Your Playing Small Doesn’t Serve the World

It was Marianne Williamson who said this in a passage from her book “A Return to Love” which has become an EXTREMELY popular inspirational quote and with good reason.

our deepest fear - Marianne Williamson

I think it resonates with the soul of anyone reading it. It forces us to reflect:

In what ways am I playing small?


I don’t know about you, but I never describe myself seriously using any of the words above. It makes me uncomfortable. I think that even if I might have some talent, it’s not enough. It sounds too boastful and we all know that we shouldn’t boast!

Why is it so difficult to look at ourselves and see what’s really there. Not just those things that we are critical about – but the other things that makes us “us”? We are at best self-deprecating…belittling and undervaluing ourselves…taking the edge off by laughing nervously. Makes us a little less anxious and masks our discomfort superbly. “Move the spotlight off me already – you’re being way to kind!”

There are those times when we clearly see our value, but we view those circumstances as unhealthy and describe it as us just being jealous.

  • When someone with less skill is promoted over us
  • When a colleague seems to be getting consistent work and your schedule is wide open like the Queen’s Park Savannah!
  • When the young intern who has NO EXPERIENCE seems to be getting all the attention and he/she doesn’t even have a degree!

At those times when we get into comparison mode – we see our value. We talk to our friends about it. Bitch over drinks on a Friday. You know – “I can’t believe that that dotish girl got promoted over me. I have more talent than she does….”

What’s that? Did I hear you correctly?

You’re acknowledging that you are talented and deserve better?

Darkness is useful. It helps us to see the light. Comparison darkness is useful. It helps you to see YOUR LIGHT.

Friends are useful…well the good ones anyway 🙂 …they remind us always that we have something to share.

Regardless of the encounter, people in our lives are either mirrors or teachers but we need to stop running from what we consider to be uncomfortable and unbearable and face whatever it is down, until it dissipates.

We need to learn to live with the anxiety of our incompleteness. We need to befriend the resistance that we feel daily.

I just went through a patch like that. In fact it occurred to me that I go through this patch every couple of weeks hahaha. Yet every time it happens, I treat it as a stranger when in fact it’s an esteemed guest.

Anxiety and resistance are par for the course.

Dr. Peter Koestenbaum calls it “The Anxiety of Freedom – the secret to courage “:

To gain your freedom, you must be prepared to be anxious. The result is centeredness. … To be centered is to have the feeling that you touch the ground of your being, the seat of the self, which leads to the miracle of self-validation or self-authentication. This deep faith, springing genuinely from the center, that you are basically right, legitimate—that you, as a child of the universe, belong here—is the true foundation of character, maturity, and emotional stability. The effect of claiming one’s freedom and the choice of energy (that is, to choose to be an energetic person) is centeredness, the peaceful feeling that one is living from the inside out. It results from choosing freely to withstand the anxiety that follows when we overcome resistance to the truth. …

Anxiety about freedom is a central aspect of the human condition. Deny it and you are stultified. Acknowledge your anxiety, let it go where it wants to go, and you understand that a human being is meant to tolerate anxiety. And you are equipped to do so—physically, morally, mentally, and emotionally. Surrender to your anxiety will make you free. Here is the secret of courage. It can be yours. It can change your life. It is your key to leadership.

Life is energy and it’s all about flow. We cannot contain or hide in our vessels and expect to win at this one life given. We cannot bottle ourselves up …waiting for a best time and place to reveal who we are. If we do that we stagnate. We become toxic…prone to dis-ease…we rot and die a slow death inside.

We need to share our ideas, our experiences, our art, our photography, our points of view, our dancing, our friendship, our “whatever bubbles up inside of us begging for its outlet into the world.”

Only when we heed this internal prodding (or sometimes external prodding, as in the case of my friend Anita who, when she hasn’t seen a blog post for a couple weeks asks me gently “when is the next post?” 🙂 ) can we make room for our real selves to emerge.

Marianne Williamson tells us that we have had a successful day when we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.

I guess I have been successful today.

In what small way can you stretch yourself today? Playing small is causing you more stress than anything else that you think might be scaring you right now.

It’s time to play BIG!


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