Life Bitch Slap #5: “Stop Choosing to Be Small”

It’s a choice. How big or small do you choose to be in this life. It’s not something that is done to you, or something that someone else decides. It is entirely within your control. Which is why, it is so confusing that many of us consciously chooses to be small.

We do.

The other day I was having this great conversation with a very powerful, and amazing woman. We were talking about leading women. Who are they? What do they do? How do they stand out? The conversation turned to the mistakes we make, as women. The patterns we fall into make us smaller than we are. The conversation turned to non-verbals. I was saying how I watched this fantastic TED talk that talks about how our body language shapes who we are. Watch it. Seriously.

In it, Amy Cuddy talks about how we must make ourselves bigger. We must exaggerate our motions, and passionately express ourselves — even when we are scared to death. It’s a muscle you strengthen, and then eventually one day you wake up and you are…in fact…bigger. Not “I ate four dozen cupcakes bigger” but “I can do this, I can do everything I ever wanted” bigger.

This friend of mine talked about how she can’t stand it when people cover their hands up in meetings with their sleeves. It’s like they are shrinking into a ball and retreating into their sweater, shirt, or coat. All of this talk got me thinking — how much do we do that makes us smaller? Why do we choose to be small?

Then it hit me…because we think we are. Damn it. Bitch slapped. It’s because somewhere along the way we stopped choosing to live larger than life.

I know I’ve felt this way in the past, and in the past few years I have actively worked on strengthening my confidence muscles. How do you do this? It’s a million things. Start by physically standing stronger, bring the weight of your passion into your non-verbals. Stop letting negativity into your life. Literally, stop being around that negative person in your life. I’ve cut out people in my life that made me feel badly about myself.  They make you smaller. Lean on the weight of strong people you know. Absorb their larger than life energy and lean on it until you can stand on your own. Don’t cover up your hands. Don’t sink into your chair. Don’t defer to them always. Stick your neck out. Stick your whole body out until you can’t possibly be ignored.

Whatever is right for you starts with making the choice — stop choosing to be small.

We emulate the energies around us people. How are those energies for you? Are you surrounded by empowered, kind, confident people? I am. It hasn’t always been that way, then again I hadn’t always chosen the road I have now — to live this life largely. I am choosing to live a full, challenging, creative life. You can too. You just need to stop choosing to be small.

It starts there… #comeon #letsgolivelarger


  • Kate Wyeth Wirth

    Well put. Even though trial and error have brought me to address a lot of things in your article, I am a lover of short phrase reminders. “Choose to be BIG” will be taking it’s place next to “But, am I DOING it?” on my bathroom mirror. Thanks for taking the time to put this down for the rest of us to learn from. Kate

  • Justin Freid

    Joanna – I think you make a great point in this post. Whether you are walking into a meeting or choosing which movie to see this weekend, making your presence felt and having a demeanor that exudes confidence is extremely important. Just as you have, I have found that making the choice to be ‘big’ and voice my opinions/thoughts has led to me having a career more in line with what I want. You have to realize if you want something to go and get it. No one is going to hand it to you. Thanks again for the inspiring post!

  • Joanna Lord


    Seriously, I have a post-it reminder to “Begin it now.” They are so effective if you see them everyday :)

  • Joanna Lord

    Decisiveness is something I struggled with forever. I never wanted to be the one constantly voicing “the other side” but I started to feel like all my opinions grew quieter. You are so right that starting to speak up, in what seems like small ways, can change the momentum entirely!

  • Karen

    Really nice post, Joanna. I often find myself in meetings wanting to tell someone that they should stop crossing their arms or just speak up, because I know they have a great idea. One thing to add that comes to mind:  The negativity from within is often my biggest challenge. And when I can laugh at — or just observe and choose to ignore — the naughty (and sometimes downright evil) voice inside that says I’m not worth it…that’s when I stand the tallest, and act the most successful. When we own that greatness we each have inside of us, our enthusiasm and positivity spills over. It’s magnetic, like a fire people want to warm themselves on.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Of course, I have this post open for days and finally read it on a very negative, small day. Needed this. I think the idea of living bigger is a great goal, but it’s interesting to see how I’ve spent decades trying to train myself to be smaller. I grew up with someone who lived big and as a kid they were my hero, but as an adult I saw how much attention it brought and how they would often be big to the point that they stopped listening to others. Their big-ness(?) overwhelmed a room and seemed very one-sided. I think it’s important that there’s a balance so you don’t alienate others or come across like a self-serving flamingo. I’m not sure what the line is, but being inspired and big while also genuinely caring about others, that has to be a good start. 

  • Cindy Krum

    Really nice post! Thanks Joanna!! :)

  • Sydney Mintle

    Really great post! Thanks for sharing!