5 Persistent Blocks That Keep You Playing Small

By on March 27, 2013

Before I got “hip to my trip” and realized that I can be a bit too insular and self-focused in my work, I used to think I had it all figured out. I’d been through so much pain and upset in my 18-year corporate life, that when I reinvented myself successfully and came out on the other side more whole and happy again – I thought I had all the answers. That was until I became a therapist and a coach, and began the process of writing my book Breakdown Breakthrough. As I embarked on the book, I sought the advice by a terrific editor, Janet Goldstein, who suggested that I needed to research, research, research before writing it.  When Janet shared that critique with me back in 2006 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, I thought to myself, “Research? Why do I need to talk to other women – I’ve experienced it all!”

But a voice inside told me I should take Janet’s advice anyway, and I embarked on interviewing one hundred midlife professional women around the country about their serious professional challenges and how they overcame them, and as I did, my socks were truly knocked off. From that time in my life to this, I’ve found that it is in reaching out to others and truly opening my heart and my ears to their experiences, insights and wisdom that allows life’s most important lessons to flow with greater abundance and impact.

Towards that end, I’ve recently been admiring the work of other coaches who support people in playing bigger – who help people step far out of their comfort zone and stretch to the next level. One of these powerful coaches is Tara Sophia Mohr, the author of 10 Rules for Brilliant Women and the founder of the Playing Big leadership program for women. I’ve been enlivened by Tara’s messages about playing bigger, and wanted to learn more.

natural sunscreen with zinc oxide

Tara and I spoke last week, and she shared with me her views on the top 5 blocks that keep women from playing big. (These happen to apply to men too). Here’s Tara’s list:

1. We believe what our inner critic tells us, because we haven’t gotten any training in how to deal with the inner critic. No matter how many promotions or how much praise we get, we still have those vicious inner critics chattering in our heads. Maybe yours says you aren’t smart enough, or articulate enough, or thin enough. Though it may feel like it, the inner critic isn’t telling the truth, and being run by its voice is the #1 thing that holds women back. We need to notice the inner critic when we hear it talking, and choose, in the moment, to stop taking direction from it. You are not your inner critic – this is just one of the voices inside you, and you can separate from it, if you gain awareness of that fact.

2. We think we need to be an “expert” on topic x to do or say something significant about it. The truth is, quite often the greatest contributions don’t come from the industry experts. They come from what I call “survivors” — people who have had a personal experience with the topic in some way (i.e. two women creating a healthy food company based on their own experience trying to cook healthy for their families) or from “cross trainers” – people with experience in one arena who then bring that outside perspective to another industry (i.e. someone trained in tech marketing who brings insights from that domain to a new career in the social sector). Start questioning that voice in your head that says “I’d have to be an expert to do that, speak out about that, start a business in that area, etc.”

3. We fall for the “passion vs. financial stability” either-or trap. Many women say to me, “I know my passion is for x, but I need to pay my bills.” Anytime you have got that  either-or thinking going on, you’ve fallen prey to a self-sabotaging voice within. Usually, this is an excuse because going for our passions is scary. The truth is, every single one of us can in some way follow our passions right now. Passionate about working with little kids but not so excited about having a pre-school teacher’s paycheck? Start volunteering with little ones once a week. In love with your art but know it won’t pay the bills? Carve out some evening times to get out the paints. What matters most is that you are in some way pursuing what calls to you now – full-time or not. Financial demands are no excuse for not making a space for your calling .

4. We  are addicted to being liked. Ouch! But true.  Women have been socialized to prioritize being liked, and to “make nice-nice” with everybody. Yet we get to a point in our careers where we’ve got to make decisions and lead in ways that won’t please everyone. In your career, go for being respected – not simply liked. Ask, “What would I do in this situation if I was looking to be highly respected by my coworkers, rather than worrying about whether I’m coming across as ‘nice’?” Women who do this will still be quite kind in their communications – because they are kind people – they just won’t play small in order to seem more likable.

5. We don’t know how to handle the fears and feelings of vulnerability that come up when we play big and go for our career dreams. There’s a myth in our culture that when we  pursue our dreams, everything will feel exhilarating and wonderful. The truth is that we often feel afraid, resistant, uncomfortable when going for those dreams – because following our own right path feels vulnerable. It brings up fears of rejection, failure, and departing from the herd – taking a different path that peers or family may not understand or support. Women can expect those feelings, and learn to welcome them as a part of playing bigger,

*  *  *  *  *  *
Tara is right on with her insights.  I see it every day in the work I do with my clients, and in myself. And I know this to be true – greater awareness equals greater choice.  The question is, now that we have the awareness of what’s holding us back, what are we going to do about it?

I hope your answer will be in the form of action – getting “hip to your trip” and stepping forward to embrace your visions for a bigger life, despite your fears, your vulnerability and your very persistent inner critic.  And if you want more,  a great place to start is Tara’s free download 10 Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook.

(For more information about Tara, visit www.taramohr.com and her Playing Big program).


Originally posted on Forbes.

About Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized women’s career coach and work-life expert, executive trainer, Forbes contributor, writer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. Author of Breakdown, Breakthrough, and Founder of The Amazing Career Project, Kathy is President of Ellia Communications, Inc. -- a leading career and executive coaching and training firm helping professional women build successful and fulfilling careers of significance, and reach their highest potential. For more information, visit kathycaprino.com or write to [email protected] Connect with Kathy on: Twitter, FB, LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

5 Persistent Blocks That Keep You Playing Small