It’s so freakin’ easy to play it small. And no wonder! From the time we’re children, we’re encouraged to let the guy win so we don’t make him feel badly, to minimize our beauty so our friends won’t get jealous, to tone down our genius so others won’t feel threatened, to dim our light so no one feels dark in our shadow.
My Seven-Year-Old Daughter Is Adorably Confident
My seven-year-old daughter thinks she’s brilliant, innovative, artistic, gorgeous, popular, and wildly lovable. And all of those things are true. At this age, she gets lots of support for being confident. People agree with her when she tells them how awesome she is. But the sad truth is that sometime in the next few years, no matter what I do to try to counterbalance the pressures, she’ll be subjected to from all sides; my superstar child will start dialing it down. She’ll shade her sparkle. She’ll get socialized to fade.
She won’t be alone, of course. Her friends will all be trained to do the same. They learn playing small in school, right along with the reading, writing, and arithmetic. And we tend to reinforce what they learn.
Humility vs. Narcissism
We dress up the tendency to play small with words like “humble,” “modest,” and “unpretentious.” Those who don’t play small get labeled with supercharged words of criticism like “arrogant,” “cocky,” “full of herself,” “conceited,” “egotistical,” and “narcissistic.”
Sheesh. None of us want to get saddled with that kind of baggage, so we dial it down and then wind up middle-aged, having lost touch with our pizzazz.
What nobody tells you when you’re twelve, learning how to be humble and unpretentious, is that we’re giving up one of our greatest gifts when we agree to dim our light for the sake of being accepted into the world of unremarkable people. I’m not suggesting you can’t be simultaneously humble and sparkly—just look at Jesus! But when we step away from our greatness in order to fit in, we dig our own graves, especially when it comes to our professional lives.
I’ve learned the hard way how to navigate the loneliness of being a bright, shiny light. But the older I get, the more fearless I am about stepping into my own greatness and embracing my light.
Others have reinforced that lately. Nia founder Debbie Rosas encouraged us to all step into our brilliance as we danced at the Nia White Belt Intensive. Mama Gena, in her School of Womanly Arts, encourages us to brag. In both programs, I got to practice—in tandem with hundreds of other women—stepping into my own greatness and being held in loving arms rather than being rejected. It felt liberating, like unhooking that too-tight bra and flinging it to the high heavens. When you step into your greatness, you finally feel the lightness of flight, rather than the burden of the weight of diminishing your brilliance.
With all the lessons I’ve learned from others that are stepping into their greatness, I’ve learned a few things I’ll share here.
10 Tips for Stepping into Your Greatness
- Nobody can dim your light but you.
- Dialing it down doesn’t really make anyone else feel better. It just makes you feel worse.
- Confidence and narcissism are not the same thing. Narcissists lack true confidence and overcompensate to make up for the lack.
- When you step into your greatness, you attract more people than you repel.
- The confident know they will always land butter side up. Those people take more risks, fall down more often, and wind up shining the brightest.
- All you have to do is your best. Stepping into your greatness doesn’t mean achieving some unattainable benchmark. When you do your best, you let your light shine.
- Being confident means managing your fear. When your fears outpower your confidence, you dim your light. Stepping into your greatness requires facing your fears head on and making the choice not to let them rule your decisions any longer.
- Within your vulnerability lies your strength. Stepping into your greatness doesn’t mean tooting your own horn. Sometimes, your greatest strength lies in your flaws, frailties, and foibles.
- It’s okay to brag. Yes, your vulnerabilities can be your strengths, but it’s also okay to shout your triumphs from the rooftops. Imagine if we all gave ourselves permission to say, “I rocked it today!” What if we started every conversation by asking, “What’s awesome in your life?” Wouldn’t life be grand?
- You can’t claim credit for your greatness. Within this wisdom lies your humility. We are all vessels for the Divine to shine through us when we get our egos out of the way. Why would you want to dim your light when it’s merely Divine light shining through you?
Do You Consider Yourself Confident?
Or do you dim your light so nobody will think you shine too brightly? Do you frown upon confident people or label them arrogant? Have you figured out how to step into your greatness without cutting yourself off from the brilliance of Divine light? Share your stories here!
Dialing it up,
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself. Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities—HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.
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