Do you ever dim your light or play small in order to feel accepted by others? Have you ever pretended to be less than what you really are because you had the feeling that belonging meant dumbing that down? I think especially if you’re an empath or maybe a deeper person than the average, you may have felt like you had to do this.
And there are lots of reasons. We dim our light and play small instead of shining bright and showing all of us to the world. And a lot of these go back to childhood, of course. So growing up in a dysfunctional home, it may have felt safer to you to dim your light, so to remain quiet, to fly under the radar, because when you shone , that drew attention to you.
And depending on the type of home you grew up in, attention may have been very dangerous. So for me, for example, attention was rarely positive. Attention was almost always negative, and so I learned very early how to be quiet, how to go unnoticed, how to do everything I could to really be invisible. But at the same time, because I had so much depth and because I had this high sensitivity and this empathic nature, I couldn’t hide.
I could never hide. I always had a very powerful presence. And I remember, in university around university age or maybe shortly thereafter, A new friend, a woman that I really didn’t know, we were all kind of sitting around outside and I came into the room and she said, wow, you have a powerful presence.
And I just wanted to die. I wanted a hole to open up and swallow me because that was the last thing I wanted. The last thing I wanted was to be powerful or to be noticed. My whole, mission was to not be that because I just wasn’t ready to embrace it. And I would also notice that when I left the room, people would talk more.
It was like something about my presence impacted people in a way that I really didn’t like and I really didn’t know how to handle or use. . And part of that went back to having parents who didn’t validate me. So if you have children of your own and you’re like me, you probably praise your children. You probably help them understand who they are so that they can use their gifts and just so they know that they’re valuable and they’re validated.
And if you didn’t get that, you kind of make the assumption that your gifts are not gifts at all, that they’re curses. , and that’s definitely what happened to me. So safety is one of the big reasons that we might hide that light, that really should be shining brightly. And when you shine it brightly, you attract the right people to you and you repel the wrong people.
So that woman, for instance, was someone who appreciated what I had to offer, but I wasn’t ready to receive that from her. Instead, I was surrounding myself with people who. , whether it was said or not, they really encouraged me to dim my light. So when you shine your light, you actually attract the right people to you, like a moth to a flame.
And another reason that we dim our light is that we are not sure of who we are. So our sense of self might be undeveloped because we never learned from our parents who we really are. So they didn’t guide us. They didn’t kind of hold a mirror up to us the way parents are supposed to, to show us our strengths and guide us toward them to help us develop them, to help us discover what we like and what we don’t like, what we wanna do with our lives.
And. , you know, what are we good at to explore and really find out more about who we are so we can best serve the world. If you didn’t get that, you really walk around with a fractured sense of self, so that makes it hard to embrace your gifts because you’re trying hard to fit in, and that’s the third reason that we generally dim our light, is that we’ve been conditioned probably since childhood to really look to other people to see what they want.
because that’s what we had to do with our parents. What do other people want and how can I give it to them? So if you’re a person with a lot of depth, if you have a gift of empathy or something that is not common or average, then you are gonna try to dim that down because all you wanna do is fit in.
And I think about my social psychology class in undergrad and we learned that there are two needs that humans have among the needs that we have, and those are accuracy and belonging, and I can’t help thinking that when we do this, we sacrifice the accuracy, the truth of who we are in order to belong. , but it’s not a true sense of belonging because you’re coming with a false self.
You’re coming with really a mask that makes it impossible to connect with others and for others to connect with you. So people pleasing is another big reason that we dim that light. We pretend that we are not a shiny bright force of nature. And instead we play small and try to fit in with the average.
And society encourages us to, to connect on quite a surface level. And so we might get the impression that our depth is not welcome. And the truth is, for some people, depth is not welcome. They’re not ready for it. They don’t understand it. Maybe they’re just not wired that. And so when you get the sense that someone else can’t handle your depth, instead of saying, that person’s not for me. They can’t handle me. They’re not ready for me. Let me go to this other person who is on my same wavelength. Instead of doing that, we try to adjust to this person who is frankly maybe a little bit below our level in terms of what they can handle, their expansiveness, their level of depth, et cetera. And that really harms us and that really prevents us in all areas of our lives from reaching our potential.
So whether that’s finding the right partner for us, you know, I ended up marrying someone who was lacking depth, who was for his own, you know, dysfunctional family reasons. He was hiding his true self. And he would tell me I was too deep . Which is, you know, such a sad state of affairs. And of course one of the big reasons that the marriage didn’t last.
And, then you might go into a career that is totally misaligned with who you are because you’re not bringing your whole self. And you might be finding a career based on external factors such as what the world thinks is acceptable, what your parents think is accept what society says is good to do things like that because it takes a lot of courage to pursue something out of the ordinary or to be a healer or something like that.
So those are some of the reasons and some of the outcomes of, dimming your light, playing small, not bringing your whole self to the situation, and some of the things you can do to counter that are, quite obviously, to start shining your light. But in order to do that, you need to begin the process of self-discovery.
So you need to start to figure out who you are. Maybe you never learned that. You start with what do I like to do? What do I not like to do? And that begins with spending time with yourself. . So I really recommend it can be as simple as sitting with yourself for 10 minutes, you know, letting your thoughts and feelings go by and maybe journaling about what comes up for you.
And it can also include. Hmm. Learning to stop basing your interactions on what you think other people want. So as you get to know yourself, you can begin to think about what do I want? Begin to prioritize your own needs. And it’s not easy because we’re so conditioned to look to what other people want.
It’s in your body on a cellular level. So I’m not saying this is going to happen overnight, but these are things to be conscious of. So when you go into a social situation or a dating situation, Not looking to see what the other person wants, but tuning into yourself and making a promise to yourself that I’m gonna bring who I am.
And if this person doesn’t like it, doesn’t connect with it, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you made a mistake. It just this is not your person, and this is how we find our people and we move away from the people who are not right for us. So chances are you might be surrounded with people who are not right for you because of this light dimming that you’ve been doing.
But it is never too late to start, and you can begin now and just go out there and make a promise to yourself that you are going be who you are. You might have to find out what that is first by spending some time with yourself and you’re not going to play small anymore just to make other people uncomfortable and.
Comfortable, I should say. And in order to be all that you need to be, you might have to be a little uncomfortable. Other people might have to be a little uncomfortable. And this is how you find the people who are ripe for you. And at first, this might feel a little bit lonely. Like you might have a time where it’s just you because you’re discovering yourself and you haven’t found your people, and that’s okay too. Sometimes the beginning of a self-care and a healing journey just starts with you and that connection with yourself is the most important one. It is so important to have before you can connect authentically with others. So I hope this has helped if this is an issue for you.
Thank you for listening.
Laura, thank you so much for sharing your words. You’ve given me new ways to think about my own story. Blessings on your work!
You’re so welcome. I’m glad you’re here!