Taking yourself so goddamn seriously is a key piece in the game called ‘Playing small’.
Our automatic (always on) way of being is taking oneself SERIOUSLY because we are thrown into the game called ‘playing small and fitting in’. Mastery of this game is not beyond me in anyway. I could say that I became a grandmaster by the age of 10. The cost of taking oneself so damn seriously is the loss of self-expression: the unwillingness to say and do anything that makes you and I look stupid in the eyes of others. One side effect of taking oneself so seriously is the quickness to anger when someone does something to ‘diminish’ our sense of ourselves. Sound abstract? Let me make it concrete by sharing an example of my life.
I love driving, I particularly love driving fast and without cars getting in my way and slowing me down. I think of myself as a considerate driver – checking who is behind me, checking that there is enough space for me to overtake into, indicating before overtaking…. you get the idea. So what happens when someone overtakes me and doesn’t follow my rules? Usually it is some form of “You moron!” accompanied by either disgust and/or anger. Why is that moron overtaking me? How dare he move from his lane into my lane without indicating and into a space that is not ‘long enough’ and so force me to brake to avoid hitting the “idiot”. As you can imagine people do what they do and so in the course of a normal journey on a motorway I end up disturbing my own piece several times. Nonetheless I get to be right and righteous – how great I am and how inconsiderate and idiotic some drivers are!
Since I took on the game of ‘Playing BIG’ I have taken on the practice of NOT taking myself so goddamn seriously. Here are the results I have seen over the last two days:
I have been singing. Yes, I have been singing and in public! Why is that a big thing? Because when I took myself so damn seriously I rarely sang and when I did so it was only because my family ‘pressured’ me into singing. For the last two days I have been singing at my sisters and outside on the high street (whilst shopping).
On the way to my sisters (90 minute drive) two/three cars just moved from their lane into mine without notice. We did not have a collision because I was paying attention and so braked. What did I say? “You’re welcome!”. How was I feeling? Completely calm – in fact once I even laughed when I got present to what I was doing.
Today, coming back from my sisters (after a great Christmas) there was enough traffic to slow down progress on a dual carriageway. The inside lane was full and I was on the outside lane travelling at around 60mph – the legal limit. I couldn’t go any faster because there were four or so cars ahead of me and tightly bunched: too close for the speed we were travelling at. I looked into the mirror and say a car right up my backside. He sat there for several minutes and then started flashing me suggesting that he wanted to overtake and I should move into the inside lane. Normally, I would have said something offensive like “cretin!” and made sure that I stayed in the lane and in fact reduced my speed to slow him down even more – to annoy him.
This time I got that all he wanted was to overtake and by flashing his lights and sitting right on my backside he was showing that he was impatient to get somewhere fast. So I looked for an opening on the inside (slower) lane, indicated and moved into it. All the time I was smiling knowing that he would overtake me and then find himself in the same position I was in – blocked by a row of cars travelling at 60 mph. Once he overtook me, I moved back into his lane and sat behind him. Now I had a choice: to do what he had been doing to me (sitting on my back and making me nervous), simply to be in that lane and leave lots of space between me and him, and/or leave lots of space and have some fun with him without making him nervous or endangering him. I choose the latter – I simply wanted to play without putting anyone’s life at risk.
For the rest of the journey 30 minute or so he would speed ahead and then pull into the inside lane. I would overtake him and then pull in ahead of him. He then would overtake me, I would overtake him. Never once did I get angry or competitive – I was simply playing a game, coming from the context of fun. The 30 minutes flew by and by the time I had to take the slip road and exit from the motorway I was grateful that I had the Mini driver to play that game with. I thanked him. And I can honestly say I felt sad that the game we had playing came to and end.
Lesson: we can choose to be light and dance/play in life rather than be SIGNIFICANT and take ourselves so SERIOUSLY. If I choose to be significant and be damn serious then I am automatically embedded in and playing the game of ‘Playing small’. So being mindful I can choose again and again to ‘Play BIG’ and that means shedding significance and seriousness (they go together) again and again in all domains of life.