Life is short, and life is sweet; it’s time to shed the turtle shell and play gigantic.
I’ve been thinking lately of the ways that we play small in our lives, mostly without even being aware of it. We’re often like little turtles, both protecting ourselves and limiting ourselves in our safe and solid shells. We stay lodged in those stuffy carapaces, protecting ourselves from failure, but also preventing ourselves from growing, learning, expanding.
I’ve often heard the Marianne Williamson quote, “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.”
To be honest, this quote has never really resonated with me. I don’t think of myself as powerful beyond measure; I’ve never felt my light frightens me. Heck, I’m just little ole me, a speck in the great big universe.
However, when I think of this quote in terms of my own tendency to play small, it begins to make more sense to me. Many of us know and sense that we could be doing more–more exploring, more dreaming, more playing, more joy, more learning–but yet we sit still, entrenched in our habits and lives despite these flutterings within.
What if you fail? What if you run into a thousand dead ends? What if you lose money on your big idea or embarrass yourself in front of your family and peers? What if you fall flat on your face because the world doesn’t think you’re as talented as you surmise yourself to be?
We let our fears fence us in, and then we pace discontentedly in our self-created, fenced-in backyards. Sure, sometimes we feel safe and secure, but we also often feel bored and unstimulated. Even cultivating an awareness of when we are playing small is a way of taking a leap forward.
Let me give you some examples of our turtle tendencies.
You stay in a job that you hate because you’re afraid to start over or experience the unknown in a new job. Playing small.
You convince yourself that your sole function in life is to care for your family, despite the longing in your still-beating heart to take some time for yourself and explore your interests. Turtle time.
You drink yourself/drug yourself into a stupor every night and wake up tired every morning, too hazy to reach for greatness. You’ll be happy just to make it through the day so you can drink/drug again tonight. Tipsy Turtle with Convenient Excuse for Mediocrity.
You let people walk all over you, especially those closest to you, because you (mistakenly) believe you’d be lost without them. Better to be abused/mistreated than to risk being alone, right? Playing itsy bitsy.
You date/marry someone who does not wet your whistle in the slightest, because you don’t deserve anyone better and you’d better snag somebody before you end up completely alone. Sad, sad turtle.
You let life happen TO you and complain about your incessant bad luck instead of participating in life and guiding your own destiny. Glass half empty/powerless turtle.
You choose friends who do not challenge you. You spend time with people who you don’t even like. Lame-O Turtle.
We play small in a million ways in our everyday life. Most of it happens on an unconscious level. We’re so hell bent on protecting ourselves, we make choices to keep ourselves in our tiny, safe worlds.
What would happen if we stopped playing small, if we were brave enough to come out of our shells and be the fullest expression of ourselves? What would our lives be like if we moved through our days with confidence, convinced of our own worthiness and beauty? What if we busted out of that turtle shell and played big or even gigantic instead?
The first step is to recognize when we’re selling ourselves short and explore the underlying reasons for our fear. There is a big, bright, gorgeous world out there. There are awesome people to meet, majestic places to see, and dreams to conquer. We need to break free from our self-limiting beliefs and live big and free. Life is short, and life is sweet; it’s time to shed the turtle shell and play gigantic.