There were two incidences that woke me up to the fact that I was “living small.”
The first incident took place one morning at the grocery store: I stepped into an aisle with my shopping basket in the lead; a woman rounding the corner slammed into my basket with hers.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” was my automatic response. The woman looked right at me and didn’t say a word as she shuffled past.
A few days later, I opened the post office door and took one step inside when a man practically steamrolled over me as he left the building. I mumbled “I’m sorry.” His response was a blank stare and again, no words.
Now, I didn’t think too much about either event, but then these types of interactions started happening daily. Someone would shove me, bump into me, or back into me and each time I would apologize without hesitation. I was always met with non-reciprocal response of silence or staring.
It was a strange phenomenon—one that left me feeling as though I were a Lilliputian squeaking out apologies for merely existing.
At that point in my life, I had been doing soul work for a few years. As I processed through painful parts of my past with the guidance of my counselor, I started recognizing threads of inferiority and inadequacy woven into various aspects of my life. The insidious strands twisted and knotted their way into my exchanges with others, my view of self, and even with how I prayed and related to God.
When I allowed dreams long suppressed to rise within, smallness reminded me, Your dreams are too far out of reach.
When I wanted to create beauty or stand up for the oppressed or take risks, smallness chided, Who do you think you are?
When questioned about unconventional choices I’ve made or when I’d vacillate over a big decision, smallness jeered, You don’t know what you’re doing.
When I would berate myself for the way God had hard-wired me, smallness would gloat, God messed up on you.
Some folks may call this an inferiority complex—I prefer to call it “living small” for the words “inferiority” and “complex” only heap on the shame and feelings of inadequacy.
And so began the quest of dismantling and fighting against the small.
Having awareness of all that’s tangled within was the first step in my journey. I believe growth is stifled when we live unaware of our blind spots or internal motivations. But awareness shines its light on all the dark places of our souls—these places we’d prefer to ignore, silence, or judge harshly. Awareness awakens us and even if doesn’t quite feel like it, awareness empowers us to move forward.
I began excavating and examining the deeply buried belief systems I had about God and about myself. I discovered that smallness had been a pervasive theme in my life since I was a child and had manifested itself in overt and covert ways.
In this fight against the small, I’ve discovered a deep interior motivation of mine: that I long to be known and to be heard.
And somewhere along the way, many years ago, I lost sight of that.
The fight against the small is proving to be a marathon where my endurance often wanes. I invite God into the small space, lean into it, and refuse to rush the process no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
I choose to to discover the roots of small, dig them out, and replace them with something that blooms inside me instead of leaving me withered and dry.
Each day when familiar thoughts and feelings creep in, I ask myself if I’m going to feed the small or fight against it.
What about you, soul friend—has living from a small space left its mark on you?
Do you want to fight against the small too?