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Playing it Small

Have you ever been around anyone who is always apologizing or putting themselves down? No matter how much you try to build them up, even just to have a conversation, they seem to not want to take credit. It is as if they want to be somewhere on the sideline, and not in the center. This syndrome is very obvious in some and unfortunately many of us behave this way from time to time or under special circumstance. Perhaps, it is more common in women than in men. Perhaps somewhere in our upbringing we were told or expected to blend in with the background. Maybe it is in our interpretation of "the meek shall inherit the earth". Whatever it is and wherever it came from, it is not attractive and does not help the person acting in that way.

When I asked my nine year old daughter who plays soft ball really well in the back yard, but is extremely timid during team practice and in the games, why she throws the ball so timidly, she responded, "I don't want to hurt the catcher or embarrass her if she can't catch". I couldn't understand it at the time, but her response sat with me for a long time. I tried explaining to her that it wasn't up to her to decide if the catcher could catch the ball, I even explained how in one particular play that the catcher was the team's best player, so she could catch the ball and that her throwing a short ball, actually cost the team. But, it all went to deaf ears. Finally, I decided to be the coach. I asked her how she thinks the catcher would feel if she knew that my daughter thought she couldn't catch the ball? That somehow resonated with her. She realized that by assuming that the catcher couldn't catch the ball, she was insulting her.

This incident reminds me of all the times in life we play it small to not hurt someone, to not seem arrogant, and then we wonder why we get stepped on or treated with disrespect when we just wanted to help someone out. I think it has to do with our misunderstanding of what compassion is all about. Somehow in those moments when we are playing it small, we justify it in our own minds thinking that we are being compassionate. In reality we are not. Compassion is not assuming that someone can't do something. That's arrogance. When we assume that someone is not capable of doing something, we are being judgmental and arrogant in our assumption. And people pick that up. No one wants to be thought of as weak or incapable, so when we treat them that way, they resent us.

Our business in life as don Miguel Ruiz points out in his book: The Four Agreements, is to always do our best, no more, no less. In fact, if we do our best and not make any assumptions, we are already living out 2 of the 4 agreements he writes about. So, the next time you feel like playing it small, ask yourself: What are the assumptions I am making? Am I being/doing my best? If you find out that you are compromising yourself to play into your assumptions, then stop, change the game. Do your best and then go on to play the best and biggest game of your life. When you play it big, you just might inspire someone else to do the same. Imagine what kind of world that would be, if we all played our best game every moment of every day.