I didn’t grow up in a rough environment. I grew up being told, almost every day, that I was special.
 
I grew up with lots of love from my family.
 
I got a good education and good grades.
 
I got lots of feedback that I was intelligent, talented and could do all kinds of things in the world.
 
So how is it that I ended up self-doubting, not really doing my thing in the world, and had to fight like hell to find my way back?
 
What happened? How does it happen to so many of us?
 
I don’t know the answer, but I have some ideas about the strains of the answer for me.
 
One strain has to do with what Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has uncovered in her pioneering research. Her studies show that when children are praised for their innate abilities (i.e. “You are so smart. You are so good at math”) they become paralyzed by the compliments. Rather than becoming more confident, they become averse to doing the activity again, because they are afraid of disproving the compliment. They become afraid of falling short, particularly as the level of challenge increases. Sound familiar?
 
On the other hand, children that are praised for their effort (“Wow, you worked so hard to learn that –great job!”) learn to link effort with validation and love, and they go back in, again and again, for other challenges. Rather than getting caught up in ideas about their intrinsic abilities (am I good at this or not, smart or not, etc.) they fall in love with the process of working at something to get better at it.
 
I’ve written about this before here, because when I read Dweck’s research it so strongly resonated with my own experience. In my childhood, I was so used to being told I was brilliant and amazing, so used to being at the top of the class that I found it very difficult to stay in the game when I wasn’t.
 
As my talents put me in ever more competitive environments, excelling at anything came to involve lot of trial and error, and receiving a lot of negative feedback. I wasn’t used to that, at all. I found it intolerable, emotionally, creatively. I stopped doing the creative things I loved, like dance, theater, and to some extent, writing poetry. I turned to more left-brain pursuits where my performance felt less high-stakes, and that was one of the major turns I took away from my authentic self and my right work.
 
The other thing that happened was that I lost my spiritual connection. For me, playing big and making an impact has always come from a spiritual foundation. For me, achievement itself has always stemmed from a spiritual foundation.
 
What I mean by that is this: when I get down on my knees in the morning, and say, to a power greater than myself, “I want to be of service, I want to bring more light and love and sanity into this world,” when I have a regular connection to spiritual texts – from book of John to the Tao De Ching to Pema Chodron -then…big ideas start flowing.
 
With those ideas come inspiration and motivation that give me a magic carpet ride into action. And with all of that are tears in my eyes, and a sense of poignancy and gratitude about the miracle that I get to do this next thing, that I get to serve and live and express in this particular way.
 
I remember the first time I realized, with some shock, that spiritual connection translated to all kinds of achievement in the secular realm. These ideas and sense of purpose I would receive through my spiritual life would win me all kinds of awards, and got me into the most prestigious schools. This seemed like a big secret most people didn’t know about – the secret of what actually can bring achievement and success. It’s certainly not the only road to worldly success, but it’s seems much more pleasant than the toiling and scheming one. When I fell out of that spiritual connection, I lost my access to the guidance and inspiration for sharing my voice in the world.
 
The third thing that happened had to do with my environment. Though it had many, many strengths, my university was not, for me, a particularly empowering or supportive place. I just never quite found my voice there, my creative self or my leader self. I’m not sure why this is – I think it had something to do with being suddenly uprooted from everything I knew to go there. I think it had something to do with the patriarchal and conservative nature of the culture. And it had to do with the way my need for a very safe environment for my creative work couldn’t be met there.
 
All three of those strands: the need for praise I brought into adult life, the loss of spiritual connection, and the environment I was in – each contributed to a piece of loss of self. I can see that now that I’m on the other side. I can see how each piece created the other – how, for example, my university context contributed to that loss of spiritual connection, how stopping my creative pursuits was such a painful denial of the the truth of me that it then became uncomfortable to face my life during that spiritual time – so the spiritual time fell away.
 
Right-path-hood, connection to self, is a virtuous cycle and a vicious one. When we gain one anchor in our lives that connects us to our core, authentic selves, we literally gain energy to create more of that. When we lose some strand connection to ourselves, we are weakened by that, and are therefore much more likely to lose more strands soon.
 
As a coach, I never ask my clients “why” questions, because “why” sends us into the past and sends us into an analytical mode — neither of which are so potent for making change in the present. Most of all, I don’t ask why questions because it immediately sends our minds into hypothesis-making, and we tend to make up answers in order to answer the question asked. Our “why” suppositions, full of projections and denial and oversimplifications, are usually wrong.
 
But as I teach my course on Playing Big, and as my work increasingly grows in this direction of helping women recover their voices, I want to know why. I want to pull back the camera, go up for the birds eye view, look at the landscape, and ask: “Why? What happened here? How did so many of us lose and shut down our voices, or turn away from our right paths? What is the primary, fundamental cause, if there is one, and what are the secondary ripples that happen from there? Why are so many of us still paralyzed in sharing our voices in the world?”
 
Why? What happened for you? Please tell me in the comments.
 
Love,
Tara

Join the discussion 45 Comments

  • doolin says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty interesting, because I was always fawned over as the “smart” one, but my brother younger of 2 years is actually smarter. He and I are the only people who see this.

  • Tara Bradford says:

    Powerful post, Tara. For me, it was not being emotionally supported by my family; not receiving encouragement or positive reinforcement from those closest to me (who had limited ideas of possibility and were often quite negative in their thinking). I had to walk a very solitary path to accomplish anything – and that path took me far, far away, where I could thrive and feel safe from the constant undertones of disapproval that I was doing something different than any of them had done. I expect my family would have a different interpretation of all this, but it’s the way I always felt when around them. To this day, I still feel that same silent disapproval from family members who don’t understand or embrace anything beyond their comfort zone. And there are things I won’t write for fear of upsetting them, even knowing I can never please them.

    Long ago, I learned I must listen to my inner voice; I must ignore the small-minded naysayers and “march to the beat of a different drummer.” As Thoreau so eloquently said, that has made all the difference.

  • Tara Gentile says:

    For me, it was the misalignment of two key stories:

    1) You can do whatever you want with your life.

    2) You’re an adult and that means providing for yourself.

    It’s not that these two stories are inherently misaligned. But no one ever connected the dots for me.

    And I think it’s a situation that plays itself out way to often.

    I felt like I had to pick between the two and it caused me 5 years of ick & depression. Five years I could have been learning, growing, and following a different path.

    But I figured out I didn’t have to pick between the two! And that’s how I got my voice (and leadership, and enthusiasm, and brain, and soul) back!

  • Kim says:

    I am so glad you wrote this, Tara. I can see my two daughters facing this conflict right now. While I try to tell them that they don’t have to pick between the two, the world is telling them something different. And Mom’s advice is not always listened to (at least not at first).

  • Carol Anne says:

    I so wanted to teach, but was told by my parents there was no money, no future in teaching. I wandered around, found another career that enabled my love of writing (hidden as a child, found again as an adult), and eventually found myself 30+ years later — a teacher.
    Taking this long way has taken so much out of me. I’m glad I was finally able to find a way back to where I was meant to be. But I am proudest that I have stopped others from NOT following their path and dreams. Their success and happiness is my reward for sharing my mistakes. And now, I keep working on mentoring myself and finding others who can support my hopes and dreams.
    Thanks for your post.

  • Sidhe Says » What Happened? says:

    […] Living Blog written eloquently by Tara Sophia Mohr. Today’s treasure in my inbox included this post about self-doubt and how it develops, even in people who were affirmed in […]

  • Gwyn Michael says:

    I received conflicting messages.
    You can do whatever you want.
    You are not worthy of that.
    AND like Tara you are an adult and must support yourself.
    I was very confused and fell short of my potential for many years.
    Only now in the second half of life has age sort of given me freedom from others expectations and I have realized I can do what I want and be worthy of success. Making a living I am still working on ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Marcie says:

    WOW! Such an intriguing post….suggesting so many thoughts and possibilities. I think the ‘why’ for me – had to do with being one of very few women at a college that emphasized left-brain analytical work (engineering – to be exact)..whereas I was a right-brained creative-type. I learned to quiet myself and my creative voice..so as to achieve..which is something I’d always been told I excelled at.

    And – of course – there were other factors..all of which combined and aligned (the sun and moon and stars) – in a way that I found myself lost.

    So much food for thought here…

  • Kim says:

    Thank you for opening my eyes to Carol Dweck’s work. I was a top achiever through my school years (high school valedictorian, attended an ivy league college). In my first career out of college, I consistently received strong performance appraisals. Then I hit a transition point where I felt I wanted to explore my creative voice more, so I changed careers and for awhile was happy. But since then, I feel I have slumped. I feel like I have much more to offer the world, but for whatever reason am just sitting here marking time. It’s comforting to hear that I’m probably not alone in this experience. Now it’s time for me to figure out where to go from here. Perhaps I’ll be able to join you for the next round of Playing Big.

  • Colleen says:

    I DID grow up in a rough and abusive environment, but I was also told (by one parent) all the things you were told: you’re special; you’re smarter than they are; you’re better than that.

    And what you said about being praised for being instead being praised for effort is exactly what happened, I think.

    “You’re an excellent writer” is one thing, but it’s not sustainable. Being praised for my writing then meant that when I needed to improve, I didn’t have the resources available. And I wanted to hide when I wasn’t as smart as everyone seemed to think I was.

  • Tiffany says:

    For me, as a child, I was raised to forego my needs and emotions, and I had to take care of others first. It’s no wonder that I am a caretaker and being a mother has been so important of a role for me. I was a high achiever in school as well, because that was valued in my family, and it was the one thing that provided positive feedback from my parents while school was a place of safety for me when my home necessarily wasn’t. What is getting me now is that I am replicating the same marriage and family life as my parents did, particularly what my mother did. My needs are not as important as my children’s and as my husbands. I am working to honor my needs again and simply trying to figure out what they are and what I am outside of my mother and nurturing role.

  • I can identify with many comments above.
    I too grew up hearing, “you’re so talented” but also “what will other people think about the way you dress, what you say,…etc.”
    So my whole life, I have worried about what other people think, and am usually working on assumptions since how can we really know what they’re thinking!
    Fitting in to some kind of “type” or category was my main goal, while I really didn’t fit in anywhere…..which is what truly makes me unique and amazing. I have lost my voice, and I’m not sure that I’ve every really had it. But, I’m working to find it……
    thanks for your post!

  • Katherine says:

    **”Why? What happened here? How did so many of us lose and shut down our voices, or turn away from our right paths? What is the primary, fundamental cause, if there is one, and what are the secondary ripples that happen from there? Why are so many of us still paralyzed in sharing our voices in the world?”**
    These are powerful questions and it’s interesting why this is much more of an issue for women than for men. In my own journey, I began writing plays when I was 8 years old. I stopped writing plays when I was 18, at university. There are a myriad of reasons, including no real support or encouragement of creative writing at that time, a trend for physical and devised theatre rather than text, the academic atmosphere leading to criticism rather than creativity, plus on a more personal note, not really finding any kindred spirits within the student body and also having to cope with the baggage of family problems that I was shouldering.
    Creativity is vulnerable, it takes trust and faith to embark on any kind of creative act – in particular we have to be able to trust that the people we first show the work to will receive it with the intention of nurturing it rather than ripping it to shreds. Having been bullied by a teacher in my final year of school, it has always felt very unsafe to allow anyone to have a position of mentor/authority over me, leading to a reluctance to send my work off.
    I think there are two main issues here for me; one is that the academic route tends to disable creativity rather than foster it – an emphasis on critique is not what is needed when trying to create, especially in the early stages of a project. At a further level, girls tend to be people-pleasers, especially in terms of their teachers. We bust a gut trying to please the teacher in school, work hard, do it right. Our own voice can get lost beneath the desire to do it how the teacher likes it. Then when we finally finish school, we spend our lives waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do next, to give us permission. Doing things our own way was never part of the curriculum.
    Second, the environment in which a woman was raised – most notably the emphasis on comformity. When I look back I can see the powerful pressures to be the same as everyone else, to not stick my head above the parapet. In our family, a biting sense of humour was used to cut down anyone who was getting “Above themselves.” There was no understanding of anything or anyone that might be a bit different. This feeds into trust and confidence – or lack of it – about being able to put ourselves out there. There’s the adage that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – but often, it feels like you’ve been slapped down so many times that you may as well stay on the floor. Originality is welcomed in the art world, but in the real world… not so much.

  • Jen says:

    This resonates so much. For me, it boils down to following the template, living in fear, and not knowing how to or that I even could blaze my own trail. I too disconnected from my spiritual source in search of the sure thing and in the process, lost a sense of vulnerability was lost. I’m a natural rebel and couldn’t find the balance in some of the structures where I sought to express my spirituality.

    I like the why questions as you’ve presented them. Why can uncover so much and invite healing and growth. It felt good just to type that…healing and growth ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Marthe says:

    This post contains so much insight. It really resonates with who I am and what happened.

    I’ve always been told that I’m smart. Intelligent. Talented.

    But for me, that has always been linked with what I do.

    And I’ve been told that I’m selfish. Lazy. Ungrateful.

    Which I automatically linked with who I am.

    So I’ve spent most of my life trying to be the smartest, most intelligent and talented kid in class. And it worked through most of middle and high school. But I reached my limit in University were I couldn’t be the smartest A-student any longer.

    Which lead to a couple of breakdowns. (actually, I needed three of them before I took the message).

    It’s only just three months ago that I realized what has happened to me: I’ve learned to build my worthiness on what I do, not who I am. Which ironically keeps me from doing what I do. What I want to do. What I love.

  • Kim says:

    I know for me it happened when I bought in to what other people thought I was “supposed” to do. This happened through wanting, needing others approval. My parents, boyfriends, society, etc. constantly reinforced that, of course I can have a career, but to gain approval, I need a husband, kids, a house. Everything that was just me, mine, was secondary. Fortunately I am climbing out of this box now. Unfortunately, what this means now is that a divorce and unwanted pain for all of us is on the horizon. However, once you realize you have a voice that hasn’t been heard, or has been lost somehow, it is almost impossible to turn back. You can’t unring the bell.

  • Christine says:

    Tara,
    I’ve not read your blog before today and the research you refer to bothers me in its simplistic analysis. I trained MANY years ago as a teacher but my main claim to “fame” is mostly as a parent of three very talented daughters, who are grown and making thier own way in the world now like you. I would like to suggest an alternate understanding of the power of praise.

    It is not just the object of praise, that leads to a loss of voice. It is more complicated than whether you have been praised for ability or effort. It is more about how one encourages someone to see the balance.

    If you have an amazing ability in one or more areas, it is extrememly important to understand that your facility is part of your success, for YOU KNOW that effort doesn’t enter the equation. The task was just easy. The praise, ” you are so good at math” is a validation of what you perceive.

    What you need to understand when the task does get difficult is that you are now learning something NEW. Learning, and understanding new things is hard work. Ability and effort work together to achieve a result.

    Knowing this enables us to voice our insecurities as well as our successes and to appreciate that we all learn things and process life at different rates.

    It removes the need for approval from the outside and places it firmly in our own heads, thus giving us the power of voice, of validation and compassion.

    We know when we do something well. We also know when others can do it faster. What we need to remember is; That does not make them better, Just faster! We also see clearly when someone does not “get it”. That does not make them dumb,it’s simply a sign of new growth,and that growth happens at different times for different people.

    Learning new things makes us feel vulnerable. We must recognize the everyone feels that fear and voicing that fear makes us stronger. Hearing the “I don’t get it!” is a signal for compassion and help and to truly feel the other’s predicament comes from understanding our own abilities and processes
    It is also Necessary to know that praise from someone on the outside is a bonus.

    The real praise comes from within.The knowing, the pleasure that comes from the willingness to start, the work and effort put in and the accomplishment of something significant. What is most often shortened now to,” the process”.
    If we learn to rely on that internal praise rather than basking in the reflection from others, our voices will grow powerful indeed.
    Cheers
    Christine

  • Tamisha says:

    For me, I was the first college graduate in my family. It was a huge accomplishment and I felt I had to follow the normal American dream – get the job, get the paycheck, stay in church and all was well. I got a B.S. in elementary education and never taught one day in the classroom. I got an MBA and have left every job I’ve had for one reason or another (aka boredom). So…for me, it was about embracing my truths and this new DIY culture and learning that I could actually create my OWN life and still keep my spiritual roots in tact. It is still a daily growth process to accept it as okay for me, but I’m getting there. Quitting my full time job recently was my first step. Some days that’s scary, but I’m determined to make it happen.

  • so many things… where to start?

    trying to be a square peg in a round holed world (and constantly being reminded of that by the adults around me saying i like to dance to the beat of my own drum)… am no longer trying and am very okay with the pulse of that inner drum.

    having peter pan syndrome – never wanting to ‘grow up’… and being reprimanded for it by others.

    allowing myself to be programmed by societies expectations of what a woman is supposed to do with her life… took me 39 years to figure out i could do whatever i wanted to do with it.

    after not being taught, finally learning how to express my feelings… to give love freely and deeply… to be ok with sadness… to feel good when i am alone to celebrate community…

    to create my own way of being spiritual after having the catholic religion forced down my throat for years… to create my own meaningful traditions… and to learn to respect others’…

    learning to do things because of intrinsic value… not external rewards… the way it was set up all throughout my childhood

    being taught to be mindful and grateful from spiritual warriors, after many mindless years and not realizing just how lucky, safe and abundant my life has been.

    and most recently, coming to the realization that the guru, the divine, peace and happiness are all inside me, not to be found elsewhere.

    so glad i finally learned all of these lessons and continue to learn each and every moment how to be the best me i can be.

    thanks for your post, your website and your empowering voice.
    -Jennifer

  • What a great post…that completely resonated with me…and how i’m raising my children.

    I was always told I was brilliant. Smarter than my friends…capable of anything. When ANYthing didn’t happen I assumed I was a failure and just about quit doing anything.

    I had to learn to believe in myself and trust my instincts to regain the lost confidence.

    As a mother of 4 I always reward hard work and determination. I am reassuring without being overly doting…I want them to know hard work, and believing in themselves will bring them results and soul satisfaction!

    thank you again ๐Ÿ™‚
    ~lisa

  • catherine says:

    Very interesting questions, Tara. I like the way you bring it out into the open and ask “why are so many of us still paralysed in sharing our voices”. For me, it’s all about doubting myself, not believing in myself and fear of being criticized. Of course, I have worked on these issues for many years. I follow a wonderful site where I have finally been able to express myself and not worry about being judged or ridiculed for what I say. I was absolutely petrified when I first started to write on it. I have so much bubbling inside and I think I am finally getting to the place where I can release some it. Thank you.

  • Evelyn says:

    Looking back, analyzing, figuring out the ‘what’ that happened…all good things to do. But for me, the most important question is ‘What now?’ How do I move beyond my past and learn to be me? to play? to create? Hopefully your next essay will address that! I’m so open to ideas.

  • Monique Van Loo says:

    Dear Tara,

    I can’t explain, but many of your posts hit me directly in my soul. Same for this one. I have been so blessed, loved and talented and after having 2 children started a downward spiral of feeling worthless and not good enough. I am working my way up, sometimes already up on the hill, but at the moment in some kind of valley. I know it’s all part of the transformation phase I am currently in, but sometimes I get angry, impatient, sad, tired….. But in general, I am definitely enjoying the road I am travelling at the moment.

  • Klara says:

    Thank you for this article Tara. I have recently turned 30 and the “why’s” started rolling in faster than I could answer them. It started coming from a place of contemplation and found its way into my dreams. I wake up after long dreary dreams of feeling frustrated, always a child crying and not being heard in my dreams. I never realized the extent to which I grew up in an anxious ridden home. It never occurred to me that it was not normal. Thank you for providing this platform, where I can truly speak up and perhaps even through that answer the “why’s’. I was 17 when I went to University, not knowing what to study, without guidance from my parents, who were going through their own deep depressions. So I chose what seemed ‘interesting’ and unconventional – a drama degree. I did very well at school, but grades slipped as I was severely depressed and anxious – my parents could not help. University was bitter sweet most of the times. I made bad choices, was lost, times were dark. I can not help but wonder whether my life would have been different if I studied medicine or law. I know I am bright and have potential, just not always how to cultivate it. I dread the question from folks, ‘what did you study’?, ‘what do you do’ – as I answer, I sound like a stranger to myself. It is painful, but also powerful. Hopefully in time, I can salvage the pieces of myself that was lost in childhood and early adulthood and grow into the person i’m suppose to be.

  • Pamela says:

    Why? What happened here? How did so many of us lose and shut down our voices, or turn away from our right paths? What is the primary, fundamental cause, if there is one, and what are the secondary ripples that happen from there? Why are so many of us still paralyzed in sharing our voices in the world?”

    I wish I had a universal answer to your questions! Reading the responses and reflecting on my own experience, there does seem to be a theme that we lose our voice when we lose faith in ourself. And as you point out even people who grows up in a relatively supportive environment can manufacture their own voice of doubt and unworthiness. Perhaps then the root reason we shut down our voice and shy away from our path is connected to forgetting our connection to spirit, to divinity, and to love. That what we desire is already inside. That worthiness is our birthright. And we don’t have to do anything to deserve it. But when we forget, we clam up. We worry we have to say the right words and do the right thing and look the right way in order to be okay/accepted/loved/worthy.

    But perhaps this is all okay. Perhaps even necessary. Because there is so much beauty in the remembering. The re-connection. The learning to speak up, share out, dive in. Connect, engage, go beyond…again and again.

    I think many of us are still paralyzed because of a lack of mentors, older sisters, role models or other ‘real life’ people to light the way. This is why I am so grateful for you, Tara. Your light and your words have been such a blessing, and I am grateful every time I read them. Satya!

  • […] you are also trying to find your way, check out this post. In it Tara […]

  • […] post was prompted by Tara Sophia Mohr’s What Happened. Posted on 04/28/2011 at 3:44 pm in confessions, lessons learned, writing | permalink | Care to […]

  • Miss Britt says:

    Reading this scares me as a parent. I want my children to know they are intrinsically worthy, because I didn’t always know that.

    For me, I felt like it was my job to make my mom happy, and I failed at that job.

    Reading all these stories makes me wonder though if this losing ourselves so that we can discover ourselves on our own terms isn’t a misstep, but a vital part of life.

  • Pamela says:

    I would agree- a vital step indeed ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jennie says:

    As you have so eloquently discussed in your post, our life forms us and creates us into the beings we are today, and who we will grow to become tomorrow; all based on our desire for change, personal development and spiritual growth. At age 40, I feel like I am just now finding myself. Everyone has a story, and I am no different. I feel I am such a late bloomer in life due to the need to heal, grow and learn from childhood and the effects that lingered. I had an incredibly loving mother who did much to overcompensate for my late father. He was a beloved preacher to those outside the home, but behind closed doors was a demon. My truth was considered lies by the two people I tried to confide in — a childhood counselor, and an associate pastor with my father. I learned to then only tell people what they already believed, just so I could be left alone. Any emotions I showed as a child were mocked and belittled. I then grew into quite the stoic adult, not showing great likes or dislikes for anything, keeping passions, desires and fears hidden and protected. I’ve only recently, thanks to a loving husband of now 4 years, feel free to show true emotion and actually cry — either for joy or pain. Our precious 2-year-old also has helped me understand and enjoy the emotions that make us human — love, fear, hope, uncertainty, anticipation, surprise, adoration, dislike, pride, humiliation, honor, disrespect, confidence and the like. I know what happened in my case. Life happened. And it made me who I am today and I am so thankful for being allowed to live long enough to learn to love myself, which paves the way for me to better love those around me. Tara, thank you so much for your openness and ability to articulate your words so well, and so beautifully.

  • Seonaid says:

    This is a tough one… I go around and around with it, but I think for me it came down to balancing what the adults told me: “You’re so smart, you could do anything you want!” against the criticisms of my peers, who told me in no uncertain terms that all this smartness was not something that they valued, that it marked me as different, and that I’d better learn not to reach above my station.

    I learned to play small because I learned that it was a condition of social acceptance, that people who took up too much space had no friends, that nobody likes a know-it-all, or a smartypants, or a loud-talker, or the opinionated. And that only the extraordinarily lucky or talented got to do what they wanted in their lives, and that the rest of us had better just learn to make do with the crumbs that were left over.

    Meanwhile, the “really” smart people were doing spectacular things, and I was still trying to keep people from being upset that I might know more than them about something, so I learned to keep my mouth shut. Or, even worse, to plant the ideas with other people and then step aside while they took credit for them. Or to throw the ideas into the middle of a big meeting where it would be forgotten who said it in the first place. Or to write them in papers that went into the drawer for final revisions, and never got back out again. Or to present them at tiny conferences where only 6 of my peers would hear them, and then declare that “good enough”.

    I’m kind of done with that, but I don’t know how to do it any differently yet. So I’m working on it.

  • Kids are smart, and they know when they are being praised for nothing. I can see how that would lead to a fear of disproving the compliment. The sad thing is that well-meaning parents are doing this in an attempt to boost their kids’ self-esteem.

    I also agree with the importance of a spiritual connection. Since I’ve found a church that resonates with my eclectic ideas, my happiness has soared.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Tara Gentile says:

    Kim, I think what’s awesome RIGHT NOW about this is that you can show them all the amazing women who are NOT choosing!!

    Feel free to have them email me: hello@taragentile.com

    Or just have them check out all the awesome women entrepreneurs who are doing what they love and making sweet coin!

  • Lisa Sanchez says:

    Familiar indeed.

    “How did so many of us lose and shut down our voices, or turn away from our right paths? What is the primary, fundamental cause, if there is one, and what are the secondary ripples that happen from there? Why are so many of us still paralyzed in sharing our voices in the world?”

    In your asking, I think you answered all of your questions (for me AND you).

    Praise results in fear of failure – fear of failure results in paralysis. I think our University experiences are merely (necessary) extensions of this dynamic and our way of proving to ourselves (and society) that we are worthy of this praise. (Imagine the self-doubt and lack of credibility that might ensue without your University experience.)

    Beyond empowering people to overcome fear, spiritual connection also opens a channel to love, quantified in many ways: self-love, selfless-love, divine-love, nature-love.

    So what happened? Fear. What happens now? Love…and gratitude (thanks for making me think about this).

  • Nic says:

    Tara, this speaks to me on so many levels that it is almost scary. I’m 17 and I guess, given my age, it goes without saying that I still have much to learn. In school, everyone praises me as being someone with a big heart, who cares for everyone, sweeps the classroom floor, is hardworking, is smart, a good student (imagine that wholesome girl who has everything together character archetype)…

    I too lived my life to serve God, everything I did came from Him. So when people praised me, I was confused. My peers and teachers alike seem quick to praise me, without even knowing me well enough, that I find myself completely unable to identify with them. I had to play a role when I spoke. I have become really quiet and reserved. I fear speaking up or doing the ‘wrong’ thing. I feel extremely lonely, having to be like this in school, and as much as I try to draw on my inner voice, I find myself unable to fully be myself.

    Having to mask my true self (who loves learning and helping others in any way I can), I find that it has seeped within. I feel hollow too. I have become very emotional and personally-involved that I really don’t know how to get out.

    I wish I had blocked out the praises from the very start. I mean, I wish I had the capacity to trust myself enough to know what was authentically me and what wasn’t. Right now, I’m just caught in between.

  • Prime says:

    Dear Tara: this post really resonated with me. So what happened to me? I ended up with a job I hated because I was busy making money, busy trying to impress everyone, busy validating myself, busy mimicking other people’s dreams, busy trying to cover up my insecurity and fears.

    I especially loved this graf in your post:
    “I remember the first time I realized, with some shock, that spiritual connection translated to all kinds of achievement in the secular realm. These ideas and sense of purpose I would receive through my spiritual life would win me all kinds of awards, and got me into the most prestigious schools. This seemed like a big secret most people didn’t know about — the secret of what actually can bring achievement and success. It’s certainly not the only road to worldly success, but it’s seems much more pleasant than the toiling and scheming one. When I fell out of that spiritual connection, I lost my access to the guidance and inspiration for sharing my voice in the world.”

    – This is one thing that really put me back on track and is spurring me to do what my heart tells me to do (being a location independent entrep) – it’s being more connected to my spirituality. it helps me to focus on my personal mission, to hold on to my principles even if others are just scammy, to not be distracted by envy and insecurity

  • alane says:

    for me it was being afraid– of saying the “wrong” thing, of being judged, of not being loved or liked. it was easier to just go along & not make waves. i am now recapturing my voice– it’s not easy & it’s still scary but it’s necessary for living an authentic life & a life that i can be happy with. thanks for the great post!

  • donna says:

    Having kids, not having enough support, not having enough time, working in a male-dominated feeling and getting chewed out for being late one day when one of the kids was late and I had to find alternate day care.

    I don’t think it was ever the same ever that.

  • donna says:

    male-dominated field, that is. Perhaps it was a male-dominated feeling, too, though.

  • Elif says:

    Beautiful post Tara. It really resonated with me. Likewise I found Pamela’s comments about remembering and re-connection so uplifting. After years of forgetting my true self in an engineering job, this is the year of turning to my right-self. I am looking forward to starting to Play Big with you Tara.

    Love,
    Elif

  • Malory says:

    It happened to me went I continued taking my creative and risky career to the next level. That level itself was a huge testament to my industry’s belief in my abilities. But my family – especially my mother who doesn’t understand why women do anything but procreate – were waiting underneath this level like a pack of sharks. They expected me to fall in at some point and knowing they had that attitude scared me out of my wits at the next level. Anytime I hit a confusing and challenging time, I freaked out about eaten alive as a failure instead of figuring out how to get of my rut.

  • naomi says:

    I found this from DesignSponge, and it resonated. I’m one of the older readers, looking at my last 30-50 years (so’s I got good genes – I hope) instead of my first. I spent too many decades being an excellent secretary or making someone else’s work, freezing when I tried to make my own. When my mom was in ICU, dying, I took a drawing which had been praised by many, and pinned it up in front of her. On oxygen, she stared at it, and then slowly gasped out, “It’s good. Give . . me . . a . moment . . . and I’ll . . . criticize it.” I realized that the years of criticism weren’t dislike but pushing me to do better.

    I’m still pushing against my blocks, making the work of others, but accept that at 55 I have time to accomplish my goals and be proud of myself. I’m bookmarking your blog. Thank you for such insight.

  • Lucky Victor says:

    This is a great post and I agree with the common consensus: it resonates.

    I also agree that “how” and “what” should override every “why”.

    Thanks for the insight, it was incredibly helpful.

  • Wanda says:

    It was a nervous breakdown on the night of the biggest event I organized, in college. After months of work, of not knowing how to inspire, of not understanding how to delegate– My mother always insisted that we learned on our own. I still struggle to teach others what I’ve learned.
    Everyone pulled in to support me. I bounced back and gave my speech. The event was a success with obvious glitches. Still, afterwards I ran away, I looked for something else that would make me feel the same, only to quit when it became like it was.
    Then, being asked What was my WHY to growth, it stopped me and sent me on a state on non-action thought. I looked for my why, it was an amazing trip that started the amazing journey I am currently on.

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