I had a best friend, Jackie, for many years until we grew apart.
This friend was a professional coach and healer.
I was her client, and in the beginning, she helped me a lot with my anxiety and depression. I am, to this day, very grateful for the results I attribute to her work. As time went on, however, my anxiety and depression just weren’t getting any better. My progress had stagnated, but I kept my appointments and continued to pay for her services.
Eventually she began asking me for advice. I would drop everything to be there for her: every disaster, struggle, and celebration. I started helping her with articles and presentations. I was happy to help at no charge because she had helped me so much as her client. We were friends and besides, it was fun for me.
The Signs Were Everywhere…
I couldn’t see for a long time that something needed to change in this relationship. There were signs, but I was not seeing them.
I helped create a huge presentation for her, which she discarded at the last minute. I wasn’t informed that she was tossing it, and didn’t receive so much as a ‘thank you’ for my time and effort.
She was giving less and less during my paid sessions with her, and I was giving more and more during our friendship talks.
When I started my coaching business, I asked for referrals and she dismissed my requests as a burden. She had given other coaches business in the past, plus she knew the quality of my work.
I asked again for referrals just to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Was I not good enough, I wondered, to get a referral from her? She never came right out and said why she would not refer clients to me. Even when people she knew were asking for the services I offered.
I felt irritable and sometimes angry after the coaching sessions I was paying her for.
My husband began to take issue with the relationship. “She’s using you,” he would say to me.
My inner wisdom kept whispering in my ear that I was making myself so small to fit my role in this relationship. And that I needed to change my role so that I could be the full-sized me again.
My Exit Strategy
One day I gathered my courage and told her that if I was going to keep giving her advice, that she would need to pay me for it just as I paid her all these years for her services. If she wanted me to work on a project, I would need to be paid for those services as well.
Listening to one’s intuition is like looking into a big, crystal clear mirror that reflects back what’s inside of the heart and soul. I saw how being in this relationship meant minimizing a part of myself in exchange for her love, approval, and acceptance.
I never heard from her again.
On an unconscious level, I had entered into an agreement that I would play “small” and never reach my full potential, and hopefully that would make me safe and hopefully loved.
Since our falling out, I vowed to not make myself small for anybody. You don’t like me for the size I am? Well, we can’t have any kind of relationship– professional or personal.
Signs That You’re Playing Small With Someone:
You catch yourself silently nodding when someone implies directly or indirectly that you are not good enough in some capacity.
You feel bad about yourself after an interaction with someone – irritable, annoyed, shameful, or sad.
You hang out with people or do business with people you really have little in common with – who don’t add anything to your life or business, in an attempt to fit in.
During an interaction, you pretend you don’t know something so the other party/ parties aren’t intimidated by you. You dumb yourself down.
You stop being outrageous – you water down your personality.
You think saying, “No” or “I need to think about it” is being mean.
You vie for the attention of people that put you down – trying to prove yourself to someone.
You find yourself apologizing for being yourself.
Your significant other or trusted friend feels that someone in your personal or business life is taking advantage of you.
There is an imbalance of how much of your knowledge, services or time you give, and how much the other person gives.
Resizing to Reality
If you have done one or any of these things, and find yourself in a pattern of pretending to be less than you really are or you make yourself appear “less intimidating” by dumbing yourself down, this won’t end well for you. Dimming your light is not worth making others feel “good” about themselves.
The next time you end a conversation with someone who makes you feel inferior, stop and ask yourself questions like:
- Does this person make me feel heard and valued?
- Does this relationship add to my life, or leave me feeling empty?
- Am I giving more than they are in this relationship?
Your answers may make you realize you have been downplaying yourself with this person, and you deserve better than that.
The illusion is that in making yourself small you allow other people to see their own bigness. When in reality, when you are all you can be, you hold the space for others to do the same for themselves. You lead by example, and will inspire many people to do the same.
Please add comments below so we can support each other in the reality of our bigness.
Here is the video that goes along with this post!
4 thoughts on “Stop Making Yourself Small”
Great story and great advice! It makes me wonder how often this happens to employees with a manager that lacks good management skills…
Great post, Mary! You are a terrific writer. Your words have definitely given me something to consider.
Thank you! I hope to continue to give things to consider!
I love that.