“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. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
We are paralysed by the seeping thoughts of other people. It’s those voices that stop us at our very core from doing the things that we want. So instead we convince ourselves that we do not want those things. Those things will mean sacrifices, hard-work, dedication and we get plenty of joy from our lives today so we don’t try. We don’t try and we carry on living a mediocre life. A life that serves us but it doesn’t fulfil us.
There is something about ambition that pulls us back. There is a string at the end of the ambition puppet and someone keeps pulling it. It’s like we don’t give ourselves permission to fly. We tell ourselves it’s because we’re protecting ourselves from falling, that if we fall from a great height horrendous things will happen but perhaps it’s because of the complete opposite. Perhaps it’s because if we jump we’re scared we will fly and if we were to fly, what would our life look like. How would we be living? The idea of that scares us.
The American Dream
There is a well-established formula on how to live life. It goes something like this…
Go to school and work hard, pay attention, ask questions but don’t draw too far outside the lines. Following on from school the logical step is to go to university, pick something you are interested in and follow that for the next 3–4 years. Enjoy yourself, get your head down, join societies, get an internship with a fancy corporation and you’ll graduate with great prospects. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to use those prospects to get yourself a job. The fancier the corporation the better, the more prestigious the position the better your LinkedIn profile will read.
And then you are on the straight and narrow. A series of promotions will follow until you arrive at middle management where you will stay (comfortably might I add) on a steady paycheque and 2-week vacations for the rest of your life.
This framework is a great one. It’s served many great people over the last 50 or so years but there is a shift in the tide coming. People are realising that this is one of many frameworks out there and if you just dare to draw outside the lines, dare to explore a little bit, you might find an experience that is much better than what you are experiencing now. You might find a place in the world that fits you much better than any job in the city could.
Your life, Your Dream
One common mistake that we make over and over is thinking that we are only capable of so much. That there is a ceiling to what we have to contribute to the world and that ceiling we don’t often dare to reach. A lot of the time we fall into the idea that the worst thing we can do is fail. That’s our biggest fear. Our biggest fear is that we will fail. We will then be deemed a failure and our life is doomed.
So we play small.
We hold our tongue, we don’t say what we really think and we will definitely not be putting ourselves out there for other people to judge. We limit ourselves because we think if we do that we are protecting ourselves from the big wide world. Newsflash. You are in the big wide world. You have always been in the big wide world. The big wide world could chew you up and spit you back out whenever it wants. So far it hasn’t though.
For the longest time, I thought playing small was a protection mechanism. A barrier that stops us from getting hurt. But over the last year, I’ve had this realisation that the playing small is hurting us. It’s not the fear of failure that is the greatest fear here. It’s a fear of success.
We’re worried that if we shine, as we should, we will outshine others. We worry that if we start playing big we will make those around us feel insecure and we will attract unwanted attention. But it’s not the fear of failing that scares us. It’s the fear of succeeding.
Final Words: A Measure of How Much You Want It
The facts are these:
- One day this will all be over. It’s hard to imagine now but life is finite and we have one shot. You playing small isn’t serving anyone, least of all yourself.
- You are absolutely capable of whatever you want to become. I know there is contradicting view on this but here’s mine. If you want to, you can.
- On the note of wanting, you’ve got to really want it. I’m not talking you’ll wake up early on a Saturday morning to work on this thing. I mean you’ve got to live and breath it. You’ve got to want it. That doesn’t mean you never sleep. But it does mean you work hard to get it. You not trying hard is playing small.
- Confidence is a matter of opinion.
Don’t sink because you think you can’t. Stand in the light and play big.