I Believed I Belonged in the Background


When I was in elementary school, I really wanted a role in the school Christmas play. I tried out for a part every year.

Before the roles were assigned, I daydreamed about the performance. I planned what I would wear. I thought about how I’d move and how I’d deliver my lines.

I imagined what it would feel like to be on that stage with the spotlight shining down and all eyes on me.

Fairly predictably, every year the parts would go to the loudest kids. (I guess technically I got to be a Christmas tree in first grade…) I would take my place as the tall, quiet kid in the back row of the choir.

It made sense. I was quiet. I had a hard time making myself heard halfway across the classroom. I have no idea how I would have projected my voice all the way to the back of the auditorium.

Passing me over for a play part wasn’t any sort of intentional slight or message from my music teacher. He found other ways to include me that seemed more in line with my strengths. He was just trying to put on a successful Christmas play with an entire school full of young children. That is a job I do not envy.

But that’s the thing, messages don’t have to be intentional to impact us.

Over the course of my life, I’ve received many, many, many messages about how quiet I am and what that means about me. Over time those messages added up and I started really believing that my voice just wasn’t good enough to be heard.

I started believing that I belonged in the background. It seemed that my role in life was to take care of all the things that would support others to shine.

For a long time I didn’t question those beliefs. They just felt true.

Believing I was only good enough to be in the background really influenced how I showed up in my life. I avoided doing things that would draw attention to me. I ignored what I wanted in favor of what I thought others wanted from me. I ruled out possibilities without asking or trying.

It feels limiting to believe that the things we want to do in this world are only possible for other people. It’s painful to believe that who we are is not quite enough and that we have to somehow become someone different, someone better.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the messages we receive and the beliefs we carry. They can be incredibly subtle. Often they’ve been there for so long that they just feel like truth.

I’m not saying we need to go back through our past and find every little thing that has negatively impacted us. There can, however, be a lot of value in recognizing what we believe about ourselves and questioning the truth of those beliefs.

These days I share my writing on the internet. I even have a YouTube channel. (My inner kid is thrilled to be in front of the camera!) I’m practicing paying attention to what I want and looking for possibilities.

None of this is because I figured out how to change myself into one of the loud kids. I’m still a quiet person.

Instead, I’m finding ways to do the things I want to do that work with who I am. For example, I can use a microphone and audio editing software to help me share my voice without having to feel like I’m shouting.

I’m learning that supporting others doesn’t mean I have to stay in the background. Taking the risk to be more visible is what made it possible for me to connect with you.

Your Turn
  • What is something you want to do? Maybe it’s the grownup version of something that you wanted to do as a kid or maybe it’s something totally new.

  • What do you know about who you are and what you’re capable of that actually supports you in taking a step to try that thing?

  • What reasons come up about why doing that thing is not for you? Does part of you believe that only a certain kind of person can do the things you want to do? Or that there’s only one way to do it…and that way doesn’t work for you?

  • Where are you willing to take a closer look and consider whether those beliefs are really true?

Sometimes it can be tricky to notice and question what we believe about ourselves. You don’t have to do it alone. This is one of the ways I love helping people practice being kinder to themselves so they can feel more calm and confident. Learn more about how we can work together.