Your anxiety comes up with many ways to keep you playing small.
Like when it talks you out of trying out for the team, convinces you not to pursue a promotion, keeps you from introducing yourself to that interesting person, or scares you away from going for the life you want. These examples are classic ‘overt’ ways anxiety rears its ugly head.
Another way, on a more subtle level, are the words you use. They are also influenced by your anxiety and can keep you playing small.
They are subtle ‘tells’ to be sure. But once you become aware of them they’ll stand out like a sore thumb. You’ll start to notice them all around you, not only in yourself but in others too. Start changing them and your anxiety will start to notice it is being challenged. You’ll start taking up more space. That’s a good thing. Anxiety flourishes when we play small.
Here are the top 3 ‘tells’ to be on the lookout for:
- Shrinkers. These are ways we frequently minimize the meaning or impact of what we are trying to communicate. We use words like “just”, “actually” and “almost”. We say or write things like, “I just think.., “I actually disagree…”, or ”I almost want to opt for the other…” Although you’re not physically shrinking or avoiding things, when you use the words “just”, “actually” and “almost” in your communicating, you are energetically shrinking by devaluing your thoughts and opinions. These “shrinker” words reinforce anxiety’s message that it is right to fear taking up space.
- Unnecessary Apologies. This unfortunate habit is more prevalent in women than men but does the same thing. It keeps you small. Saying you are sorry is intended to be used when you have hurt someone’s feelings, have done something wrong, or have caused harm in some way. Not because you exist and are human. It’s also something to be used sparingly so it doesn’t lose its value and meaning. When your anxiety has you constantly saying things like, “Sorry to bother you but…” or “Sorry if this is a silly question…”, it’s time to do some serious editing. If you catch yourself writing like this in an email, delete it. If you find you use these words in conversation, stop yourself. It’s feeding your anxiety monster by keeping you in your “sorry” comfort zone.
- Undermining disclaimers. Your anxiety can be not only clever but downright sneaky. There are times when it doesn’t make you totally avoid doing something, being bold and speaking up but it inserts itself in a way that keeps you safe…and small. It does so when you say or write things like, “I’m just thinking off the top of my head, but . . . ,” “I’m no expert in this, but . . . ,” or “You clearly know about this more than I do but . . .” You undermine your value with disclaimers to soften a potentially negative response. Anxiety is all about the potential! When you notice your anxiety is showing up in this way, take a deep breath, delete the qualifier and simply say what you have to say.
What are other ways you’ve noticed that anxiety makes you speak small? I’d love to hear about them!