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March 18, 2021

The Ways We Make Ourselves Small (& What to Do About It)

Something I hear over and over and over when practitioners first come to me for support is that they’re making themselves small:

Not doing marketing or outreach




Not clearly standing up for what you believe


Not taking an empowering leadership role in prospect conversations


Getting scared in your client sessions.

The list could go on and on.

When we make ourselves small, it becomes that much harder to:

Co-create the results we desire

Serve our clients effectively

Be in full integrity

And yet, something somewhere deep inside of us believes that if we make ourselves smaller, we are protecting ourselves. And protecting others.

Sometimes this is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we are doing it.

We just think that “I don’t have enough time to market well” or “No one really wants to hear about my values and opinions” or “That prospect doesn’t really want to do the work.”

I remember back in my first year of coaching, a woman signed on to be a client.

I was in my late 20s (nearly two decades ago!) and she was in her late 40s.

It was the first client that was paying me more than $20 a session (yes, you read correctly. When I first started out, I was utterly terrified to charge).

And I remember so clearly as she handed her check over to me for her first month’s sessions, that as I took the payment in my hands, and was aware of how experienced at life she was and how young I was….that not only did I feel incredible inadequate, but I also felt bad for charging for my services.

The overarching feeling was fear. A lot of fear.

Fear of being found out as a fraud.

Fear that this client would get mad at me for not being good enough.

Fear that it would turn out I had nothing to offer her.

Fear that I would make a fool of myself.

Fear that I would cause harm.

Fear that she would ask for her money back.

And guess how I reacted to that fear?

I kept quiet in moments where she needed to hear my voice.

I held back from reflecting truths and calling her out when it was appropriate.

I shied away from asking bold questions.

And…when her first round of sessions were done, I didn’t invite her to re-sign. And I didn’t keep in touch.

In other words, I did everything to keep myself small. To run away. And for a long time, I told myself the story that she didn’t enjoy or value the work with me, that I wasn’t good enough.

Years later, I happened to run into this client on the bus (Brooklyn is big yet small all at once!).

As soon as I spotted her, I wanted to run because I was so ashamed of how I had ended things.

But she called me over and we sat together for our ride.

And here’s what she said to me:

Joanna, to this day, I still remember the work we did together. It was so transformative for me. Thank you. I do wish though you would have nudged and stretched me a bit more though. Were you scared of me, haha? I also wish that we could have continued to work together. What happened to you?”

This was a big moment for me.

All at once, I realized what I had done.

It was such an important lesson and awareness around the ways that I had been keeping myself small, around the ways that fear was holding me back from having the business I wanted, and from doing the client work I wanted to do.

Since then, a lot has changed.

I’ve worked with my fear a lot. (a lot, a lot)

I show up for my clients in empowered ways (I am empowered; they are empowered)

I ask bold questions

I take risks in session to support my clients to stretch and grow

And of course, I always invite clients to continue the work with me (when appropriate)

But I still sometimes catch myself making myself small, usually as it relates to being visible or putting myself out there…and so I work with my fear some more!

In the Sacred Depths Transformational Practitioner Training, we go deep into looking at how to support ourselves and our clients in working with fear. And not just working with fear, but Befriending Fear. And not only befriending it in our minds but in our hearts and in our bodies.

Because that’s the only real and effective way through it.

It’s the best way to work with fear so that we don’t have to make ourselves small…and so that we can allow others to be big while we share that bigness with them!

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