I always knew I was different, and I felt really bad about that for most of my life. The first time I remember being consciously aware of the guilt I was holding was in middle school. I know I was aware of the guilt because for an entire year I decided to get bad grades.
This might not sound that serious, in fact, I don't even think my parents noticed. They were just happy I wasn't "hanging out with the wrong crowd" or "doing drugs," but I knew exactly what I was doing. I had a plan:
At less than 5 feet tall I tried out for the basketball team and I didn't get chosen.
I was fluent in Spanish and I decided to throw it all away to take first year French.
I got barely passing grades on purpose.
Why did I do this?
I had always gotten straight A's, I loved learning, I only signed up for things I knew I could succeed at, but I hated being the center of attention. I was the 'teacher's pet', I felt like my parent's 'favorite' child, and I felt guilty whenever someone would give me a compliment for my achievements. I noticed that the more I succeeded, the more attention and praise and rewards I got.
I felt guilty because if I was getting attention for doing what came easily to me, who was paying attention to the people who were struggling?
So I made myself small, I forced myself to fail, and I tried to blend in.
I thought by doing this I would free up some space, time, and energy for the people who were paying attention to me to instead pay attention to the people who really needed it. It didn't work and a year later I decided to go back to being myself. I never told anyone to stop paying attention to me because someone else needed help though; and I never felt empowered by the role models in my life to tutor another student who was struggling even when I was doing well.
Here's the thing, if you're making yourself small so you are not the center of attention because you don't want to use resources that should be given to someone else, then you are not doing anyone any favors. You are not going to change the world by taking up less space and being invisible. You certainly are not going to achieve your goals by playing small.
If this sounds like you, you need to know you were born to stand out.
This is something I have continued to realize about myself over and over again, every time I push myself outside of my comfort zone. I didn't just have this epiphany in middle school and now I am fine. I've had it over and over again every time I dare to dream bigger.
Now I ask myself on a monthly basis: "In what areas of my life am I playing small?"Then I call myself out on the things I am avoiding, procrastinating on, and creating distractions around. In order to make a difference in your life or the lives of others, you have to first stop waiting for someone else to do it.
Once you stop waiting, the fastest way out of playing small is taking action towards your dreams, and that is how you change the world. Don't walk, Run!
If you are a business owner and you are ready to stop playing small and start standing out, apply now to my publicity training program Imposter to Influencer. The world needs to hear that message that only you can share.