Break Free From Playing Small

Break Free From Playing Small

Don’t you love those ‘aha moments’? I had one recently that was triggered by one of my favorite quotes.

Most of you have heard that amazing Marianne Williamson quote, made especially famous by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 Inaugural Speech. Here it is:

Most of my childhood I attempted to be either sweet or invisible. There are exceptions, for sure. (Like the time I drenched the motorcyclist going by our house with the watering hose, for no apparent reason.)

I had figured out that if I shrunk and let others be big then they felt better about themselves and their mood was better and I was in less danger of their anger, at least for a little while.

I used to get my Dad to teach me things, like how the furnace worked, because I could tell that he felt better when he could be the teacher and be looked up to. (I guess my love for psychology started early.)

If you know me at all now you know I have found my voice, own my space and am not afraid to 'own my brilliance'. I have surrounded myself with strong, opinionated, assertive friends and love seeing strong women around me succeed and go for it.

What lingers?

I’ve wrestled with this awareness that me literally being small physically has translated to feeling vulnerable, feeling little girlish, not being taken seriously.

The psychology student in me has been bothered by this puzzle.

I believe it’s a pendulum swing. In the healing journey we often grow enough to move away from the original dysfunctional pattern. I no longer want to shrink. I don’t want to be invisible. I do want my voice and opinions heard.

Here’s the catch.

When we embrace the opposite of a previous dysfunctional pattern, we still aren’t free.

Reaction isn’t freedom. We are still being controlled by the original self-protection strategy.

My healthy place will be when I don’t have to prove to myself or anyone else that I’m truly not small. I will no longer need to rely on symbolism of any kind. To my core I will be comfortable with who I am. I suspect this is a life-long journey but I fully intend to keep getting further and further along that journey.

What self protection strategy are you still holding on to that gets in your way?

If you were to play big this week what would you do differently?

Until next time,


Marilyn is an Executive and Leadership Coach with Capacity Building Coaching, holding her Professional Certified Coach designation with the International Coach Federation. Marilyn provides professional coaching for executive and business leaders, mentor coaching for coaches, and leadership development support in the form of coaching skills training, soft-skills development, facilitation of key discussions and team coaching.

Marilyn is author of everyday resiliency workbook “How Absorbent Are Your Shocks?”, available on Amazon. Subscribe to “Marilyn’s Musings” twice monthly blogposts for more leadership and professional development content.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Sandy wrote:
Love this Marilyn! So describes many years of my life and now the difficulty of finding the middle ground of enough and not "too much"!!

Sat, November 21, 2015 @ 9:24 AM

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