by Ken Rolheiser
Playing small with our gifts

Your playing small does not serve the world. Nelson Mandela.

The study of the behaviour of gifted students reveals that they often achieve a mediocre score so as not to attract unwanted attention. Standing out from the crowd can make you the object of envy, ridicule or bullying. Often these students will not volunteer answers in class for the same reasons as above.

In our spiritual lives we have an obligation to use the talents God has given us. Our eternal well being depends on it, and the world needs our gifts. Unless we try to unleash our full potential, our dreams will just remain our dreams.

“Having a dream in your heart is proof sent beforehand by God to show you that it’s already yours. You just have to act on it!” Michelle Gomez.

In “Playing Small: Why hiding your gifts is a disservice to YOU and your career” Michelle Gomez talks about the Imposter Experience which excuses our playing small by convincing ourselves we have gotten to where we are by some mistake, luck or other outside factor. We do not want to be found out as a fraud.

As imposters we do not trust our intelligence and level of competence. Dr. Valerie Young, internationally recognized expert on impostor syndrome and author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, describes six ways Impostors stay ahead of the No-Talent Police, and this eventually causes them to play small:

Over-preparing and Hard Work – Making yourself sooooo busy with tasks and wearing your business as a badge of honor, making it nearly impossible for you to step out and do something bigger. 

Maintaining a Low or Ever-Changing Profile – You have the potential to be highly successful but instead have chosen a line of work where you can be inconspicuous and autonomous …in order to dodge the No-Talent Police.

Procrastination – then rushing to finish the job and having an excuse for the less than perfect result.
Holding Back – Low effort, so you are not vulnerable to the possibility of failure. So you don’t volunteer, you stay in your lane or take yourself out of the running.
Never Finishing and Self-sabotage - make up the six ways not to explore your talent.

Playing small does not serve the world. Our spiritual light is meant to shine. By letting our light shine, we give permission to others to do the same, Marianne Williamson says. If you never allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your spiritual potential.

It is comfortable to play small, to not risk failure by attempting something big. Some even claim it a virtue to not appear mean, cruel and disrespectful as a leader, but you can be mindful, respectful and diplomatic in what you attempt.

Putting our ideas and talents before the public can risk evaluation, criticism and even rejection. But following the dream in your heart is following God’s plan for you. E.E. Cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Life is not meant to be comfortable. The gifts we have come from God, and false humility should not keep us from achieving our greatest success. When the loaves and fishes sit in the basket and feed only those within reach, there is blame.

“Let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16).

(573 words)