I’ve been looking at my Facebook memories a lot lately and I am noticing a few trends.
- I was insufferable in high school. I mean I was the worst.
- The body I had when I thought I was fat is now the same body I would literally swallow broken glass to have again.
- I used to share a lot of things without realizing how wrong they were and without fully thinking about what I was implying.
As I’ve been looking through these old posts, wading through the countless #bossbabe quotes, the reach for the stars memes and the humble brags of my past, the one quote that has been coming up over and over again says something like this:
“You serve no one – not your family, not the world, not God – by playing small”
Okay. So. I remember the context of this quote. I remember hearing it over and over again at the ‘rah-rah’ rallies we would sit through. It was usually said by multi-millionaires wearing Louboutin shoes. And it was almost always followed by “make your goals BIGGER! SHINIER! FURTHER OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE!” And the crowd would cheer and we would all look at each other with big, hopeful smiles and then I would pull out my phone and share the quote because it felt so true. And I wanted other women to know that they shouldn’t play small either! They should get off their butts and do something amazing with their lives! They should be great… just like me! I remember feeling like I was genuinely helping others by encouraging them to do more than they were currently doing.
But what I didn’t realize was, by sharing quotes just like this one, I was implying that those women weren’t doing enough already. I didn’t realize that by putting out into the world all of my successes (and very few of my failures) and sharing every accomplishment I achieved… I was helping to sell the idea that only busy women deserve praise. Only women who are juggling all the balls deserve pats on the back. Only women whose houses are covered in goal posters and whose bookshelves are full of personal development and whose air pods are always playing inspirational podcasts – that those are the women who are really doing something with their lives. And when, a few years later, I found myself outside of that group of women, I realized what I wish I had seen all along; that playing it small is actually a really big deal.
When I first left my job to become a full-time stay at home mom, I would tell people it was temporary. I was just doing this until I could find my true purpose. I started a brand to help inspire women to find their #innerbadass, and while I still stand by the idea that every woman has an inner badass, I wish I could go back and tell myself that I didn’t have to try so hard to look like I was staying busy. I would sit at my computer for hours, working on my blog to try to make it more inviting with the hope that it would gain more subscribers. I started a YouTube channel. I started writing a book. I wrote a personal development curriculum. I was reaching for anything that would make me feel like I wasn’t settling for ‘just being a mom’.
I had heard other women say it before. “I can’t believe she left just to be a stay at home mom,” they would say. “It’s so sad that she won’t have any purpose,” women would comment. Whenever someone would leave the bubble we would all gather around and discuss what her life would look like. She would surely be miserable, drowning in the monotony of daily life while we all personally developed ourselves into direct sales tycoons. So, when I was the one outside the bubble, it was easy to believe that I was settling just like all those women before me. I assumed that leaving my job meant I would find something bigger and better soon. Because playing small doesn’t serve anyone.
But then the time passed. The days, while definitely tedious at times, were filled with important tasks like feeding my kids and making sure my house was in livable condition. I balanced our budget. I took our dogs to the vet. And in the midst of the monotony, I found my purpose. It didn’t look shiny or particularly glamorous. I didn’t have a goal poster with my 6 most important things on it. I didn’t even make lists unless it was for groceries or errands that needed to be done. But I felt more important than I ever had before. Those small moments – the ones I thought for sure would make me feel like a slave in my own home – they made me feel grounded. I felt more connected to my family. My marriage improved. I stopped resenting my date book – which used to be filled with a bunch of appointments I didn’t want to go to – and started to love filling it in with playdates and tasks for my family.
A year later, I haven’t found anything bigger, but I have found something better. I have found that playing it small does, in fact, serve those around you. Caring more about the little things (like playdates and snuggles) and less about the ‘big things’ (like month end numbers and paychecks) was the best way to serve my family. When I shortened my to-do list and created space in my brain, I was able to focus more on what truly brought me joy and what my kids and husband needed from me. And, in the ultimate act of irony, it has led me to discovering passions that could someday make a financial impact on my when the right time comes along.
For now, I am happy with playing it small.