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Playing small

We serve no one when we play small

I was on a permaculture course,

Life changing;

The ideas, systems,

the people,


interested and interesting,

synthesising experience,

weaving webs of new understanding.


One of us,

post-doctoral researcher,


if she could venture

into academia alone,


a university at her shoulder.

Keeping her voice small,

When her work,

is game changing,

life enhancing,



I did it too.

For years when the letters PhD first joined my name,

I didn’t claim the ‘Dr’,

not feeling like what I thought a ‘Dr’ should feel like,

Not feeling big enough,

clever enough.

So much still I didn’t know,

don’t know.


So I played it small,

not wanting to make myself


not wanting to stand out,

to be heard.


Sometimes we need another’s words

To tell us,

‘If you don’t do this, write this, research this, then who will?’

‘What if someone, somewhere needs what you have to say and you don’t say it because you don’t feel worthy?

‘What if it is none of your business what other people think about what you do, say, write,

if all you have to do,

is be you,

show up,

do the things

that you can do

to make a positive difference,

to your small corner of the world.’


‘Who do you think you are to play small?

Do you think the oak holds back when it has room to grow?

Doesn’t every plant reach for the light?

It is natures way to grow.’


Sometimes we need a gentle nudge to step into the arena,

and dare to fail,

or succeed…


Sometimes we need someone else’s words:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Find out more about my coaching, training and writing at

Julie Leoni

Julie Leoni

Coach, author, podcaster, facilitator, Yoga and psychology teacher, learner

I have over 30 years of experience and qualification in various therapeutic and meditation/mindfulness based approaches. I work with change. Some changes we chose, others happen to us.  Sometimes we know we want to change but don't know how. Sometimes we don't want to change but external events or people are forcing us to change. The menopause, children leaving home, the end of a relationship or job, becoming a parent, coming out, bereavement are just some of the personal changes I support people with. I also work with people who want to make changes to their life and wider world in response to social issues such as Covid, the climate crisis and racial, sexual and gender inequalities. Times are changing whether we want them to or not and we need to be nimble, agile, curious and open in order to part of the new story emerging. Work with me to get clear on what matters to you, what makes your heart sing and what kind of future you want for yourself and those you love. It is possible to live differently, get in touch to explore how.

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