Why staying small isn't just holding you back - it's holding the world back
I can actually remember the period of time when I started realizing that playing small was “easier.” And by easier, I meant that everyone would like me. I am, by nature, a people pleaser (hello, Libras) and being pleasant and agreeable started feeling like the more comfortable option.
I started feeling like it was easier to conform, more or less, to what I assumed was the “right” thing to do, and let my seemingly lofty dreams and the life I envisioned for myself fall to the wayside.
But the smaller I became, the more it felt like something was missing. So, I would look to exterior factors to try and fill the void, but they often just made me feel worse. Because when we play small, we deprive ourselves of our authenticity – our connection to our truest selves.
What keeps you small?
Let me identify what I mean by “small.” Being small means staying under the radar. It means being afraid to own your ideas, opinions, and essentially, your authenticity. It’s feeling unworthy to start your business, ask for a raise, set boundaries, tell the world what you really want and need - and then go for it.
Staying small can look like people pleasing, and it can also look like resentment, sadness, or jealousy. In fact, jealousy is usually something we might feel ashamed to admit we feel, but it’s a huge indicator of a thing or a feeling that’s missing in your life. And instead of being happy for the person who has it, we sit in our bitterness, and that - guess what - keeps us small.
Playing small means dimming your fire
We all have an inner fire. It sits at our core, our Solar Plexus region, which is also the area where we hold our identity, who we truly are. We also hold shame in this area. So, when something happens in our lives that makes us feel shameful, it starts to chip away at our identity. We start to hide ourselves, ultimately out of protection.
The good news is, that fire never actually goes out forever. It’s just waiting for us to rebuild it. And honestly, this can be uncomfortable. If you're someone who seeks approval from others, it can be challenging to stand with confidence in going after what you truly want. It can feel unsafe to put yourself out there, but on the other side is a life of freedom, joy, and authenticity.
What do you really want?
So, I’ll ask again: What keeps you small?
It’s often helpful to write down first what it is that you want for yourself and your life – material things, yes, but also the feelings that you want to have in your day-to-day life. Is it freedom? Joy? Love? Then, write down all of the fears that come up when you think about why you can’t have these things. Some things that have come up for me include things like, "No one will understand," "I won't be relatable to the people or my life," or, “I’ll seem like too much.”
Let me just address the “too much” thing for a moment. This is something that so many of us feel – like we’ll come off as obnoxious or unapproachable if we start to take up more space and go after the lives we really want. And what we’re really afraid of, is that if we start to light that inner fire, we’ll push people away and end up alone.
This is bullshit.
The truth is that when you step into your expansive, authentic self, you will attract people in your life who are doing the same. Not only that, but you’ll be an example for others to start re-igniting their own inner fires, too. And if people disagree with you - well, that's actually not your business. People will have their opinions based on their own perspectives. But the reality is, you are the only one who can choose and create your path in this life.
It’s not just for you
You owe it to yourself to stop playing small. And on a larger scale, you owe it to the world. There is a reason that you want the things you want. Could you imagine if you and everyone you knew embraced their truest desires and started living the lives they were meant for? How much better of a place would the world be?
We are full of sadness, anger, and resentments because we’ve let our own inner fires dim. We’re out of alignment with our true nature, and we’re wrapped up in a whirlwind of societal “shoulds” that are, quite honestly, killing us. And if you feel like you’ve gone after your dreams and have “failed,” can you start to look at that "failure" as just another step in the direction of your purpose in this life? Can you not give up on yourself so easily?
You are needed and loved and you have a responsibility to yourself and the world to step into your greatness. To quote the incredible Mary Oliver, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"