Why We Keep Ourselves ‘Small’

April 13th, 2018

By Victoria Fann

Guest writer for Wake Up World

As I moved from a cozy little “treehouse” studio into a three-bedroom house recently, I became aware of a common thread running through my life as well as through the lives of many of the people in my life: the tendency to play small. I’m seeing it in clients, family members, friends and within my greater community, both online and offline. In spite of invitations and opportunities to grow, expand and embrace life in a bigger way, many people prefer to stick with what they know.

As typically happens, this made me curious. What is this playing small about?

Several insights emerged in response to this inquiry. Most of them were fairly obvious such as the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure. But those answers didn’t quite capture it for me. They seemed too broad. The less obvious insights pointed to the inability to see ourselves in a bigger or radically different role, no matter what it was. For example, if our habit is to work behind the scenes and we’re comfortable with that and have been doing it forever, stepping out onto the stage into the spotlight would be like entering a foreign country or different dimension altogether. In fact, the leap would appear so big, we’d assume that it wasn’t possible, or that it’s not for us.

Instead, we stay where we are in default mode, doing what we’ve always done. Better that than feeling like a fraud or losing the one constant in our lives — our identity — even if it is a little small. It’s cozy and warm in the realm of the familiar, so why rock the boat?

But what if everyone felt that way? What if everyone played it safe? What would our world look like then?

We all appreciate bravery and courage. Heroes inspire us to do more and to be more. But it’s a different story when we are called to be brave and courageous ourselves — to move through our fear so we can play a bigger role.

There’s more.

We keep ourselves small because playing big is also messy and uncomfortable. It usually requires us to be seen and our talents exposed in a brighter light. It triggers many often-forgotten childhood feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection and ridicule, and worst of all, shame over not believing we can fill bigger shoes. Showing up brings up all the “what ifs” and “second guessing” which many of us happily left behind years ago as we adapted to the predictable routines and rhythms of being an adult.

And yet… Life isn’t a straight line. It zigzags and winds, and there are switch-backs and detours all over the place. Is it any wonder that no matter how much we think we have a handle on it, we still feel somewhat lost?

There are also enforced changes in our relationships and circumstances that keep cropping up. If only we could stop everything from changing so much, we think.

Deep down, though, we know there is more we want to do or, at least, could do, if we were willing to stretch, get our hands dirty, and risk some discomfort.

I’m right there with you, hanging out on the edges of the quantum field of possibilities, wondering if I should leave what I know and leap into a bigger vision. You would think with all the testing of life I’ve done in my life, this would be a cake walk. But it isn’t. I’m shaking in my boots.

I have an idea. What if we both agree to stop playing small (whatever that looks like for you)? What is calling you out and scaring you at the same time? I support you to go for it, and I promise you, I will do the same.

How does that sound?

Also by Victoria Fann:

About the author:

Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, community builder and practical mystic. The foundation of her work was inspired by her time at Esalen as well as her training and inner work with many of the early founders and teachers of the human potential movement. She has been writing essays, short stories, plays and screenplays for over three decades. Her writing has been published in numerous publications and anthologies including Wake Up World, Women of Wisdom, Newsweek, Thought Catalog, Elephant Journal, Snapping Twig, Medium, BioStories. Her book, Creative Alchemy: Accessing the Extraordinary Power of the Muse to Transform Your Art and Your Life will be published this year.

You can read more of her writing and learn more about her and her work on her website www.victoriafann.com, or contact her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/victoriafann.

This article © 2018 Victoria Fann, reproduced with permission.

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