When my daughter was four years old, my girlfriends and I took the kids to their very first concert. Raffi.
It was glorious standing in line with my girl, waiting to go into the concert hall—reminiscent of going to rock concerts during college. I was so excited for all of the first experiences that awaited her. My heart still melts when I remember Raffi singing, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine.”
I yearned for my daughter to love her beautiful light and to grow up shining it throughout her life, for the entire world to see.
At that point in my own life, I wasn’t aware of how I wasn’t yet doing that for myself. When I did become conscious that I was playing small, I began to notice all the ways that I was holding myself back and settling for less than my complete happiness.
I used to think it would motivate me if I noticed everything I was doing wrong and constantly reminded myself of how I was falling short—how I could do better. That is what my well-meaning parents had done, after all, and who was I as a kid to imagine that there was a more self-affirming way to be my best?
So I adopted that technique and used it through most of my life.
As children, our key survival mechanism is to be accepted. If we are accepted, there’s a better chance of our survival. So we integrate the messages we receive from parents, teachers and peers as the absolute truth, and we modify our true nature accordingly to become more acceptable.
These messages become a running tape in our minds that continues playing until we begin to question it. These were the thoughts and beliefs that kept me small and kept me being a good girl.
Of course I have had many successes in my lifetime, but I often didn’t celebrate those successes, because no matter how well I did, I could always do better. This was what I told myself. I can remember squelching feelings of pride when I reached goals so that I wouldn’t become egotistical or over-confident. People might not like me if I didn’t stay humble and powerless.
When we spend our energy telling ourselves we’re not doing good enough, we have very little time and energy left to do what we were meant to do. We end up working even harder to do better and have less and less time and energy.
1) Question Your Thoughts.
In accepting our thoughts as the gospel truth, we are allowing them to limit us. We are putting our thoughts in control of who we are, and yet these are the very same insidious thoughts that were meant to keep us in line. We each have so much more potential than we allow ourselves to believe.
Moment by moment, our work is about noticing what thoughts we choose to believe. Thought by thought, as we release our belief in them, we get lighter and lighter.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” ~ Marianne Williamson
2) Practice radical self-acceptance.
I have worked hard on all the ways I used to keep myself small. I now know and appreciate that I am unique, that there is only one me. I have learned that the only person I need to listen to is me. The only person I need to please and be accepted by is me. My opinion is the only one that matters.
Each one of us is special and beautiful and enough. This is the radical self-acceptance and enough-ness that is the theme of my story now.
3) Stop comparing yourself with other people.
When we compare ourselves with others, we are dimming our own light. We watch what other people are doing and invariably find someone who is doing better than we are. We look everywhere for validation of who we are except the one place we need to look: inside. The truth is that no one is better or worse than anyone else.
4) Notice the ways you keep yourself small.
Deny compliments and not allow yourself to believe them?
Keep in check any feelings of success or only notice what you did wrong, so you don’t feel too good about yourself?
Have fears about not being accepted if you shine your brightest because you might scare people away?
Put yourself down when talking to other people?
Feel you don’t deserve the things you want or dream about?
Stay in relationships and jobs that aren’t working and are so depleting that it feels like you are dying a slow death?
Procrastinate and avoid the very things that will get you closer to your dreams?
Seek approval and validation from others?
Have a wounded belief system that accepts “I am not [fill in the blank] enough?”
Compare yourself to others to see how you fall short or appear better?
“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” ~ Richard Bach
5) Make a list of all the ways you are already enough.
Do your own healing work so your light can shine its brightest. What do you love about yourself and your life right now? This includes even the smallest of things, like how well you brush your teeth or how much you appreciate your fingernails. By finding the blessings you have right now to feel grateful for, you validate yourself and validate your life and create an opening for more good in your life.
Playing small doesn’t serve the world.
When we shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to shine too. When we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others. Every single one of us is unique and special, and the world needs each of us to live up to our full potential.
Even when it feels scary, we need to feel the fear and do it anyway. Honoring our uniqueness and offering it to the world is what we are here to do.
Shine your light brightly.
Author: Tricia Acheatel
Editor: Toby Israel