I don’t know about you, but I seem most comfortable playing small. Looking back, I wonder at the reason for this need for smallness and some memories come to mind.
One memory is of me, at about 12-13 years of age, sitting in front of a mirror and trying to figure out who I looked like. My Mom walked in and I asked her. She said, that I looked pretty, except for my nose and she really wished that I would lose some weight and gain some height. Perhaps, it’s an Indian Mom thing, but they’ll never pay you a complete compliment. They’ll compare you to other people’s children. Or will say something nice about you, but will qualify it.
But this was just about looks. Let’s move on to something that was much more recent – a few years before she passed. I brought a copy of a magazine over to give to my Mom, telling her that I had an article published in it. Pretty proud of my achievement, I thought she’d be happy for me. Imagine my surprise when she didn’t even open it but passed it on to my niece to read. Not one mention about it ever again. And yet, she’d send over cuttings of the local newspaper which had my brother’s picture in it – as part of a group at a party!
I’m not bitter about this any more, but I’ll be honest that recalling it still hurts. But I wonder how much of this my mother inherited from her parents, other adult figures in her life. A legacy of smallness, passed down from one generation to the next?
These are just two incidents, but there are many more which involved family and friends telling me not to stick my neck out, discouraging me from taking risks. Sometimes I did so regardless of their advice, and I’ve never regretted that.
Keeping People In Their Place!
I realize that we do this unconsciously to other people all the time. We try to keep people ‘in their place’. The tall poppy syndrome that causes us to pull people down!
And each of us has someone (or maybe more) who keep reminding us not to be too loud, or too pushy. Sadly, these voices sometimes get embedded in our heads. They keep reminding us of our flaws, making sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves. They want us to stay small, so that we fit in, we make people around us comfortable. Reminding us that we are not good enough. That it’s safer to play by the rules, or we might get hurt.
So we end up playing by the rules and missing out on living our lives fully. We self-sabotage. We make excuses for not going after what we really want.
When we’re close to our goal, these voices are the loudest! Guilt. Shame. Self-doubt. The voices that have now become our voice, bring all of these to the party! Keeping us from being the best we can be.
Let’s Challenge The Legacy of Smallness
As I’ve been working on my healing and growth, I’ve realized that the key to claiming back my voice and telling those other voices to go, is self-belief. But it’s also a belief that the God who made us. I believe that God doesn’t want me to play small – if I do, it would be an insult to my purpose in this world. I lean on my faith to move beyond the narrow boundaries that I and others have placed around me.
I also tune in more to the voices of people who really know me, who understand where I am coming from and who appreciate me, flaws and all. There have been many encouraging people in my life and I choose to replay their words in my head.
Today, I want urge myself and you, dear reader, to challenge the legacy of smallness that we’ve inherited. It’s time to give it up. To stay away from people that will want to keep you confined because they’re insecure or jealous. This is the time to be brave, to take those risks, to go all out for what you want to achieve. Revel in your personality. Talk about your accomplishments and skills and celebrate them.
Celebrate being you today (and every day) and let’s stop playing small and start playing brave and strong!
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