“Are you content now?” said the Caterpillar.
“Well, I should like to be a little larger, sir, if you wouldn’t mind,” said Alice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”
Remember when, after Alice in Wonderland falls down the rabbit hole she discovers a doorway that opens into a lovely garden but the doorway is less than a foot high? And Alice can’t fit through it—-until she discovers a bottle that says “Drink me”, which she does, shrinking herself to only ten inches high.
Then she realizes she might need the door key which lies on the table now high above her head. So Alice eats cake to get larger, uses a fan to get smaller (almost drowning in her own tears) and so on.
All of this in order to get out of the rabbit hole (even though there were plenty of books!) and into the garden where she thinks she wants to be.
Kind of like when you or I play small to be accepted or to feel safe. By staying small, by not drawing attention to our creative power and gifts we are less likely to draw the wrath and criticism of others who are happier staying as they are. I wonder if that impulse to stay small is a lurking mythic response from a time when hubris (excessive pride in defiance of the gods) resulted in bad things from angry gods and goddesses, like when Athena turned Ariadne into a spider for proclaiming herself the better weaver.
Even now, a woman playing big still sets off negative responses from peers and friends. Those criticisms used to be couched in personal terms such as, “Who does she think she is?” or “She’s so self-centered and egotistical.” Now, because women entrepreneurs, including creatives, are firmly in the marketplace, the more common descriptive terms are driven, competitive, or too commercial, words that when applied to a man have a very different connotation.
That old impulse to stay safe leads us to drink the potion (fear?) in the bottle. As if by shrinking ourselves, we’ll be able to enter that garden without offending anyone.
BUT… Unless you want to live in Wonderland forever (and maybe you do), you can’t stay small forever.
I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. ~Alice
It is easy, as we wander in the garden keeping our creative work and ourselves small, to forget how big and powerful and magical we are, negating all we accomplished yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that and the… Well, you get the picture.
Last January, a friend and colleague of mine, Yvonne, and I decided to sit down and make a list of all the business activities we’d accomplished or engaged in the year before in order to really see what we’d done. Both of us were pleasantly surprised to find how many interviews we’d conducted or been part of, how many programs we’d launched or participated in, and how much content through videos, newsletters and talks we’d put out into the world.
Suddenly, by eating the cake of my accomplishments, I grew bigger, seeing myself in a new way. This gave me new confidence for the work I wanted to accomplish in the year. The new awareness also made it easier for me to talk with assurance and power about my ability to help people tell or write their stories and share them in the world.
I’m ready to throw that nasty little bottle with its shrinking potion away. Are you?
If you are, then sit down and make a list of all your creative accomplishments in this past year. List everything, big and small. Then really see–and admire–all you’ve done.
Did you just grow a little bigger?
Good. Throw the bottle away. Eat the cake.
Be the powerful, creative, magical person you are.