July 17, 2020

Stop Playing so Damn Small: Here’s How to find your Power Instead.

My son and I love the movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

In case you don’t know, it’s the Spiderman movie that came out a couple of years ago about Miles Morales, a young kid from the Bronx who becomes the new Spiderman.

Like most hero’s journeys, he starts out not believing in himself or knowing his own power and gets kicked down a bunch of times.

A few times a week, we play the theme song from the end when he finally discovers his power. I watch how excited my son gets by this idea of finding your power and finally being able to do what you were born to do. He leaps off stools and runs around the room expressing his full aliveness. I love it. 

So many movies have this theme of the main character searching for their power and then realizing that it was within them all along. Disney movies are a perfect example of this (yes, I have a five-year-old): “Lion King,” “Frozen,” “Moana”…I’m sure there are more.

This trajectory is powerful for us (I always cry, don’t you?) because it resonates with our own deepest desire and understanding of life’s purpose: discovering that our power was within us all along and letting that shine into the world.

But what is power—true powerand where does it come from? We often think of power over something or owning lots of stuff. If you ask someone to name a powerful person in the world, they will usually think of a politician or CEO or dictator.

But that’s not the power I’m referring to, and actually, just because one has relative power does not give them actual power. As Disney has taught us, real power comes from within and is our inherent birthright. So the real question becomes, How will I discover and step into my power? 

This question was recently proposed by Frédéric Laloux on a Zoom call as part of a Coaches Rising Summit, and it stopped me in my tracks. 

I’m afraid of my own power. I have held a silent belief for most of my life that to step into my power would mean I would outshine others or get into trouble.

I have a deep-seated belief that I can best serve the world by playing small. Or that I won’t know what to do with my power, or that it might scare others or scare me!

Many of us know that quote by Marianne Williamson, “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 focus so much on our inadequacies and think that if we can somehow improve ourselves we’ll be okay. But I think we sometimes use “working on ourselves” as a way to avoid stepping into our power. Somehow it’s easier to believe we are inadequate than powerful.

Gay Hendriks, who wrote The Big Leap, talks about the “upper limit” problem. When we have the opportunity to step into our power, we actually self-sabotage ourselves. We prefer to stay in our comfort zones, being who others expect us to be and playing small. We are afraid that if we step into our power, we won’t know what to do or who we are.

Playing small allows us to be predictable and to not ask too much of ourselves. We also have years of false beliefs layered into our subconscious. This comes from our families and societal beliefs, such as: “I’m not good enough,” “Nobody cares what I have to say,” or “It doesn’t matter.” These playing small thoughts are so subtle, and we’re so used to them, that we aren’t even aware of them, and yet they sabotage our ability to truly step into our power.

True power comes from trusting ourselves. From finding out who we really are and how we’re called to serve. In all those movies, the turning point is when the main character, who believed themself to be inadequate, finally realizes they are powerful beyond measure and decides to trust that rather than what the world has been telling them or their false beliefs. Ironically, having true power means we become less self-centered and more focused on what needs to be done. 

The word “power” has gotten a bad rap because people associate it with dominion and control. Let’s reclaim the word “power” to mean our own life force energy that gets released when we trust in our self-worth and align that with how the world is calling us to show up. It might mean how we hold ourselves in a meeting or how we show up for a friend.

True power means being aligned with what the situation calls for and not being afraid to answer that call. 

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