Playing it Small

Are you quick to justify, to yourself and others, why you should stay within your comfort zone?

Playing it Small

What is playing it small?

Our minds are pre-programmed for safety, which means that we tend to automatically settle into the rhythm of something called the motivation triad; seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and exerting as little effort as possible to survive. Without conscious management, most of us would stay within the comfort zone that sits smack bang in the middle of these three motivators, and we do this for several reasons;

We are not confident enough to face potential failure. We fear shame, judgement and rejection so come up with lots of excuses why we can’t do the thing.

We believe that we are not worthy or deserving of more. Who the hell do you think you are, right? Best to play the game in the small court your mind tells you you belong in.

We are not confident enough in our abilities to face the scary unknown. We tell ourselves the story that we don’t have the right skills, experience or capacity to make a success of it, so we choose to stay where we are.

How does playing it safe impact our lives?

When we stay in our comfort zone, we don’t grow. We don’t push our limits and find out that we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for. We sit and wait to feel confident before we do the thing, but confidence doesn’t work like this. We need to exercise courage before we gain confidence, and courage means pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones. By playing it small, we reinforce the message that we are not capable and further fuel the downward confidence cycle.

Origins of playing it small

People who have an overly cautious childhood where risks were disproportionately highlighted, either in their family or their culture, can influence adults to be cautious and avoid perceived risks. This can also manifest in values prioritising stability over creativity and risk-taking.

Similarly, past experiences may make people more cautious against risk taking and mean they play it small for their perceived safety.

Start small and pick something that pushes your comfort zone a little. Maybe it is picking up the phone rather than sending a message or email, or it’s saying yes to something you would have automatically said no to. Notice the mental pull to play it safe, acknowledge it and then playfully push back and see what happens. If it feels too big, then start with something smaller. Each time you survive something just outside your comfort zone, you are reinforcing the message to your brain that it is safe and your comfort zone will expand, (and so will your confidence).

Download the interactive worksheet below to stop playing it small and start living the life you deserve!