Recently I ran a workshop on the subject of feeling small. I believe feeling small is something most of us have experienced at one point or another. To some, feeling small may be experienced as feeling insignificant, inferior, unimportant or even invisible. This feeling is often most poignant in a group situation where our unconscious projections get to play out. This topic is close to my heart; I have always wondered how this feeling has resulted in many of us not living our full potential, not because we aren’t capable but because we think we are not enough or undeserving. To the outside world, we may look as competent as anyone else but, oomph, out of the blue certain people or situations can trigger this feeling in us. In those moments we regress back to a child-like state where we fear our existence gets overlooked or forgotten. We give our power away and put those in front of us on a pedestal. This person could be our boss, our partner, our date, our friend or even someone we meet in the shop whom we barely know.
We are all born into this world with natural curiosity and the desire to discover and explore. Nothing is ever too big or too scary for us. We shine as all children do but somehow through our upbringing we start to lose those magical qualities and wonder in us. Something gets disconnected; we become conditioned as we carry expectations from our caregivers, family and society. Those in front of us, carrying projections of their own, reflected back to us that we may be too loud, too much, or we may need more to be better. Through these reflections, we learn that unless we behave or act a certain way, the love and validation that we once received so unconditionally may be lost, our needs may no longer be met and as little children, we cannot survive on our own. Our lives are at someone else’s mercy. We learn to adapt because that is the only way we could be loved and accepted. We quiet down, we comply, or even better, we vanish. Anyone or anything that remind us of this powerful figure or the helpless situation we were once in, we unconsciously respond to in a way that we once did as little children.
Some may respond in a totally different way. Their defence mechanism might tell them to act “big” with the hope of scaring their enemies away. Just like many animals do; cats for example, when they feel threatened, act big by arching their backs and puffing up all their fur in an attempt to look bigger. Though we may all behave differently, our purpose is the same, which is to protect and to keep us safe. Of course this flight or fight response is there to help us, but these unconscious behaviours may lead us to do things that we later regret.
We forget, as the capable adults we are today, that we have so many inner resources waiting to serve us – we no longer have to deal with people and situations the way we did.
The key is to become conscious when this feeling gets triggered in us. As we do that, we bring our awareness back to the here and now. When we are fully present we know there is nothing inferior or small about us in comparison to the person standing in front of us. What is making us small is the dialogue that is going on in our own minds, the painful memories that get played back. Pay attention and listen to why you are afraid and know that you no longer have to be. As we learn to confront our inner critic with courage, we no longer identify with it.
Through understanding our projections and wounding, we can re-discover the parts of ourselves that have been erased or made small by others. And to heal from our old wounds requires our attention, nurture and love. It often requires us to be vulnerable and accept the part of us that has been left behind.
We are all meant to shine like we once did; it is our light that lights up the world. All we need to do is to give ourselves the permission to break free from the mind limitation we created and realise we were never small all along. Take your space, be seen and have your voice heard.
Before I go, I would like to leave you with this quote which touches me deeply:
“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. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianna Williamson.