I wanted to share a little more about my experience of going on The Today Show.

After all, it’s relevant. My work is about helping women play bigger, own their brilliance, come forward with their voices and share them.

Going on The Today Show was a step toward playing bigger for me. I had not previously appeared on national television, let alone live national television, let alone live national television with a very large reach — 2 million viewers.

So here’s the honest-to-goodness funny and true tale of how I actually responded to this opportunity. I hope it will offer you something truly helpful for your own playing bigger steps.

Over the month or so leading up to my appearance, at some moments I was excited, but mostly I was scared.

There were about 150 arguments running through my head about why this whole Today Show thing was a bad idea. Here are a few:

“Your work isn’t going to translate into this format.”
“You’ve lost your passion about this topic.”
“The hosts probably aren’t going to like you, and you’ll be one of those guests that Kathie Lee and Hoda disagree with. You’ll end up looking ridiculous.”

At one point, I even tried to postpone this fabulous opportunity. I thought I had good reasons for it at the time, but looking back I can see: it was just fear.

About 48 hours before the show, I started worrying: I am going to have a “wardrobe malfunction” in the middle of the segment. On live TV. After all, I am wearing a wrap dress. What are the chances the thing won’t come undone?

What was all of this about? I was afraid. Afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone, of the unknown, of the possibility it could go badly. Afraid of sharing my voice, my work, with 2 million people – afraid of that universal, ever-persistent fear: that I would somehow not be “good enough.”

Here are three of the truths about fear & playing big that I got to learn (again) through this experience:

1. Fear shows up in a million ways.

As my friend Jen Louden recently wrote, fear doesn’t usually show up and say “Hi, I’m fear.” It shows up as seemingly well-reasoned beliefs and arguments. It also shows up as procrastination, avoidance, ambivalence. One of the most important things we need to do — if we want to speak up, share our voices — is to get very skilled at recognizing fear when it shows up. We can then use tools like these to help keep fear out of the driver’s seat of our lives.

2. Fear lies.

It just makes stuff up. The thing is, whatever fear is saying to you: it will seem true. It will seem true that you aren’t ready to give the presentation. To put up the art show. To launch the jewelry line.The best we can do is remember: “the things fear and my inner critic say are false” and to discern: could this just be fear talking?

3. You can be very afraid, and do just fine.

Many people have commented to me that my interview on the show seemed “natural,” “poised,” “calm.” Fabulous! But I want you to know, I was nervous, right up to the segment and through the segment.
I want you to know that in case you think you couldn’t do something well if you were nervous. IN case you think you are different from those people who appear calm when they are giving the speech, the presentation, the pitch. They are nervous a lot of the time too.
You can be very, very, very, nervous about something — freaked out with fear, really — and do just fine. You can even do marvelously.

4. What defines our lives is not finding a way to live without fear, but rather, our capacity to keep on stepping forward, even when we are afraid.

Sometimes, I think that when I get really worked up in fear about something, it means that the thing itself is not a great fit for me. But the opposite is often true: I get all wound up in fear about the things I am most passionate about, the opportunities that are best aligned with who I really am.
In the end, despite all that fear, I come away from the experience feeling like it was a great time, and I truly can’t wait to do it again.
Whatever playing bigger looks like for you:
Take a look at your list of reasons you aren’t doing it. Are they real, or are they fear showing up in creative costuming?
Remember, remember, remember: what fear says is often just not true.
Can you keep moving forward, in spite of feeling very afraid?

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Marthe says:

    I think you are so right about how fear shows up in multiple ways. Pair that with how Fear lies, and it’s truly hard to recognize when you’re being played.

    One way fear shows up for me is through anger. When I’m really afraid (especially in social situations) I end up being really negative and even slightly agressive towards other people. It’s a safety mechanism.

    What helps is to recognize what is happening. It’s so much easier to meet fear when you know who you’re dealing with.

  • Lori says:

    ” I get all wound up in fear about the things I am most passionate about, the opportunities that are best aligned with who I really am.”

    This is very true. If it didn’t matter so much to you, you wouldn’t care about it! You’re afraid because it’s important to you so you want it to go well.

    Great article.

  • Miri says:

    I’ve heard many famous people from all types of professions – comedy, sports, entertainment, academia – say “when you don’t feel the fear, that’s when you need to be nervous!” I agree. The times I haven’t been nervous about a presentation or event, I haven’t done nearly as well as when I was freaked out beyond belief! Kudos for your appearance on Today show. You were very poised.

  • love this, as I have been writing about fear all this week these are great observations to share. I also love that you pulled back on the curtain on still being nervous, that one took me a long time to learn, nerves are not a sign anything is the matter, or that you should stop.
    Yeah for you, I’m so happy for you you are amazing!

  • Susi Vasseur says:

    As I get older I realize how much I let fear get in the way of things I want to do. Gone are my carefree days of jumping in with both feet without thinking. Naming the fear helps. Knowing it is natural for everyone gives me strength because the alternative of not doing, because of fear, scares me even more!

  • Tara, you were great on the Today show, just watched it, twice in fact!!
    This latest post made me think of some of the writing I’ve been doing from your Playing Big class, and thought it really worked with what you said above, about how fears lie to us ….from a longer piece I wrote about dream defrauders …

    “Our fears are liars and cheats
    Con artists of the worst kind
    Rakish characters, pekish brutes
    They defraud our dreams
    Embezzle our hearts …

    They lie in wait
    Like a cat
    Ready to pounce
    Claws out
    Digging in
    Keeping us right where we are
    Stuck in the quicksand of life
    Sinking ever deeper until one small fear becomes a bigger fear, and on and on, and round and round, just like the song says

    There is only one way out of this endless ride to nowhereness — the ride that fear takes us on if we let it.

    Don’t get on board.”

  • Laura Gates says:

    thanks for sharing your vulnerability and for helping us learn through your experience. SO often we (I) think we need to have it all figured out before we can move forward. I watched the clip and I did think you looked poised, and I also sensed that you “did your homework” in order to be fully present with two questioners on TV, live. Not an easy task! I appreciate the reminder to not let fear paralyze from stepping into our purpose.

  • Susan Sinatra says:

    Thank you for your honesty. I am in “mid life”, recently divorced, planning to get back into the workforce in 2012 all while moving from Syracuse, NY to Orange County, CA…alone. Reading your words about your feelings as you approached the Today show spot & your “Ten Rules for Brilliant Women” have inspired me to move forward embracing my emotions instead of using them as a reason to question myself. It’s time to go and be excited that I am following my lifelong dream…life is good. Thank you again for being candid and sharing your thoughts.

  • Veronica says:

    Thank you for sharing what you do and helping so many find their reasons for being and the courage to live the purpose and vision.

  • noch says:

    we seem to create boundaires and limits for ourselves – what we are comfortable or not comfortable doing. maybe if we forget them, then we forget fear!
    thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Such true words…and scary, too.

    I have experienced being very, very afraid and doing very well. I’m remembering my very first art show opening where I sold a nice piece of work for a nice price. Other openings have come and gone, some I feel afraid because it’s like a ‘performance’ and I’m not a performer. When I believe this lie, I tend to be shy and keep to myself. Doesn’t help me or my art.

    I love that you admit your fears and still did an amazing job.

  • Sarah says:


    Whoa…sorry for shouting. Land the plane Sarah.

    Just wanted to chime in that YES fear is such a big, unfair player. It sneaks and creeps and ruins my day.

    Thank you for outing fear. It needs to happen over and over and over again.

    Blessings on your day ~ Sarah

We are on a mission to help you realize your playing big dream.
Dive into our resources here: