3 Dangers of Playing Small in a Big World


Famous quote from the great Nelson Mandela

Written by Alanna Gardner, MFT

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”- Nelson Mandela

In my last UR Inspired post I touched on how we often resort to playing small to make others comfortable and I wanted to share some of the struggles surrounding the issue. When you are someone who is searching for or found your passion in life you become immediately excited to share that with everyone who is willing to listen. At least that was my experience. I know that after a lull in my life things really started to change dramatically when I committed to the idea of finding and cultivating my passion and purpose and when I would talk to other people who had the same fire it encouraged me to continue in that direction. I felt reassured that I was being lead down the right path.

But as nice those moments are they are few and far between. You aren’t always met with that sort of enthusiasm when you’re trying to chase a dream. More often than not you run into people who want to give you 1,001 reasons why you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. The pessimism can feed into your fears and doubts about the new path you’re on. And no matter how excited you are you get tired of having to defend the goals, changes, and work that you have to put in to get to where you want to be. So what do many of us end up doing to avoid all that? We play small and be quiet; dimming our fire so as to not rock the boat.

‘Playing small’ is being your biggest cheerleader when no one is supporting your decisions. Playing small is recognizing that you can’t share your progress with certain people because they don’t care or believe in what you are doing. Playing small is keeping your dreams to yourself because you’re tired of people saying maybe you should just stick to that “good” job you have or do something that is going to make you some money. Playing small can sometimes mean that you won’t be alone, because playing big and doing better for yourself would make you an outcast amongst family and friends. But what you don’t realize is that there are dangers to playing small in a big world. Here are three of them:

You could lose motivation
When you downplay what you’re doing for others you can sometimes start to internalize that behavior. You can find yourself becoming less excited about your passion because others are less excited about it. But on the path to living with purpose you’re going to be met with opposition, it just comes with the territory. Your passion is just that, your passion, so don’t take it personally when people’s enthusiasm doesn’t match your own. The sooner you recognize that the better off you’ll be with not taking people’s behavior personally. Don’t lose your fight.

You may miss out on opportunities
You are less likely to share things with people when you play small. You end up not bringing up your achievements or things you’re working on with others. This in turn can keep you from opening opportunities that may aid you in your process. Regardless of what you’re doing you never know who could motivate you or connect you to someone who could help your goals blossom. Continue to put yourself out there. God, the universe or whoever the powers that be are usually working through people to help those who put themselves out there!

You won’t inspire others
Whatever you’re doing in life, no matter how big or small, can serve as an inspiration for someone else. Actively working on your goals and dreams can be just the thing that a person watching you needed to help them go after theirs. Often times you never know how you impact the lives of others till they say something. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you inspire them to keep yourself going. Be a trailblazer.

Even though it can be hard, keep putting yourself out there and living life big. The victories and proud moments you experience along the way, no matter the size, are totally worth it compared to all the moments of negativity that will be thrown your way.

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