A defining moment in my life happened when I was 9 and my best friend wrote me a “break up” letter. She told me that she didn’t want to be friends anymore because I always had the answers in class.
“Nobody likes a know-it-all,” the letter said. “It makes everyone else look bad.”
I was deeply hurt and confused by this. I found such pleasure in learning things. I would spend quite a bit of time studying my lessons because I truly enjoyed it. I also wanted to please my teacher by doing my best because she seemed as excited about the subjects as I was.
The thought never occurred to me that other people weren’t as enthusiastic as me. Why wouldn’t they want to show up, fresh faced and eager to learn something new?
The one thing that I did understand very clearly about the incident, was that my success hurt others. I needed to dull my sparkle or no one would want to be my friend.
Everyone has an episode like this; a formative wound that defines and shapes how they view themselves. These moments can creep into our adult lives without us ever noticing.
I could have made a different decision that day. I could have recognized that my friend was insecure about her own intelligence or lack of trying. I could have said, “If you don’t want to look bad, then study more. I’m not going to stop doing my best because you don’t want to do yours.”
I didn’t choose those things. I chose what I considered at the time to be the path of least resistance; I shut up and kept my hand down in class. I completely lost my enthusiasm and stopped caring very much about my schoolwork in general.
In my adult life, I would always put a ceiling on how successful I was without realizing that I was doing it. I still occasionally find myself falling back into that habit. Fortunately, I recognize it for what it is now.
There are always going to be people who don’t want to see you shine. That fact becomes your problem only when you decide to acquiesce to their limiting beliefs by choosing to make yourself smaller. If you find yourself doing this, here are a few suggestions that might help.
Surround yourself with people who want you to be the best version of yourself. I have a small group of women who are my “power posse.” They support me and want me to be the biggest, brightest, most spectacular “me” that I can be. We encourage each other to be big, because in doing so, we give ourselves permission to do the same. When I find myself in the company of someone who wants to dim my glimmer, simply thinking about them gives me the courage to keep my light burning.
Sometimes I mistake well intentioned criticism for support. I have a close friend who I thought was part of my power posse. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed that she made little comments about things that I did that were subtle, but very demeaning. They always seemed to be made in love, so it took me awhile to see beneath the surface of it.
Now, even though we are still friends, I keep a fairly wide berth. I don’t judge, though. I recognize that she has the same issues with success as I do, and she deals with it by cutting other people down in the guise of loving support and “helpful” advice. I’ve done the same thing in the past. Most of us have.
When you have a “win,” own it and celebrate. Many years ago I attended an empowerment workshop. We had to brag about an accomplishment, which is much more difficult than you would expect. I found myself blushing and embarrassed during my turn. One woman couldn’t do it at all. She was so uncomfortable that she burst into tears.
I’m not suggesting that you brag about your successes. What I am saying is, stop talking about how much work it was, or what a small, insignificant role you had to play, or that it was a fluke, or that it really wasn’t as much of a success as you would have liked it to be.
Go ahead and let yourself own it. Throw your fist in the air a few times, do a field goal victory dance, and blow yourself a kiss in the mirror. Give yourself some credit for shining like the great big beautiful beacon that you are. When I say own it, I mean OWN IT!
When you find limiting beliefs within yourself that dull your shine, let them go. Our shiniest selves are the truest version of us. If you accept any version of you that is less than blinding brightness, then drop it like a hot potato. Recognize that you no longer need to mask who you are to keep you safe, and let it go.
The more you shine, the more you inspire others to do the same.
Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information about her, please visit her website at www.theomancollective.com. Check her out on the Happy Empaths Twitter feed @the_empath.