I remember when my grandmother was dying, she made me promise to take care of my mom. Every time I tried to comfort my mom, she seemed to be inconsolable. It scared me. Nothing I did seemed to make a difference. I believed I needed to change. I needed to be quieter, more cautious, hide when she was sad and play when she was happy.
I perceived that I wasn’t okay, in fact, I was “too much.” Essentially, I took on a belief that I needed to play small, to dim my inner light if I wanted to be loved and fulfill my promise. In that moment, I told myself a few things- me being me wouldn’t get me far in life, it’s not okay to call attention to the gifts I have, be proud or to think the way I think, act the way I act, dream the way I dream.
I asked myself what if they were right? I shrunk. In that moment, I guarded my dreams and gifts. I played small. I hid as much as possible. I chose a perceived safety over my truth, wisdom and purpose. This shift in how I chose to interact with others became the template of my story, setting the foundation for all future thoughts, beliefs, and actions.
If I didn’t show up fully, I thought I would be safe, loved, and accepted. I finally realized that the only one abandoning me was myself. I had adopted the limiting beliefs of others into my life so I could stay in their good graces. I relinquished peace to keep the peace.
No one was making me lonely, isolated, broke, or small but myself. I needed a new story. I could not re-write the story that had been written so far, but I sure didn’t need to continue writing it.
I had to face the reality that if I turned up my light even 20% more, I would illuminate the shadows of those very people I’d tried to appease my whole life. False beliefs are like cockroaches. They don’t like the light. I knew if they weren’t ready or willing to turn up their light too, we wouldn’t be able to continue the journey together. That was scary. Staying stuck was scarier.
I made a choice and a commitment to courageously challenge my limiting beliefs. Any time I had a thought that made me feel energetically (or even physically) contracted or limited, I would ask myself where it was coming from and what truth was there? I started wondering about about how I limited my behavior. What did playing small look and feel like? What would the opposite of that look and feel like? What was I really learning by playing in the shadows of my greatness? I paid attention to how I was feeling. If I didn’t want to feel a particular way, I would curiously explore how I wanted to feel and what immediate action would it take to shift me into that feeling. Sometimes, the seemingly craziest things would emerge from this process. I sang a Sufi prayer in Arabic, out loud, in a crowded grocery store. I skipped to my car through a parking lot. I “surfed” grocery carts to the cart holder. I told myself a joke and laughed out loud. I carried crystals to meetings and put them on the table in front of me. I would repeat things that made me happy: bubbles, elephants, screaming goats, trampolines, Wagon Wheel (a song that brings happy memories).
Slowly, I noticed my samskara, or patterns, shifting. I didn’t go to numbing mechanisms for coping. I sat with my fears and listened. I salved old wounds. I rewrote old stories from a place of clarity. I started seeing the samskaras in the people I’d played small with. I felt sadness, love, and compassion for them. I surrendered the blame and stopped trying to make them feel guilt and shame for how they limited me. By doing that, I stopped giving validating their limitations. I gave them permission to write a better story for themselves.
Awareness, itself, does not does not mean we change instantly. We must be willing to commit to show up fully, perfectly imperfect, challenge our stories, and love the parts of ourself that feel less than and unworthy. Through that process you build self-trust. The more you trust yourself, the bigger the risks you take on showing up courageously true and real.
Along the way you may lose the people who who are unwilling or unable to take that journey with you. In the end, the joy of the journey will far outweigh the momentary pain. Today, courageously challenge yourself to look at your story and how you feel limited. Decide how long you want to stay in the samskara of that story. If you’ve had enough, declare your intention to take the first step in writing a truer version of your story. Leave a comment below with “Enough!” Let us begin a revolution of excuse busters and limitation slayers who are committed to showing up fully.