Over Christmas I read a great book by Tara Mohr called Playing Big .  It’s subtitle is: ‘A practical guide for brilliant women like you’.

In the book she points out how women play small:

  1. We use words like ‘just’ which has the effect of minimising what are going to do. I do this on all the time; ‘I’m just going to put  the kids to bed’, ‘I’m just going to write’.
  2. We apologise even when it’s not our fault.
  3. We don’t consider going for promotions or asking for pay rises until we feel 100% confident that we are good enough, and we never feel good enough.
  4. We find it hard to directly ask for what we want.

…and there are many more ways…read the book…you’ll love it.

Which got me thinking about what ‘playing big’ means to me…

  • What does it mean to you?

If I was playing it big you might see me:

  • Being more outspoken in what I write
  • Sending off articles to magazines
  • Sending off books to agents and publishers
  • Getting on with 1 or 2 projects that I have in my head which some people won’t like

Yes..Tara points out how many women hold themselves back from fear of being disliked.  She also points out that traits that respected in men eg ‘leadership’ as seen as negative ‘eg ‘bossy’ in women so no wonder we feel a bit more sensitive about how we present ourselves.

But as Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic and Tara Mohr both point out; it is impossible to be liked by everyone which I know is self-evident, but the two books have made me realise that although I know logically that not everyone will like me and that that doesn’t matter, I sometimes still act in ways which are effected by what I think other people will think..

It really got me thinking about why we do that.  From an evolutionary point of view you might argue that women ‘play small’ so as to fit in with other women so we can all share the child rearing.  We say ‘sorry’ to keep the peace and say ‘just’ so that we aren’t seen to be putting our needs above anyone else’s.  If you rely on other women for help with the harvest and with your kids, you don’t want to piss them off.

Except we don’t do that anymore do we?

So I asked myself a more specific question; why don’t I play big?

I don’t play big because:

  • People might not like it
  • I might upset my family
  • I might upset some friends
  • I might upset work
  • I might fail
  • I might succeed
  • I might not be good enough
  • I might lose my job
  • I might have people hate me
  • I might get laughed at
  • I might feel ashamed
  • I might not know how to do it
  • I don’t have the time
  • I don’t have the resources
  • I don’t have the contacts
  • I don’t know how

So…fear, self-doubt and scarcity.  They are the reasons why I don’t play bigger.

  • Why don’t you play big?

Elizabeth Gilbert has was a huge help with all of these doubts and fears in Big Magic.  First of all, she has them too; a best selling author (of Eat , Pray Love) has doubts and fears – wow! Who’d have known.  In fact she is pleased to notice fear because it is how she knows she is doing something new.

She talks to her fear. She acknowledges that it is present and that it has a role (to protect her and keep her safe) and that whatever she creates, it is always there.  But I love how she personifies fear as a passenger on the ride of creativity.  Although it is welcome on the ride, it will never have control of the steering wheel, it will never get to navigate and it will never got to make decisions about where to go or when to stop.

It was so empowering to read that one of my big heroes still gets scared and always gets scared and yet she carries on an creates anyway.

Instead of letting fear be her driver, Ms Gilbert lets curiosity be her guide.  Curiosity without attachment to the outcome, but just being interested and going with where her interest takes her.  I don’t know about you, but more than once in my childhood I was told that ‘curiosity killed the cat’, ie stop being curious.  But look at this cat, it’s curious and wants to look further than it can currently reach, but it isn’t so stupid as to take a risk that harms it, but it is taking a risk that expands it’s view.

So friend Susan and I have made a pact.  We are going to be each others Playing Big Buddy.  We are going to hold each other to account for the things we want to experiment with and take risks with this year.  We have both set out our dreams and we know the first steps to making them come true so we’re going to hold each other to making those steps.

  • Do have someone who could be your Playing Big Buddy? Someone who believes in your dreams and who will spot if you are playing small and challenge you?

Could 2016 be your year of Playing Big?

  • If fear was the passenger and not the driver what would you love to experiment and take risks with?
  • What are the first steps you would take?

Let’s get going folks and let me know how your Playing Big goes.


Stop press…I wrote this whilst still on holiday so a few weeks ago now …and I am proud to say I have done and am doing things from my Playing Big list above – hooray!


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