Why “Playing Small” is a Problem + How to Reach Your Full Potential

Image: @hyingchou

Don’t play small

This is a phrase I have heard over and over throughout my life. I have heard it everywhere from inside the walls of a therapy session to the walls of the unitarian church I attend.

And yet, it jumps out at me every time I hear it. Probably because it speaks to me on a deep level. Intuitively, I understand it is an important message. Perhaps the most important message. Yet it is one that I struggle with.

You can look at it literally…

It can be taken very literally when recovering from an eating disorder.

Often, the real goal of an eating disorder is in fact to shrink yourself.

To make yourself as small as possible. Take up less space.

In doing so, one loses their voice, their presence, and even themselves. Somehow, the the eating disorder is perfectly happy with that. That is how it gains power.

Or as a symbol

But it can be symbolic as well. When we play small, we swallow our words and our opinions and bury our feelings deep within. We fear being criticized or judged and we do not take risks. Or, we do not give ourselves credit for the power and beauty we posses. You may end up feeling weak and alone.

We stay within our very small and guarded safe space. Our energy and time is spent hiding our true selves from others while trying to present ourselves the way we believe we should appear.

Our goal become to not be heard or seen. We are ashamed and embarrassed. We are exhausted. All the time.

The world deserves all of you

But the world deserves more. Your family, friends, and loved ones deserve you. ALL of you. And by making yourself small you are keeping the real authentic beautiful YOU from the world.

We are all born with gifts and purpose and love. I truly believe we are here on this earth to share that love, to connect, and to create. None of this can be achieved by simultaneously making ourselves small.  It is not possible.

Today:

So today- don’t play small. Today, speak up when you feel that urge in the pit of your stomach.  Share your ideas, your opinions, or your feelings. Write that story that is inside of you, dying for a voice.

Sing the song that speaks true to your soul. Speak the words that are on the tip of your tongue. Allow yourself to feel free and alive as you are seen and heard.

Take up space.

Share your beautiful and authentic self with the world. Own your power proudly. Open up yourself to the person next to you. Reach out to help the person whose gaze you meet.  After all, we are not that different from each other. Deep down we all want the same things.

Everyone wants love, acceptance, connection, and purpose. We all need each other. We belong to each other.

By not playing small, we can all make this world a better place.

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