Making Ourselves Small

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of making ourselves small. There’s something here for me. Perhaps there’s something here for you too.

I have a soulful friend who creates watercolors for kindred spirits with their one words for 2021. It’s amazing how having to choose one word leads to big reflection for some of us. I’m reminded of strategies we use in the classroom such as “Six word memoir” or “Six word response.” Sometimes, constraints are differentiation. For those of us who struggle with words, it can be a relief to know we only need to use 6 words or in this case, one word. And yet, for those of us who have a lot to say about a lot, we have to make choices and that can be challenging. It requires us to go to a higher place.

After sitting with my reflections on 2020 and my hopes for 2021, I’ve settled on my one word.


Confession. I chose this word because it is multidimensional and can mean many different things. So, as I grow and evolve and take interest and lose interest throughout the year, my word will still apply. Cheating? Maybe. Smart? I hope so.

Last year taught me a lot about myself and the world. I learned that nothing is promised, everything can change on dime, and I can do hard things when needed. I learned that a part of me takes solace in the predictability of life, knowing what to expect tomorrow, and what I can count on next month. We lost my mother-in-law a little over a year ago. When Covid-19 hit, the world shut down, and it shut down quickly with little notice. And there is much about the timeline for the future that we still don’t know.

I’m learning how to be PRESENT in the now moment which is truly the only thing that is guarenteed in this life. We can choose to be shaken and scared by that or we can choose to say, “You know what, I don’t want to miss the beauty of this now moment worrying about what is to come.” There’s a Michael J. Fox quote I love, “Don’t imagine the worst…if you imagine the worst and it happens, you’ve lived it twice.”

If I’m going to live something twice, it’s going to something magical.

I’m thirty eight years old and still have so much to learn. I’m still growing and learning lessons that many learned in their twenties. Presence for me extends beyond relishing the now moment; it’s also about how I show up for myself and other people.

At the risk of sounding like a nut, sometimes I hear thoughts like whispers. The words come to me, spoken softly but felt deeply. Lately, those whispers are telling me:


Take up SPACE.


Some of the peace and quiet I’ve enjoyed up to this point in my life has come from staying small and playing it safe. When a big thought or creative idea comes my way, instead of asking myself, “Does this light me up on the inside?” My first thought is often, “What will other people think…”

I want my inner peace to come from a different place. I want my peace to come from self-trust – from knowing I did what felt right for me regardless of what other people think or say. Most people are not thinking about me anyway, ha!

I’ve also noticed that I mute my thoughts and feelings to make other people more comfortable. Instead of trusting that my feelings are valid, I will turn them off like a light switch. It’s easier to say nothing, put a wall up, and pretend things are fine, then to figure out how to take on that hard conversation and confront how I feel.

If I keep hiding my bigger self from others, I won’t be very memorable in the end. I won’t have a meaningful impact on this world. I need to start showing up for my life in a bigger way.

I didn’t get this way on my own. I’ve had plenty of personal and professional experiences where people made me feel small. I remember when I first became an administrator, I asked a male leader who I deeply admired what advice he had for me, and he said, “Wear pants.” I remember a leader…when there was word I might be leaving, grab me by the arm and tell me, “I hope you’re not going anywhere. I’ve got you right where I want you.” Cringe. I have had a woman say to me, “You’re more of a dreamer. I’m a doer,” when I share a bold idea.

I’m ashamed to say that in all of these situations. I. did. nothing. And by doing nothing, I did nothing for the women who followed.

I am in charge of my own presence. I am allowed to feel and take up space. I can and should trust myself. I can and should be my own advocate. I can and should take risks when thinking about it lights me up on the inside.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “The universe buries strange jewels within us, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

I’m here for all of the hidden treasures that this year will bring. I will find, admire, cherish, and nourish each little jewel. Each little flicker of light. I will allow those hidden treasures to grow big and bold so that I too may grow big and bold.

This year I will be alive and on fire.

This year I will take up space.

This year will be my year of PRESENCE.

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