.
You were so busy playing roles for other people that you lost yourself completely.
You cannot be self-confident or have self-worth when you’re not being yourself. Which is why you play it small. You don’t have the courage of your convictions – they’re probably not YOUR convictions, anyway. So you stay under the radar and play it small.
I know you. Because that was me, too.
It’s scary when you stop playing it small. You feel exposed, naked even, and ungrounded. The foundations on which you built your life – being afraid and ashamed of who you were – have crumbled, and it takes a little while to rebuild your new ones. Your new foundations are very different. They’re based on your full ownership of and pride in who you truly are. Not that ego-based pride of being better than others. That real pride of being happy and satisfied with who YOU are. Your new foundations make you glow from the inside out, they make you feel safe, secure, limitless. And enough.
When you stop playing it small, you are enough.
Here’s how I stopped playing it small.
- Acknowledge that you have a void inside. Notice and accept your void. If you don’t, you’ll continue to feed it until it gets so huge you can’t ignore it any longer. It’s much harder to fill a huge void than a regular one (I know, I had to).
- Decide to stop pretending to be someone else. Take a stand to be yourself. It won’t happen all at once, but you’ll start to notice when you’re really not being yourself – this will help you catch it sooner the next time.
- Start getting back in touch with your feelings. The only way to be someone else successfully is to squelch your own feelings. A good way to reacquaint yourself with them is to write a feelings journal every day. Don’t censor or edit, just let out whatever wants to come out.
- Understand who you really are. Dig deep into what’s important to you (things like values, causes), what you love doing (go back to before you were 8, when you were still you) and what you’re truly good at (your natural skills and abilities).
- Stop beating yourself up. Learn to manage your inner critics – those voices in your head that tell you you’re not enough.
- Find your voice. Describe yourself – the REAL you – in a few sentences. Who are you? What do you do?
- Learn how to manage whatever life throws at you (even rejection). Turn the key life truths (acceptance, letting go, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion) into daily habits.
- Learn how to save yourself (because no one else is going to). Understand what it takes to put your own health and well-being first, and do it. You cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first.
- Create your own roadmap for your life. If you’re not following your own roadmap, you’re following someone else’s. Make sure it takes the WHOLE you into account – who you are, your dreams, your desires.
- Take action. Dreams are great, but they remain just dreams until you take action. How you spend every minute of your time should reflect what’s on your personal roadmap.
What’s the opposite of playing it small? Living large.
I’m living large. Will you join me?