Deep within your soul, a war rages on.
Who you are vs. who you could be.
The bold pursuit of purpose vs. self-doubt.
A life of freedom vs. a life of fear.
The root cause of this tension? A choice—your choice—to either:
- Play small, by allowing fear and self-sabotage to result in a life of secrecy and isolation.
- Fight for freedom, by embracing the power God grants you through His truth— and step into a life of purpose, authenticity, and deep connection to others.
Today, I’m urging you to willingly pursue the kind of “elective struggle” that leads to freedom. But first, let’s talk about the consequences of playing small.
The destructive power of who you’re “supposed” to be.
We want to be self-reliant. To be known as tough. To embody grit and determination. To be stoic and untouchable.
This, we’re told, is what “being strong” looks like.
So we portray an image of the person we think we’re supposed to be. We act like the things others say or think about us have no effect. We reject any opportunity to openly feel because we see that as the ultimate sign of weakness.
But the truth?
The truth is, we’re scared to death.
Scared that we’ll be found out, and labeled a fraud. Scared of others knowing just how vulnerable we are. Scared that we’ll never be enough.
So we play small.
While it often presents iteself as “being realistic,” “thinking ahead to avoid worst-case scenarios,” or even “avoiding unnecessary risks”—make no mistake, playing small is the work of the enemy.
Some tag this “resistance.” Others call it the “lizard brain.” The Bible calls it the devil himself.
However you choose to coin it, this force has one mission: Seek and destroy your passions and your relationships so that you’re disconnected from people and your purpose.
What does it look like to play small in life? (How fear + self-Sabotage = a life of quiet desperation)
When we recognize a calling in our lives that pushes us outside of our comfort zone—but back away out of self-doubt or insecurity—we play small.
When we’re faced with the opportunity to do what’s honorable, what’s right, and what’s true—but cave out of fear—we play small.
When we play it safe, and let the risk of rejection or hurt keep our relationships at surface level—we play small.
Here’s why this matters: As we begin to make playing small our default mode of operation, a slow decay takes hold. Over time, our life becomes a jumbled mess of missed opportunities and regret over the person we could be, but aren’t.
We stand by in horror as life passes us by, void of true purpose or joy.
We fail to be the source of trust and leadership and confidence our loved ones need.
We’re “there” with friends and family, but we’re never really there. Because we’re focused on preserving the web of lies and deceit we’ve constructed as a false sense of security.
And as the fire in our soul that once raged with passion is snuffed to ashes, we begin to “lead lives of quiet desperation”, as Henry David Thoreau so eloquently penned almost two-hundred years ago.
But today, it ends.
Today, you have the opportunity to rewrite your story.
To make the old brand new.
Here are three ways you can leverage the power of “elective struggle” to release the stronghold that fear and self-sabotage have on you—and step into a life of freedom, purpose—and true strength.
Make the conscious decision to choose freedom over fear.
“Let us be clear once more that if we are not free, if we are not genuinely expressing our full personality and pursuing our true desires, it is because we are choosing to act from aversion rather than ascension. Thus our grand battles in life are between our desire for freedom and the fearful impulses that destroy desire. The juxtaposition could be no less stark—at any moment, we are acting from a state of mind driven by fear or freedom”
-Brendon Burchard, The Motivation Manifesto
Consider that the biggest problems you’re facing in life right now are not actually the problem—you are.
More specifically, your continuous cycle of self-sabotage—to willingly allow yourself to choose fear over freedom—is the problem.
This is an “inside job.” Your inner voice whispers…
Not good enough.
Wait until they see the REAL you.
It’s just a matter of time until you fail… you always do.
You’re a fraud.
And we choose to believe it. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Because we believe the lie that if we have insecurities or fears or doubt, then we are weak. That we are not worthy. That no one will ever respect us or trust us. That God could never use us for something of value.
So we play small.
But today, it’s time to take a stand. To embrace the truth that you were meant for more than this.
You were created to be strong, fearless, confident, and powerful. To fully realize and put into action the specific God-given skills, strengths, and passions you have been given.
We weren’t placed on this earth to cave to fear. We are here to fully realize our potential.
To experience true, authentic connection with others.
To spend our time doing things that truly matter.
To embrace a life of service to others.
And in that pursuit, fear is your enemy.
Over time, I’ve realized something interesting about fear and freedom: On the other side of every lie we believe is a fear that leads to captivity; on the other side of every truth we embrace is freedom.
You can’t serve two masters. Fear or freedom wins… which one are you going to serve today?
Get open, honest, and accountable.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
We all have secrets. We all hide things we’re scared to let others see.
Afraid they’ll think less of us… afraid they may judge us… afraid they’ll find out we don’t actually have it all together.
That despite putting on a good image, parts of our lives are littered with chaos.
So we play the “game.” Fake smiles. Say what we’re supposed to say.
But the darkness within us only grows the more we try to suppress it with silence. And soon, the asylum of safety we manufacture through “faking it”, becomes shackles we can’t escape.
We make ourselves slaves to the fear of being “found out.” We lie to our families, our friends, ourselves.
This is the essence of a life of “quiet desperation.” Trapped within yourself, stuck feeling like a fraud, you’ll find it impossible to experience the joy and connection you so deeply crave.
You want the freedom that comes with living authentically? The freedom that comes with being able to openly share your hopes, dreams, fears, and struggles with others?
Then stop playing the game. Stop faking it.
All of the stuff you’re hiding or are scared to open up about will lose its power when you dowse it in light—when you share it with others.
I’m not suggesting you get on Facebook and make a public post about all of your deepest struggles. But I AM suggesting that you find someone you trust and pour it all out.
(And if there’s no one in your life you feel comfortable doing that with: Send me an email and I’ll be your sounding board. I won’t share anything you tell me with a soul.)
The only path to freedom if you’re walking around with secrets is to stop hiding and get open, honest, and accountable.
When you finally bag up all of your trash and step out on the tightrope, an interesting thing happens: The burden of the lies and secrecy you’ve been carrying for so long begins to melt away.
Now, you may be thinking: But what if others laugh at me? Think less of me? What if I look stupid?
It’s all possible.
But I promise you this: The freedom you experience from authenticity will far outweigh the sting of the haters.
Reframe the adversity you’re facing: From a sign that something’s wrong (or “punishment”) to opportunity.
“By embracing adversity as a means to become stronger, you find purpose in the pain. There is treasure hidden in every trial you face—you just have to be willing to look for it.”
I’m not going to sit here and patronize you by suggesting the challenges you’re facing right now are easy to overcome.
I know what it’s like to feel buried by stress and heartache and the feeling like you’ll never measure up. I know what it’s like to teeter on the edge of hopelessness, as despair calls out your name with its siren song.
So if you’re facing some real stuff right now, I feel you. I may not know exactly what you’re going through, but more than likely I’ve walked the streets of the same neighborhood.
And here’s the encouragement I’d like to offer you. While you didn’t ask to be in this position, you are here.
And you have two options: Turn left or turn right.
Turn right means you continue the current path. The current path is one where you look at the adversity in your life and say, “Okay, I must’ve messed up big time. I must be doing something wrong in my life and this is the punishment.”
Choose this route, and your only real option is just to accept this as your lot in life, buckle down, and try to survive, hoping this season of pain just “passes.”
But you can also choose another path. This means you reframe the hardships in your life as an opportunity.
Instead of looking at your current situation as punishment or the result of something you did wrong, you ask things like:
- How can this sharpen me so that I come out the other side stronger?
- How can this be an opportunity to address a blind spot in my life—be it a bad habit or limiting belief—so that I can get out of experiencing this as a continuous cycle?
- How can I use this heartache to realign myself and the way I live my life with what really matters?
- How could this be preparation for an even greater purpose that God is orchestrating on the other side of this present darkness?
I’m not saying this is easy. It’s not. It’s actually incredibly difficult.
But by finding purpose in our pain we turn hardships into a productive struggle.
And in my experience, this is often where we encounter some of God’s greatest blessings.
What should you do with all ^^this?
Know that every decision you make is one that either caters to playing small… or living at full strength.
And in that pursuit, I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But that’s the whole point: We don’t have to have all the answers… we just have to be willing to show up and engage the battle every single day.
Where should you start? Look at the three strategies outlined above and try implementing whichever one resonates most with you this week.
→ If lies and fear run unencumbered in your life, start by calling them out, and replace them with truth. This will take practice. You’ll often find yourself falling back into old patterns. That’s to be expected. Just keep practicing.
→ If you’re living a double-life in some way, feeling the guilt and shame and exhaustion that comes with that kind of secrecy and isolation—set yourself free. Tell someone.
→ And if you find that your go-to move when challenges arise is the assumption that you’re being “punished”, reframe that as an opportunity for growth and preparation. Decide right now, that you’ll always look for purpose in whatever pain you’re facing. That you’ll always be on the offensive, ready to take what you’ve learned from the adversity in your life and share it with others as they face hardship.
If you stick with it, over time, you will start to recognize a shift in your mentality, leading to a new level of freedom in your life.
Deeper connections with yourself, your loved ones, your purpose.
That sounds like it’s worth a little bit of elective struggle to me, how about you?
I’ll leave you with this: Don’t be surprised if you try to change and you’re met with pushback—internally and externally.
In fact, you should probably expect resistance.
I don’t tell you this to discourage you, but to encourage you.
Because anytime you aim to raise your awareness, to become more of your true self, to embrace truth—the dark forces of this world will rain down an assault of lies and accusations and personal attacks, begging you to retreat back into the so-called “security” of secrecy and isolation.
They’ll tell you all the things you aren’t in an attempt to scare you back into the cage of fear where you served as a prisoner for so long.
But when you begin to understand whose you are—that you are a chosen child of God—who you aren’t doesn’t really matter anymore.
And that, my friend, is the true essence of strength.