Quick reminder: Playing Big Registration closes tomorrow at midnight.
Today, I wanted to tell you a story about how I learned to play bigger. Some of you have read this story before. But for me, it’s such an important one that encapsulates my journey to playing bigger, so I wanted to share it again.
Last year, I wrote an article at Huffington Post about the sexism taking place on a popular TV show. The article got a lot of attention, which was great.
But then something remarkable–and something I never expected–happened: an executive from the show’s television network called to talk with me about the article.
I’ll be honest with you: the first time she called I didn’t pick up the phone. I was afraid of the confrontation, of conflict, but mostly I was panicked that I’d get on the phone and have nothing to say. That I didn’t know enough, wasn’t expert enough on the topic to sustain a discussion with her without coming off as clueless.
A voice within me could have persisted (and a few years ago would have persisted) with its pronouncements: “You aren’t an expert on gender bias! You aren’t an expert on television and media issues! You can’t do this. You should call some sort of expert on the topic and ask them to take the call.”
But then something amazing happened: another more sane voice was there in me and it said back, “Tara, you actually know a lot about gender bias. You are smart and articulate. You have something to say here, and you know this needs to be said. Bring your real point of view to the table here, this big table that matters a lot.”
So I called her back.
She told me that all the key players from the show had read the article. She told me they were upset and thought the article was “harsh.”
Calmly, I spoke to the network executive about the bias against women happening on the show, and what I thought the network should do about it.
We didn’t skip off into a field holding hands at the end of the conversation – let’s put it that way. But we had the conversation. I stood by what I believed, and I said what I needed to say with calm and kindness and strength. It felt great.
But here’s what is important about this story: for me, owning my voice in this way didn’t come naturally. Believe me, it did not.
It took a process, tools, support, and the right community. It was something I learned and am still learning every day.
It took changes like these –
1.Questioning the voice that says “I’m not ready yet.” Getting really skeptical of it. Going against it and seeing what happened.
2. Getting a thick skin. Getting used to criticism. Reframing my concept from “if I do great stuff everyone will love it” to “all great stuff is so revolutionary and cutting edge that it will bring some praise and some criticism.”
3. Making fear my traveling companion. I learned that fear ain’t going nowhere. I came to imagine fear as a traveling companion — the guy driving in the lane next to me — in my field of vision but not actually in my way, unless I let myself get distracted.
4. Having the skills to play bigger. Knowing more about communication, negotiation, marketing, and more has been critical for me. Inner work and tactical skills are both needed for us to play bigger in the world.
I think we all need some help to claim our voices and play big.
You know this. In a survey I sent out to my blog readers, you wrote that your number one life challenge isn’t confusion about career direction or lack of vision or stress, but this: “In general, I’m “playing small” — not really speaking up or sharing my contribution, and I want to change that.” According to you, what’s most holding you back is not unsupportive people or a lack of time to go after your dreams, but rather, it’s playing small.
That’s why, for those of us who feel a longing to step out of the fear and self-doubt box, because 1) we know it will be more fun and 2) we want to make a greater contribution to the world, I’ve created Playing Big, a women’s leadership and professional development program that is based around the tools, concepts and skills that have been most important to me on my journey to sharing my voice more fully, and that have helped the hundreds of women I’ve worked with since.
I have some tears in my eyes as I write this, because I’m so excited and honored to get to do this work.
I hope that you will come with me on this journey and join a community of remarkable women like you who want to play bigger. I hope you won’t fear or your own inner critic get in your way.