Are you playing small? One of the benefits of being an introvert is that I observe people. While silently watching, I regularly see signs that someone is not stepping into the light to share their inborn talents and unique gifts. It is disheartening to observe someone’s specialness hidden away, unavailable to bring goodness, genius, kindness and creative ideas to a world that desperately needs more good things in it.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert shares the idea that we all have buried treasure within us. When we summon up the courage to bring forth our hidden jewels we are able to lead a bigger life, a happier life and a more expanded and interesting life. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of life I want.
You know that you are playing small when you don’t accept credit for the outstanding work you are doing. You are playing small when you don’t share your ideas, because they probably aren’t that good anyway. You are playing small when you don’t do something you want to do because you don’t feel you deserve it. You are playing small when you are afraid to take an important next step and so you do nothing. It is easier to stay where you are, locked in place, than to take a risk.
It seems safe, staying locked in place, like a ship in the harbor. But that is not what ships, or you, are made for.
Playing small has big costs. It affects our quality of life. It is driven by fear and results in anxiety. You work too hard at the wrong things. You hinder your relationships- or your income. You are stressed and suffer from burnout. Perhaps most damaging is the underlying feeling that you were born for something bigger or better, and not doing anything about it is the biggest waste of all. Regret is a harsh companion.
We’ve all suffered from playing small syndrome. We wait for permission from some authority- when we have the authority within ourselves all along. We over prepare or over learn because it keeps us from taking action. We listen to our inner critic- a harsh voice that increases our self- doubt as it conspires to keep us safe by keeping us down.
I’ve spent the last two years recognizing the ways I’ve played small in my life. I’ve waited, studied endlessly, and helped others to shine while hiding my own light. I recognize the ways it has held me back and prevented me from doing the things I really want to do and become in the person I know I am meant to be.
I’m not doing that anymore. I’ve created a vision of what I want my life to look like. Every day, I ask myself, “What would my ideal self do?” Then I try to go and do that. It hasn’t been perfect, but it is mostly working. I find myself as engaged and happy with my life as I ever have been. I am moving in the right direction. Happiness, it seems, is not in achieving the end result as much as it is in progressing forward towards the goal.
Because I have been there, I am attuned to seeing the signs of playing small in others. I know that to live better, we have to learn to trust our own thinking. We have to listen to our inner mentor and dismiss the inner critic. We have to assess what we know, trust in its worthiness and bring it forth into the world. We have to trust that when we commit to an action and go forth, the universe or God or whatever you wish to call the divine force that is bigger than us will conspire to help us.
No one knows you and what your most amazing life looks like. It is up to you to create that vision and then take action.
So, as Lady Macbeth famously said, “Screw your courage to the sticking -place and we’ll not fail.”
Let’s get on with it.
Let’s live big- let’s be amazing.