“Stop Acting So Small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.” Rumi

My husband is the mayor. Rarely is there an event where he doesn’t meet a friend or the friend of a friend. If he doesn’t know anyone, then he’ll make new friends. 

Me? I’m Mrs. Cellophane. I’m the one standing next to the person who is making new contacts. The one you could meet two or three or four times and not recognize in the hallway. 

The reason? Because I play small. I have been conditioned to be hyperaware of the room’s emotional temperature and take pains to maintain the equilibrium. To not do or say something that might upset the people you’re with. It is better to be invisible than to stick your neck out and be disliked.

Is it though? What did these lessons do other than make me fearful of every word and misstep? 

So many writers my age – especially women – have been taught these lessons. We were told we shouldn’t raise our hand too much or pretend we didn’t know the answer because we could be branded a know-it-all. We were told to let our accomplishments speak for ourselves because only an empty kettle whistles loudly. To be polite and nice.

As a result, we’ve blocked our paths to success while our bolder and more confident colleagues get attention. 

I don’t know about you all, but I’m tired of playing small and being invisible. What then, can I (we) do to be “bigger”? If you do a Google search, you will find a lot of consultants willing to teach you. Most of their lessons boil down to the same pieces of advice:

  1. Be confident. If you’re feeling unconfident, fake it until you make it.
  2. Be comfortable in your own skin. Who cares what you look like? Own your identity.
  3. Assume people want to meet you.
  4. Stop worrying whether people will like you or not. It’s not in your control anyway. Just be yourself. (See point 2.)
  5. And finally, believe you belong in the room. Whatever room that is, be it a cocktail party or writers’ meeting.  You belong. 

Shonda Rhimes has a great short video on belonging in the room. It’s worth a watch.

And speaking of belonging in the room, I’ll be attending the Historic Novel Society’s North American Conference in San Antonio this June. I’d hoped to have sold my pivot book by then, but it doesn’t appear likely. That’s okay. I still belong there. I hope I run into some of you. I promise I’ll remember who you are.