Inertia - Nº140
Don't shrink yourself to hide your value
New environments can be socially overwhelming. Big cities. Your first day in the new office. The dimly lit bar, house party, or coffee shop you thought you’d try out for a change. From there, it’s easy to feel yourself shrinking, trying to take up minimal space. People talk to you, but you soften your voice or change your vocabulary because you worry about emitting a tone that makes people uncomfortable.
You sit there watching everything unfold, too anxious to play a part in anything because of the unpredictability of what can come next. Then, someone new prances in — radiating so much energy you can’t help but watch. No matter who they talk to, they’re the same charismatic person every time. So attuned to their inner state that they naturally beget what it means to be truly alive.
It’s a great thing to visit new places and leave your comfort zone. Growth and novelty rarely wane there. Besides, you don’t want to get stuck in an environment where everything becomes all too familiar, where there’s a constant sense of “been there, done that”, and you’re not experiencing “firsts” anymore.
But at the same time, you cannot keep yourself in environments where nobody knows the true value of you. If you stay around people, events, or workplaces where nobody can recognise your value, all you will do is shrink to the size they can stand. You will never stop fighting to fit in, and you will find it harder and harder to remember your true self.
I recently saw a campaign dotting itself around London encouraging people to never change their accent or dumb themselves down for someone else. “Accommodation” is the term for it. Or code-switching. We release our inner lizard brain to make ourselves seem more straightforward and relatable. I even read a story about a woman who worked for 911 emergency call services and would change her accent because it helped people calm down and communicate better in dire situations.
In sales, we try to create a sense of shared identity. It’s the same with friends or new people we meet, and you’ll often not notice it. Don’t get me wrong, it has its place; we can come across as more empathetic, and it may help people to open up. But it’s when we overaccommodate and reduce ourselves that things can start to go the other way.
More anxiety, signs of depression, and stress can be born out of this habit. But as the pastor Keion Henderson said, “I refuse to be small because you think small.”
You’ll never go through life not disappointing anyone. For you to create your own boundaries, personality, career pathway, you’re going to have to make a lot of decisions that are in your best interest. You’re going to have to be stubborn, audacious, willing to disappoint people whether a joke they made wasn’t funny or an outlook they have is simply outrageous.
Maturity is being comfortable with learning and doing things that feel right right to you. When you understand your needs having spent so much time with yourself by now, seeing what makes your mind tick, where you feel too much friction and indecisiveness, or what environments get the best out of you. We grow up being taught — by our parents or teachers or peers — that we should learn to do what other people want and thinking any different will lead to being ostracised. Time with yourself, learning to trust your judgement, helps you realise how important it is to lean into what makes you happy, and to move away from what doesn’t.
Give yourself permission to stand tall, make eye contact, and say no. Allow yourself to write the life you want to live. It benefits no one to be caught up i
n other people’s expectations or to stay quiet and lose days, weeks, or more — regretting when you could’ve made a difference or overcome a fear. Beauty and power comes from showing your true value. It’s always been in there, so let everyone see it.