Last night I was playing cards with my grandma, like we do every night. Crazy 8’s. And before I came to town, she used to be known as “Magic Fingers,” because she has an uncanny ability to win, every game.
I know it helps that my mom tries to lose, but still, my grandma is great at cards. Well, last night I went in there, with the goal just to have fun and play a good game of cards. I’m not super competitive, but I won’t lose on purpose, so I just kept playing.
And no joke. I won every single game except two. And we played 30 games. My first win, I tossed my last card on the table. Cocky. Feeling accomplished. Knowing that she’d appreciate the win. Second game, still smug with a smile on my face. And by about the fourth win, I started to feel bad. And apologize for winning. And making excuses for why I won. “I’m just lucky today!” “Good hand of cards I guess.” “You’ll win the next one Grandma.” I slumped in my chair and started to feel very uncomfortable. And even though she said she didn’t care, I could tell it was getting less fun for her, the more I won.
Still…not my fault I got THREE eights in one hand.
But this got me thinking about how we all do this in life. How we are all born with a natural greatness. An ability to be big, and bigly be the only version of ourselves that there is in the universe. And somewhere along the line, we’re all taught that our great big selves, sometimes makes other people uncomfortable. Or feel bad. And since we’re also taught that hurting others is the worst possible thing you can do in life (which is consequently why we stay in bad relationships or bad jobs too long), we slowly chip away at the things that make us great. We slowly construct a shell to which we can crawl into when we sense that someone else is threatened by our greatness.
Because we wouldn’t want to take up too much space. Wouldn’t want to be too much the life of the party. Wouldn’t want to be too beautiful to too talented or too much….ourselves. Wouldn’t want all eyes on us, less someone’s feelings might get hurt.
So we hunch our shoulders. We talking more quiet. We dance more controlled.
And this is a problem. Because when we WANT to shine, when we’ve realized we are responsible for a dulled version of ourselves, when we’re ready to step out and make a difference, we don’t have as much access to it. And it takes awhile to get it back. And this is a problem because the full, big, bright version of ourselves is the one the world needs. It’s actually the one that helps MORE people, that makes MORE change, that has MORE fun, and who loves more wholly and completely.
My friend Natalie often tells me that we can’t be responsible for someone else’s feelings. And I agree. It’s not up to me to assume how someone feels, or assume how they are being affected by x, y, or z. It’s not my job to make sure that who I am isn’t making someone uncomfortable. Believe me, I have enough to think about in my own head.
It IS my job, however, to be the most caring, most loving, most compassionate person I can be. To never hurt someone on purpose. To be as helpful and empathetic as I can, while still being exactly myself. You can have both.
And you can do this without being a cocky, egocentric jerk.
So my message to you, is to BE you. Big, bright, full of love and life. Living the life you know you’re meant to live. Love others. Love self. Make a difference. And do all of this while shining as brightly as you possibly can. And if you ever find yourself being given three eights in life…gosh darnit…play them, with love in your heart. And feel good about it.
Where in your life have you ever noticed yourself dimming your own light so that someone else won’t feel uncomfortable? What are your thoughts on this topic? Share in a comment below.