Every so often, I think of this story:
On the day a new elephant is born, the training method of East Asian “mahouts” has been to tie one end of a thick rope to the elephant’s neck or leg, and the other to a stake planted deeply in the ground.
From birth the young elephant struggles and fights to free itself, day after day, month after month, and year after year. But the overwhelming rope eventually conquers the young elephant, as at some point in it’s life, it gives up, stops resisting, and stops fighting. From that day forth, the trainer replaces the thick rope with a thin string, and the elephant continues living under the belief that it cannot defeat the rope.
Whenever the elephant feels the familiar tightening of the string (albeit much softer), it is reminded of the rope, and gently moves back to the center of it’s radius.
It makes question: what are the behaviors we repeat just because they are familiar? How are we limiting ourselves based on out-of-date "lessons" and experiences? What are the "rules" we follow just because they are the rules we've always followed?
Often our strongest chains are self-constructed.
There are real limitations in the world. It is impossible to do or be everything. Few us ever even test those limits. We let past experiences color our present reality and don't take enough time to reconsider whether that coloring is valid. We don't consider whether the thick rope has been replaced with a thin string while we weren't paying attention. We become our own zookeepers and forget to check if the gate is locked.
Understanding your limits is one thing: being ruled by them is entirely different.
Every once in a while pull at the strings that hold you. Tap at that glass ceiling. Make sure the closed door in front of you is actually locked. As Marianne Williamson put it,
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, and 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 will not 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 is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.