Educational Psychologist

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Don't Feed the Ego by Playing Small

I haven't really been posting lately, partly because I have been all consumed with my new job and partly because I've been scared. I've been scared of being judged as egotistical. And the truth is that I've been judging myself! Who am I to share anything I know or have learned with an audience of people? Why should they listen to me? Who do I think I am that anything I have to say could help anyone? It reminds me of the Marianne Williamson quote, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? ...Your playing small does not serve the world...And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

I have to confess; I've been playing small. Which is weird to say because I've been growing into a huge new phase of my career. And at the same time part of me has felt vastly unqualified and undeserving.

The irony is that I've been so worried about not coming off as egotistical and yet playing small like this is feeding the ego and making it stronger! Not acting or sharing or speaking strengthens the ego’s fear that we will be judged and it makes the ego right, it makes the ego stronger. Feeding the ego isn’t always about telling someone how fantastic they are. And for the many of us who deal with imposter syndrome, telling us how fantastic we are can actually feel like quite an affront to the ego.

Being involved in personal growth most of my life I’ve seen a lot of “self-help” leaders, coaches, teachers, gurus, etc. From some I have gained tremendous value and from many I have seen what I judge as achingly uncomfortable peacocking. I have worked with amazing teachers and coaches and I have worked with some really shitty ones. And, no offense to the industry, but I think most of them are shitty. But here’s the thing, most of them are shitty for me. Some of the ones that haven’t worked for me still have booming practices so whatever they’re doing is clearly working for some people. It just didn’t work for me.

One of my big hang ups is still trying to be everything for everyone. It’s all part of what I call the trifecta: people-pleasing, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome; and they plague women more than men. And I’ve written separate blogs about each one, how they’ve influenced my life, and how I deal with them. In this case, I am so terrified of people not liking me, finding out thinking I’m full of shit, calling me out on my bullshit. So. what does this look like in practice? I don’t post online, I couch things I say by keeping it general, I qualify my statements with phrases like “from my experience,” or “at least for me” rather than actually stating that I think this will help other people. What it ultimately comes down to is a lack of self-confidence, and not only a lack of self-confidence but a fear of self-confidence because god forbid I appear confident and someone judges me as conceited.

The other factor at play is that I am still relatively very junior in my field. I worry that my colleagues will look at me and think, “What the hell is she doing? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about that. She’s presenting that all wrong.” But you know what, there’s a big problem with getting research out to the general public and I want to help do that because much of it is paid for with your tax dollars and you deserve to know about it and have it explained to you in a non-technical, jargon-y way by an expert. (Wait, did I just call myself an expert?)

Today I've decided to put an end to all this. No more playing small. Yes, some people may judge me. Some people may think "Who does she think she is? Why should I listen to her?" And that's ok. Because we all have wisdom to share. And I hope that by being brave when I decide to post something that has had value in my life and that I hope will add value to someone else's life, I hope (or know?) that it is inspiring someone else to share value from their own lives. I am so grateful for all the brave people who show up online and off to share their wisdom. So, I challenge you today to share your wisdom with someone, even in private if that feels like a stretch for you. What wisdom do you have to share?