Why Playing Small is a Problem and How To Stop

stop playing small cat staring at lion in mirror

Stop playing small.

This is a phrase I’ve heard for decades. It’s echoed inside the walls of a therapy session. Through the walls of the Unitarian church I once attended. In professional training, and while earning my Master’s degree. And in countless books, articles, and social media posts I’ve read.

Still, it jumps out at me every time. Probably because it speaks to me on a deep level. Intuitively, I understand it’s an important message. Perhaps the most important message. Yet it’s one I struggled with for a long time.

Playing small literally…

It can be taken very literally when recovering from dieting and disordered eating.

The real goal of dieting and disordered eating IS to shrink yourself. To make yourself as small as possible. Take up less space.

In doing so, one loses their voice, their presence, and even themselves.

Playing small symbolically

But it can be symbolic as well.

When we play small, we swallow our words and our opinions and bury our feelings deep within.

We fear being criticized or judged and we avoid taking risks. Or, we don’t give ourselves credit for the power and beauty we possess. We may end up feeling weak and alone.

We stay within our very small and guarded safe space. Our energy and time is spent hiding our true selves from others while trying to present ourselves the way we believe we should appear.

We strive to blend in to the shadows We’re ashamed and embarrassed. And exhausted. All the time.

The world deserves all of you

But the world deserves more. Your family, friends, and loved ones deserve you.  ALL OF YOU.

By making yourself small you’re keeping the real authentic beautiful YOU from the world.

We’re all born with gifts, purpose, and love. I truly believe we’re here on this earth to share that love, to connect, and to create. Playing small prevents us from achieving any of this. 


So today- don’t play small. Today, speak up when you feel that urge in the pit of your stomach.  Share your ideas, your opinions, or your feelings. Write that story that’s inside of you, dying for a voice.

Sing the song that speaks true to your soul. Speak the words that are on the tip of your tongue. Allow yourself to feel free and alive. As you’re seen and heard.

Take up space.

Share your beautiful and authentic self with the world. Own your power proudly. Open up yourself to the person next to you. Reach out to help the person whose gaze you meet. After all, we’re not that different from each other. Deep down we all want the same things.

Everyone wants love, acceptance, connection, and purpose. We all need each other. We belong to each other.

By not playing small, we can all make this world a better place.

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