Impact & Playing Bigger

Playing Big

By February 24, 2011 12 Comments

A few weeks ago I wrote an article at Huffington Post about the sexism that was taking place on a popular TV show. The article got a lot of attention, which was great.
Then something remarkable happened: an executive from the television network called to talk with me about the article.
She told me that all the key players from the show had read the article. She wanted to have a dialogue about it. Calmly and with confidence, I spoke to the executive about the bias against women happening on the show, and what I thought the network should do about it.
A voice within me could have said (and a few years ago would have said): “You aren’t an expert on gender bias! You aren’t an expert on television! You can’t do this. You should call some sort of expert on the topic and ask them to take the call.” But another more sane voice was there and it said, “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 we had the conversation. And it felt great.
For me, owning my voice in this way didn’t come naturally. It took a process, tools, support, the right community. 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.
I think we all need some help to claim our voices and play big, particularly as women. We’ve been conditioned to be sensitive to praise and criticism, to value blending in, and not rocking the boat. We value keeping the peace. Plus, there are real costs to “likability” for women who claim their voices, and we need ways to deal with that tradeoff. We need new models, new stories — about power and voice — since most of the ones we are all exposed to don’t quite fit with women’s socialization, women’s lives, or women’s ways of working.
You know this. In the recent survey I sent out, 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 “self-doubt and insecurity.”
For those of us who feel a longing to step out of the fear and self-doubt box, who want to make a greater contribution to the world, I’m creating a women’s leadership and professional development program that is
· Part supportive and dynamic community
· Part boot-camp-esque training” covering tactical skills like communication, public speaking, negotiation — delivered by experts in those domains
· Part inner work to help you overcome fears, end procrastination, take positive action around a vision, and design a way for it to all work given your practical constraints
· Part inspirational writing and poetry to give you juice along the way
· Part showcase —after you get all these fabulous skills, you’ll choose a “sharing your voice” project to do, and we’ll cheer you on.
The program 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. If you want to learn more, CLICK HERE to get all the updates, early bird information, and special discounts for this program.

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Thank you for putting this out there, Tara!

    Finding the support for the true, authentic voice that reflects our core is so difficult. I am amazed at the difficulties I have in supporting that voice so many years of experiences. The voice is finally emerging on her own- and now we’re entering this interesting new phase where both the voice and the person whose mouth it’s coming from are aligning into one entity.

    I also loved your Goals Guide and am trying everyday to stick to the Why instead of the How. And I have to admit, for someone who is very comfortable with risk- it feels very unsettling and comforting, all at the same time!

    Thanks for your work!

  • Tara, this is amazing! I am definitely still having issues with that little voice telling me “I’m not ready.” It sounds so rational sometimes, and listening to it feels like a responsible thing to do sometimes. Argh!

    But this is a great reminder, and your example is a great one. I’m trying to picture myself in that situation, and wondering how it would feel…

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

  • Melinda says:

    Wonderful post, Tara! Congrats on all your success!


  • Tara,

    There’s so much good stuff in this post. And I’m almost embarrassed to admit that part of what excites me the most is the fact that the folks at Top Chef seem to be taking the gender bias seriously. That will help me enjoy the show more. Thanks for your invitation to stretch our wings!!

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  • Wayne says:

    Great post Tara. I have struggled with fear all my life. My help came when I realized that fear is my companion. Instead of trying to get rid of fear, I was able to separate myself from fear and start reassuring my companion. I now view my companion as a small, fearful child with me being the supportive parent. As you stated in the post, I now take fear wherever I go…my traveling companion.

  • […] in the course. She is a big reason the course was such a success. Here’s a sample of her writing and a free download of her […]

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