The Conscious CEO & Awakened Corporate: F*** Constricting Yourself

We do it & we do it often. It’s so subtle at times, it’s mistaken for being coy or demure or even gentle.

Constricting is the subtle sister to playing small. It’s when we constrict ourselves to just be the 95% of what we typically are when we allow ourselves to fully be.

I almost feel like constricting ourselves is nearly worse than playing small because I feel it’s way more pervasive than downright playing small. And as we allow it to inch into so many aspects of our lives, it breeds and grows into…playing small.

Playing small is what I did for the 7+ years that I played touch rugby. A sport I loved. A sport that I gave weekends, evenings and anything in between of my time just so I could play. I loved the team camaraderie, I loved travelling to tournaments in the UK and Europe, I loved the full days of game playing. I just loved the game. But I played small the ENTIRE time. I take the term, “take a hit for the team” to heart. And I’d love to pretend I was a martyr for the team. But realistically, I played small. Not once, but for 7 freaking years.

Noone – and mean no one including me – wanted to play the wing position. It’s just not where a lot of action is. And while it’s an important position, especially for scoring tries, it’s just often out of the action. Other players would want to chase the ball, be in the center of sport & I always felt I needed to stay focused on the wider team, not simply chase the ball and be mindful of other players. However, other players said “F***” it to constricting themselves & would happily run to the wing if it meant they could get their hands on the ball – while they let themselves lean into the sport, I leaned away from myself & what I could offer. 

Often, when you play out of position, you are jeopardizing the team strategy. And you have positions and plays for good reason. But also, as a good player you need to improvise, even if it meant running into another player’s position. I always played the “good girl” and held myself back when I KNEW I could do more. This was especially present when I played on mixed teams vs all women’s teams. I retreated within myself nearly every time I played with men.  

I used to cry in my shower in London frustrated with myself, often blaming others for my decision to play small, and playing out in my mind what I would do the next game to take back my power. As I was thinking about this, and in writing this article, I feel so much shame for how I allowed myself to constrict, play small & not fully evolve into a player I knew I could be.

I am strong. I was known for having firm touches and pushing off other players which is a strong trait. And I was like the energizer bunny and could play for ages – I wasn’t the fastest, but I had stamina. But man, I never turned the power fully up. And not only did I make myself unhappy in the process, my team never fully saw my potential and so that affected certain decisions captains would make as they selected teams for tournaments etc. I used to get frustrated and angry, but I was creating this myself. Interestingly enough, whenever I was asked to play on other teams where I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t play small. I would be asked to play for teams when they were short. I didn’t hold back in those instances & I recall it feeling so good that I became resentful of my own team secretly – even though it had NOTHING to do with the “politics” of my own team.

I made SO MANY lifelong friends from touch rugby, but it holds this weird place in my heart as it was a former life of a person I no longer am. This was 7 years of my life that I played small, even though I was involved with that sport in a BIG way.

But it didn’t start off as fully playing small. It started with constricting myself. It started with one tournament. One harsh yelp from an ego-ridden male touch player, I bowed down. One warm-up session where I dropped the ball and got stared at by a male coach. One allowance where I said ok to the wing position. One command by a teammate to stay put and not make a play, that I held back on going for any big plays.

This is why constricting is SO dangerous in my opinion because it’s the whisper to playing small. It’s akin to the allowance of the off-hand but generally harmless comment from a male colleague. It’s so subtle, yet it’s like seeds being planted for “playing small” to grow. It’s when you meet someone you admire, or feel they may be “better/smarter/fitter, etc” than you (which is just such a lie we tell ourselves) & you aren’t exactly the same as you typically would be.  

It’s second guessing yourself when asked as question during a meeting with your colleagues so you stay silent vs offer wisdom. It’s not fully trying the new posture in yoga class because you don’t want to be the one that wobbles to the floor. It’s so small, almost unnoticeable, but because we do it to ourselves so often, it’s a muscle that gets stronger.

Until one day we are constricting so much we are playing small in a situation, a relationship, a career – when we are destined to be BIG. So F*** constricting yourself. You’ll notice it more in the moment. You’ll notice it right after you say something where you’re like “that wasn’t me.” Or you’ll notice the comment in your head, “I need to be quiet” or “I’ll allow this to happen, it’s ok.” It’s different than joyful compromise where you happily allow something else to happen because you’re open to the idea of something new or to serve others.

So, how to stop yourself?

Here’s what I did recently. I was having a meeting with someone relatively “famous” in the local area. I wasn’t nervous about the meeting, but I wanted them to collaborate with the business. As soon as we met, I automatically went into “bigging” them up – asking about their business, their journey. Even when they asked about mine, I turned it straight back to them as if I was too unworthy to talk about. However, as I observed the moment (you know, when you literally can see from above looking down on the moment…), I realized, if I WANT to collaborate with them, then I need to share my story/journey/goals too – to see if they want to align with ME and not THAT person that I was allowing myself to be. I took a breath and just relaxed into the discussion and then it was fine. Catching yourself is just as subtle, but takes just as much “muscle learning” than constricting.

You have to know when you feel weird in a sense because you’re holding back. It’s different than being nervous/having butterflies. You can still be nervous and be powerfully you. It’s when you’re not allowing your real self to be seen. You’ve got to get to know yourself intimately & feel a shift inside you when you’re constricting. Literally like you’re dumbing something down. Don’t diminish yourself. Don’t constrict yourself. Don’t play small. Because we so need you in this world. So go on, say it. F*** constricting myself.