I am vertically challenged at 5'1''. My whole life the words "cute," "petite," "adorable," "pint size," and "little," followed me around and crept into my existence. Don't get me wrong; I always have leg room on an airplane, and I can fit comfortably in the car's middle seat. My shoe size is always the store demo, my head rests perfectly on my husband's shoulder, and I still get double carded at the local college bars. If I had a penny for every time I heard, "You will love it when you're 40!" I'd be a millionaire. However, my short stature and my young features have always been this defining factor to my psyche. It created this smaller SELF that has taken me years of internal work to separate from. It has caused me to be a people pleaser and often shrink and hide. Or in opposition, act inauthentic and loud to accommodate. I promise that this is not an invitation to Samantha's pity party, so let's take it back for a second...
I may be small, but I have giant plans!
My whole life growing up, I was involved heavily in the arts. Everything from choir to band, I was there. With dreams of broadway (and incredible support and patience from my dear parents) I majored in music theatre performance at Western Michigan University. Out of hundreds of people, I was one of 7 girls chosen for the program. It was an AMAZING accomplishment. The song I chose to sing for my audition was from the musical 'Little Women,' and there is a line in the song that belts and exclaims "I may be small, but I have giant plans." My father would go on to quote this line at my wedding, not understanding how much of an impact that statement would be. I DID have big plans, and I was small.
It took 4 years of college playing a child in multiple plays for me to finally land the role I had longed for...Mimi in Rent. Mimi, a stripper/heroine addict, was the challenge of my life. She was confident, sexy, conflicted, and the absolute opposite of my own bubbly personality. I struggled to gain the confidence I needed to let go of the voice in my head telling me that I look ridiculous in those 6 inch shoes from discountstripper.com. It forced me out of my comfort zone, and to feel OK with confidence and conflict. After a few meltdowns from the lack of "sexy" I was bringing to the table, I decided to trust myself and emotionally give it my all to the character, and let go of my appearance in tights and heels. There was a shift in me during that experience. It was the last show I did in college, and I will forever hold a piece of that in my heart.
The little engine that could...
After college, I was thrust into the world of adulthood living as an artist. I worked 3 jobs while I struggled to audition and find a paying role. The results were consistent. I was constantly too old(ironic), too short, too small, too young looking, or my favorite : "your voice does not match your stature." I had a big voice. My lungs had the capacity to belt my little heart out, and I LOVED the feeling of expressing emotion through song. I started to mentally deteriorate and resent my childish looks. I knew that there were much worse things out there, and I should practice gratitude for what I had, however there was something missing.
One day I was invited to a yoga class with a friend. It had been since college since I'd met the mat, so I went. There the teacher spoke of detachment, love, community, and self-worth. Coming from a world of competition and struggle, I felt embraced, confused, enlightened, and content for the first time in a very long time. I immediately enrolled in my 200hr Teacher Training to dive into the supportive community. That is when my life changed...
I heard this quote during my training, and it has forever stuck with me:
"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.” -Marianne Williamson
Whoa-truth bomb. I believe that all of us have moments of shrinking in our lives. We allow others to create a sense of "less than" that takes us away from our true core values. As I continued to dive into my yoga education, there were constant moments of comparison, judgement, and doubt as I discovered my own authentic voice and confidence. It is something that I reevaluate constantly to this day. I witness these emotions and struggles when I work with students who are embarking on their own journey of self-discovery. Though I may not be a typical yogini with long legs and 6 pack abs, I have learned to become my own Small Giant. I play it big energetically, and work to offer my big heart to my students, coworkers, family, and friends to the best of my ability. I have learned to recognize that playing up my strengths serves me and everyone around me much more than when I shrink and get small. There is of course a balance to playing big; the yin to my yang. However, I commit in moments of shrinking:
- I will play it big toward my goals.
- I will play it big toward my values.
- I will play it big in my love.
- I will play it big in my compassion.
- I will play it big in my practice.
- I will play it big in my exploration.
- I will play it big in my creativity.
- I will play it big in my life.
This is a constant practice that I look forward to exploring for years to come. I am the Small Giant, the Little Engine that COULD, and I am here to fulfill some giant plans and help others discover theirs. Living the Bright Life!