never dim your light

A guest post by Roo Mulligan

My good friend in elementary school was smart, pretty, creative and lively.  We had a great time playing together. She was curious about many things and a natural leader – always coming up with fun things for us to do together.

When we reached high school and started becoming interested in boys, I noticed that she started to play dumb.  I don’t think she consciously decided to hide her quick intelligence; she was just smart enough to know that the boys didn’t want to feel dumb around her.  High school can be a rough time for everyone. 

The kids are all learning to navigate friendships and dating and all the ways of interacting with others; family, friends, teachers.  The boys want to feel strong, masculine and attractive to the girls.  When a girl is obviously smart, attractive, fun, and bright they can be intimidated by that, convinced she would never like them and so not even try to get to know her.

My friend was very pretty so the boys all wanted to date her.  Afraid of scaring them away, she started to play dumb.  She’d ask for their help on math assignments that she totally understood better than them.  She pretended not to understand jokes so they would have to explain it to her and their egos would inflate.

Just the other day I was sitting with a group of friends and we were discussing our week and how stressful it was. My one friend mentioned how they all struggled except for me who seemed to always have it together.  My first thought was “Ha that is so not true.”  I started thinking of all the things I am going through right now; dealing with my mother’s death, preparing form my oldest daughter to leave soon for college, getting ready to graduate from my Master’s program and having to start a job search.

I wanted to launch into a litany of how bad I had it too but then I stopped myself.  What good would it do any of us to focus on all the negatives?  We think that by jumping into the boiling pot with others we will establish a connection with them, have a stronger friendship.  We all want that feeling of bonding, connection, acceptance and love.  I didn’t want to stand out- if I did then I might be alone and disconnected.

But by sharing my woes and dimming my successes I would be making myself feel bad for a momentary “yeah I feel your pain” connection.  We would all feel worse in a “the world is a sad, dreary place and we are all just barely surviving” way. The negative outlook doesn’t draw us closer it just throws us into the pit of gloom where we all flounder feeling alone, like we have to struggle to survive.  I choose to look for joy in my life.  I choose to have fun. 

I think about how I want my life to be and moaning about my hardships is not how I want to spend my time.  I want to travel.  I want to laugh with my friends, play with my family, learn new things and sing in the shower.  Life continues whether we choose to struggle against it or enjoy it.  When I turn my attention to all that is wrong in life I miss out on all that is right.

Just as my friend gave into the temptation to lower her accomplishments to gain acceptance, I was tempted to protest what my friend said with a litany of my stresses but I stayed quiet.  I’m choosing to find fun in my life.  I like to think I’m an authentic person and it is hard to feel like you are ostracized or different from others.

I don’t want to be rejected or thought of as so perfect they can’t relate to or talk to me but I only have this life to live right now.  It is going to continue on whether I choose to be miserable or happy.  I choose joy, light, laughter and fun.  I will not dim my light for anyone.

About the Author

Roo Mulligan is a certified fitness specialist and a Confidence Coach with a Master’s in Counseling. She specializes in incorporating fun into our health to increase our energy and bring joy into our lives. Learn more about Roo on her website, or find her on facebook at

2 Responses to never dim your light

  1. onlyme May 20, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Do you think she was truly dimming her own light, or encouraging them to shine theirs more brightly if she was able to maintain her sense of self?

    • Roo May 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      That is an interesting way of looking at it. I think it is possible to encourage others to shine while still shining yourself. There is a quote on Happiness from the Buddha that illustrates what I mean,
      “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”
      I believe that we should not hide our light under a basket but let it illuminate everyone around us. She may have retained a sense of self but I suspect that being a young, confused, teenager her sense of self was not very strong. There is a difference between bringing out the best in others and playing down your own strengths so others don’t feel badly around you.