“You couldn’t play small, even when you tried…”

not playing small


I went to a ball almost two weeks ago that celebrated the start of Derby Week in Louisville (which actually is more like three weeks long, but nobody’s complaining about that around here — we love it).

I love, love, love a gala event and a chance to dress up, have someone play with my hair and do my makeup. I almost love that part as much as the actual event, really.

One of my favorite parts is finding what I’m going to wear. I don’t make it easy on myself — I make it like a game. A treasure hunt.

I want to find something beautiful and unique and I basically want to steal it when it comes to what I pay for it. I’ve gotten very good at this in recent years; I know all the places to go — the best time of day to go and the day that Nordstrom Rack has a truck come in with new stuff.

This year, I found a Tiffany blue dress with sequins sewn on the bodice that were the shape of mirrored, cut glass. I felt like a shiny angel on a cloud wearing that dress, even though it was two sizes too big.

I had to have it, though, because I had plans for it. Plus, it was marked down from a few hundred dollars to a mere $42. Treasure found.

I took it to a tailor to have it altered and I was going to be cutting it close in terms of time; it was Derby season and he was swamped, but he was 85% sure he could get it done.

Because I’m wired the way I am, I don’t hang my hat on 85% as a done deal. I had to have a backup.

With a discount in hand and two dresses in my virtual cart, I reserved two designer gowns from Rent the Runway to be sent to me the night before the ball. Red strapless and gold beaded.

Fast forward to a Thursday night almost two weeks ago and there was a river of silk, chiffon and sequins sprawled out on my bed. Including the $42 angel-miracle dress (85% became 100% — he got the job done).

What’s a girl to do? Well, when she looks fly in all three of them, she considers heeding one of her best friend’s words of advice: Why not wear all three?

Why the hell not?

There’s a part of me that’s more like who I was, say, five years ago. The woman who has thoughts like:

  • That’s a waste of money just to show off and play; send the dresses back saying they didn’t fit and get a refund.
  • Who do you think you are? Beyonce?
  • Three dresses? Who does that? (Beyonce)
  • People will think you’re vapid / ridiculous / silly / vain.

There’s the woman I am now who is aware of those thoughts and acknowledges they exist in my mind, but I decide instead to travel down some of the more recently developed neural pathways of my brain. Here’s what those look like:

  • This is fun. I feel amazing. I’m doing it.
  • I’m so lucky I can do something like this.
  • Why the fuck not?
  • Who do you think you are? Beyonce? Well…maybe.
  • I have fought hard to become the woman I am; I will celebrate that with every thought, opportunity and dress I can get my hands on.

And just yesterday, I got an entirely new thought that a friend of mine in my coaching mastermind said to me on our group call. Blew me away.

“You couldn’t play small, Laura — even when you tried.” 

I was giving the group my check-in about what’s happening in my business and my life. I shared that life was off-the-chain awesome, and if there was anything standing in my way, it was my own being taken aback by it all.

Me — the person who created this life — not quite knowing what to make of it or thinking I don’t quite know how to inhabit it sometimes.

There’s some old stuff that’s probably tied into what I learned as a girl and a young woman about playing small or being under the radar.

But more than it being about messages I got in life from society, school or family, it’s really my own internalization of those things. When I’ve struggled in life, it’s been more about a fight within myself about these conundrums:

Be everywhere. Keep it to yourself. Be of humble service. Be a star. Bust your ass. Calm down. Be an individual. Be a team player. Be a mom. Be sexy. Oh – and don’t even think you can be both of those at the same time without being made a caricature of yourself. Rise up. I said, calm down. Be pretty. Blend. Confidence? Arrogance? Spirited? You’d better skip rope real fucking quick over those invisible lines in the sand or you’re screwed. 

The older I get and the more I know myself, I’ve decided that I get to decide how I want to be. I used to try to please, step back, keep it understated and play it down for much of my life.

It was hiding, really — and not because I’m an introvert, but because I was afraid. There’s a difference between living a quiet, more reticent life and a fearful one.

What I know now that I didn’t know even just a few years ago is that when I trust myself and care deeply for myself as a woman and a child of God, I shine. I shine and I draw people into my light.

When you get used to asking yourself bold, powerful and positive questions and then answering them with intention, words and action, you become a stronger woman.

When you decide that your life is not just going to be about “getting through the day,” but about really and truly living and knowing it’s a fun, exasperating, fantastic, breath-taking miracle — then you are awake.

And when you are awake and decisive, you’re making things happen in your life and asking yourself “how can I?” or “why can’t I?” much more than building fences around your potential for exuberance.

When you decide to live like the kind of woman you want to become, and you make a plan and follow it every damn day, then you become her.

I loved the realization that I can’t contain my own spirit — that I’ve become a woman who doesn’t play small. I started to see how all around me there were signs that this was true.

  • My husband and I decided to downsize our home so we could more aptly pay school tuition for our kids. And while we successfully made the financial downsize in terms of the cost of a home, we also found our dream house — that’s 1000 sq. ft. bigger than our old place.
  • I asked the dealer I buy my cars from to find a new-used car for me that was safer and bigger than the one I’d been driving for the past year. My kids and their friends are too big for it, too. I not only got the “safe” car — I got the hot car. He sent me over 30 listings of Volvos from across the country and I zoned right in on the sportiest mama-model they had. The color? Passion Red. 

passion red

I can’t help but show up in the world in this way now, and for people who want to work with me, that’s what I want to help them do for themselves.

I want to know what you’re telling yourself about who you are and what you want out of your life. And then I want to know what you really want.

What do you really want that you feel almost shy to consider it?

And that is when make a plan and you grow into it, until one day — you couldn’t even play small in the world if you tried.

Beyonce. Passion red.  All in.




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One thought on ““You couldn’t play small, even when you tried…”

  1. Pingback Thoughts on not giving a f*#k from a woman who once gave WAY too many. — Laura Wagner