Dr. Angelou’s quote represents for me, one of the most profound and important life lessons. It is in the face of big change and empowering life events that you see most clearly who you have around you. Peoples’ contours emerge, whether generous or pinched, supportive or not. They are not having a bad day, they are just showing you who they really are.
When it comes to the reaction of others to what you have achieved, it’s easy to make excuses for them when you do not like what you see. They are having a rough day, they are busy or perhaps you are making too big a deal out of it. When you refuse to really see what is being shown to you, you are resisting what is. You do not have to like or condone what you see, but you do have to accept it. It is this lack of acceptance to which Dr. Angelou was referring. By not clinging onto a story of how you would like the person to be and instead believing what they are showing you, you can begin to surround yourself with an encouraging, supportive circle.
Beware of the Deliberate Policy of non-acknowledgment
This is where your achievement has become a taboo subject and it is simply not mentioned or acknowledged in any way. There is a ‘let’s not go there-ness’ about it, which can be surreal when it happens. What can make this even more bizarre is that the bigger the event or achievement, the more entrenched and committed some people will be to not mentioning it.
Ruth Watson, author of Fat Girl Slim, tells of a friend who when seeing her for the first time after a four stone weight loss, didn’t say a thing. One family I know, even when their son was on the front pages of the national newspapers for his achievements, just acted as if that had never happened. I call this tiny heart syndrome. Fear has gotten into someone’s heart and made it like a shrivelled, hardened walnut. What are they so afraid of? What has got to them so badly? People like this labour under the delusion that there is a finite amount of wealth, achievement or success to go around and they see that you have taken too big a slice out of that pie. In their minds, that means less for them. Of course, this is not true. The pie is infinite and it expands as people step up to the plate. There is always room for another best selling book, blockbuster film, wonderful restaurant or great gardening business. What happens here of course, is a self fulfilling prophecy. Tiny heart syndrome is not pleasant to be around. People with it are unlikely to attract support into their lives, be it financial or emotional, other than in the shortest of terms. This means that any projects they may have could struggle to get off the ground or grow successfully. The important point is that their reaction is nothing to do with your achievement – merely a choice to be flattened or annoyed by it, rather than being energised or inspired by it.
“Stop telling your big dreams to small minded people.”
It is crucial to recognise and accept that someone has just revealed to you that, at this stage in their lives, they have a tiny heart. Don’t shrink what you are doing to accommodate it. That is not the answer for you or for them. Accept what you have just been shown about the person, be grateful for the knowledge (you don’t have to be grateful for the tiny heart itself of course) and carry on anyway. Where there is a deliberate policy of lack of acknowledgment, it’s never because people are too busy (an acknowledgment only takes a few seconds), it’s really because they are fearful.
I believe that ‘it takes one to know one’, or more precisely, it takes a large, assured heart to accommodate those taking big bites in life. In what I see as a natural act of attrition, hearts that are too small will drop off your life cliff as you start to live through the centre of yourself. Dr. Angelou’s advice is a reminder not to cling to them.
“Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.”
You don’t have to walk away from your circle (though I’ve seen people do this and often with great relief) – just accept the limitations in their ability to encourage you. Observe without labelling. If you are disappointed or surprised just quietly reflect on what you are being shown but don’t energise it. Simply put, your project and their hearts are just not a good fit any more. They may never have been a good fit, it’s just that there was no opportunity for you to learn that until now. It is only when the student is ready, that the teacher appears. Now you do have such an opportunity and you are being shown it’s not a good match. Whether you are shown this via deliberate disinterest or by smothering your ideas in a thick layer of fear, it doesn’t matter. You can simply refuse to make your dream conditional on the support of others, thereby regaining control. When you operate from the centre of yourself, there is a concentrated quality and power to your work. When you try to accommodate numerous opinions (many of which will be infused with fear), you greatly risk diluting that quality. This robs those who otherwise may delight in, or benefit from, your work.
As Einstein said, “The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.”
This is an excerpt from Issue 2 of Amanda Magazine. Read the full article by ordering your copy now.