I used to be small. I don’t mean in size. Although I suppose I was at one point. I mean in “being.”
Allow me to explain.
It all started when I was a kid. As the story goes, it was one of those holidays where the entire family was over our house to celebrate. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Cousins. The works.
I must have hit the Dr. Pepper one too many times because I for some reason announced that I was about to blow the roof off the place as I carefully took my trombone out of its case and began to perform for the entire family. By myself.
Even under the best of circumstances it’s tough to pull off a trombone solo. So having only played for a year, I’m sure you can see where this is going.
About halfway through my performance, out of the corner of my eye I caught all of my cousins laughing.
In their defense, they may not have been laughing at me. Although they probably were. And even if they were, it would be hard to argue with them. Watching a ten year old kid try and muscle out holiday songs on a trombone is pretty funny. Plus, we were very close. And making fun of each other was just what we did. It’s how we got along. It’s how we cared for one another.
But That Wasn’t the Meaning I Gave It
In that moment I put my foot down and swore that I would never stand out again. I would never do anything that would make me feel different around other people.
And that began a life of playing small.
It showed up everywhere. I would belittle all of my accomplishments in an effort to knock myself down a peg or two around people. I used self-deprecating humor as a way of being funny. I became afraid of taking risks and embraced a life of playing it “safe.” I was a victim in most situations. I surrounded myself with dynamic people that would steal the spotlight so I could become the sidekick. And I even started playing bass because I wanted to play in a band as long as I could hide in the back next to the drummer and not stand out.
I collected a lifetime of evidence throughout the years as further proof that I was small.
But It Was All Pretend
None of it was real. It was all made up in my head.
It was all pretend.
I would pretend to be small in order for people to like me. But the truth is that in playing small I found that I wasn’t able to be myself around other people and I genuinely didn’t like the person I had become.
And suddenly it didn’t matter what other people thought. If I didn’t like who I was, how could they?
Ironic, isn’t it?
Once I realized what I was pretending, everything changed. Literally overnight.
I began to show up to life differently. I began to show up BIG.
But that part of the story is for another day. Now, it’s your turn.
What Are You Pretending?
Maybe you are pretending that you are committed to being healthy but your actions aren’t in line with that commitment.
Or maybe you are pretending that you are too scared to take the first step towards a huge opportunity and so you sit on the sidelines waiting for it to come to you.
Or maybe you are pretending that you can’t make a difference in the world so you don’t even try or barely put in the effort.
What is it that’s holding you back? What’s the story that you keep playing over and over in your head that gives you permission to fail? Or give up? Or not even try?
There is somewhere in your life where you are pretending things are one way when the truth is they are another. And you are afraid to look it in the eye and really see it for what it is.
Figuring it out could change everything.
So, I have a challenge for you. But it’s only worth taking on if you are willing to let go of whatever is holding you back.
Give some thought as to where you are struggling in your life. Your finances. Your relationship. Your career. Whatever.
And be honest about what you are pretending and what the truth really is. Dig deep. Be real. There is no wrong answer here. And when you are ready, complete this sentence in the comments below:
I pretend that I ______. But the truth is that I _______.
Featured image courtesy of Agnes Leung licensed via Creative Commons.