A couple years ago, I started watching all the back seasons of The Voice. I’m a singer, and it’s always been a big dream to be recognized far and wide for my music. On season two, there was an opera singer named Chris Mann.
Chris said something that hit me right between the eyes about why he’d decided to audition for The Voice. He said he’d finally decided to stop trying to make his voice be small. It’s something I can relate to a LOT.
Loud. Really, Really Loud.
After decades of trying to make my own voice small, to blend in with a choir or chorus, I decided I was done. So when I joined a new church several years ago, I just sang for the joy of singing, not trying to hide in the miasma of other voices. I ignored the fact that every head whipped around to see where that voice was coming from. After the service was over, half a dozen people told me I should join the choir. One finally took me by the hand and physically dragged me to meet the choir director.
A few months later, I was introduced to a substitute pianist in church as one of the choir members. The pianist asked me what I sang, and before I could say “soprano,” the pastor introducing me said “Loud. She sings really, really loud.” She then turned to me and said, “That’s not what she meant, is it?”
After finishing fourth on The Voice, Chris was hand-picked by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber to perform the role of The Phantom in the 25th Anniversary Tour of The Phantom of the Opera. He’s released several studio albums and starred in tv specials. Chris is loud. He’s really, really loud.
Messages from the Wall
I have scores of sticky notes on my walls, reminding me of things like, no one is you and that is your superpower. You’re far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way. Good enough is good enough.
One bright pink sticky note just above my monitor tells me to “get loud, and take up space.” Jodi Goldman, of She Steps Up, is a big believer in personal branding and personal too-muchness. She said recently that despite feeling like she’s not good enough – even though she knows for a fact that she’s changing people’s lives – and feeling completely overwhelmed, she’s showing up regardless. She knows that living small isn’t an option.
Case Studies - Trying to be Small
My ex husband used to shush me in public all the time. For decades, I bought into the idea (from him and others) that I was too loud and too much. No longer. Now I realize I’m enthusiastic and passionate and fun. Oh, and I’m divorced haha!
Becky has since channeled her enthusiasm and passion into multiple successful Facebook groups, thoroughly evergreen educational courses, and an almost overwhelming business coaching practice. She is highly regarded, and she is freaking amazeballs.
Full disclosure, I am a member of her Facebook group, I have taken several of her courses, and have been a coaching client. And I am so, so much the better person since Becky decided to stop being small.
Too sensitive. But I’ve noticed a pattern – this usually comes from people who don’t want to take responsibility for shitty behavior when I put up for it already for far too long. But it still massively confuses me and tends to get me very upset – self fulfilling prophecy.
Rose notes a common feature in the “you’re too much” arena. First, you’re too whatever. Then someone else is riding you for being too whatever. So you try to be not too whatever. Then, finally, you can’t be not too whatever any longer. You immediately snap back, instinctively, too being to whatever, fulfilling the loop.
O M G only my whole stinking life. I have a ‘strong personality’ and that can turn people off (according to an old boss). I always felt like the song ‘Voices Carry’ [by ‘Til Tuesday] was written about me. My ex was always criticizing it. My mother always bitched that I’m too emotional, wear my ‘feelings on my sleeve.’
One way I’m coping is by learning to CHANNEL my ‘strong personality’ into things that matter to me. My talk I’m hoping to do at MDMC is about how branding starts with how businesses treat people. Especially vulnerable people. Another way is by embracing being a person of deep feeling. I’ve realized my mother is scared blind of her feelings and that’s why she finds my emotions threatening.
Cheryl makes some great points here. She recognizes that multiple people think she has too strong of a personality. And she’s learned the importance of channeling her strong personality into important matters. For example, her Design Studio starts with how businesses are treating people.
(For the record, I think her personality is one in a million, unduplicatable, unforgettable, and absolutely not too strong at all. I adore her and am proud to call her my friend.)
There’s a great book out there called, “What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business,” by Terry Cole-Whitaker. It’s all about the concept that what other people think of us has absolutely nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the other people. Cheryl’s definitely realized that; she’s not playing small any more.
‘Too emotional’ or ‘Too much of a soft heart’. I am an emotional being who feels deeply. I cry easily. My face is expressive. I used to try and have a poker face. But I could never sustain that. I now tell anyone who may say those things to me ‘yes, I am. That’s who I will always be.’
Theresa’s obviously been studying her ancient Greek philosophers. Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Theresa knows she’s an emotional being. She knows that she cries easily. That her face is expressive.
Most importantly, she knows that’s who she is, and who she always will be. And that’s no small thing!
So What's the Solution?
How do you move out of your psychological tiny house, into the metaphysical palace you deserve?
Baby steps. You don’t go from withering wallflower to life of the party in one fell swoop. That just sets you up for failure, which is exactly what you want to avoid.
A good first step would be using the superhero pose in the privacy of your own home before you head out to face the day. Stand with your feet slightly farther apart than shoulder width, ball your hands into fists, and put them on your hips. Direct your gaze about 25 degrees higher than straight ahead.
Imagine that there’s a cape billowing off your shoulders, and a big S on your chest. Now you are Super You! Scientific studies have shown that holding this pose for even a few minutes can make you feel powerful, competent, and strong as you go about your day-to-day life.
Find a creative hobby that you can get really freaking good at. Maybe you’re a singer like me. Or perhaps you paint or sculpt. Could be that you can write. Whatever it is, make sure you’re doing it at least 3 days a week.
The confidence boost from doing something creative really, really well carries through to the rest of your life. Bonus points if it’s something with a tangible output, so you can point to it and say, “I made that.” Then you have a beautiful whatever to put on your coffee table, hang on your wall, or toss over the back of a chair.
(Read more about the impact of creativity on your mental state.)
Ask for what you need. Say no to things you don’t want. Stand up for who you are and what you believe in. Propose an alternative course of action. Whether it’s at work or at home, with your friends or your family, it only takes 20 seconds of insane courage to make something great happen.
I’m only 5’2” tall. So I’m stuck being short. But being small? That’s a choice I’m no longer willing to make. Get loud and take up space with me.