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Playing Big

At the Leading Women Entrepreneur Leadership Lounge networking event last week, Allison Wright told the story of E-School For Girls, the pre-college entrepreneurship program she founded to give all girls the opportunity to change their trajectory. As she spoke about this passion project, her eyes lit up, her voice got deeper and she embodied the success of these girls. Sharing something she loved, she stepped into her bigness.

In Playing Big, author Tara Mohr describes how talented and brilliant women often don’t see their own value. When we play small, that is, when we don’t speak up, take risks, or honor our abilities, we deprive our organizations, communities and teams of our creativity, wisdom and innovative thinking. We squander the opportunity for finding meaning and fulfillment in life and work.

The thing is, if we are going to play big, we have to be prepared for criticism and praise. 

I can remember desperately wanting someone to tell me that I messed up to validate my own limiting beliefs. However, with a practice of noticing these stories without judgement, we can begin draw on our own intuition and cultivated strengths to release ourselves from these unhealthy attachments. 

We tend to remember the criticism of those things that we ourselves feel insecure or shame around. For me, it was doubting my effectiveness as a speaker. I remember making a speech to a community group after my husband was elected to Town Council in 2000. A woman came up to me afterwards and said, “For the wife of a Councilman, I would have thought you would have given a better speech.“  This was almost 20 years ago and I can still feel the shame. At that moment what she said reaffirmed my belief that I wasn’t enough. Then the “a-ha” moment showed up. Something changed in me. Criticism is often more about the person giving the criticism than about our capabilities. It may be their story of doubt or their inability to be bold that causes them to lash out. Again, it’s about what is really ours and what we can let go of.

Once I started paying attention to the truth of the stories and practicing self-compassion, I began to release from the crippling hold of criticism. That is not to say that I don’t listen to feedback. I do, earnestly. 

But I am much more discerning to take feedback and criticism from those who matter most – stakeholders, potential targets and clients.   

Praise is another can of worms. Up until now I was a pleaser. I wanted people to not only like me, but to L-O-V-E me. Big mistake and completely unattainable. I was giving valuable mental energy to the wrong people.  

What I now know for sure is that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. The work I do teaching people how to manage their (and other people’s) emotions at work is not going to resonate with everyone. That’s ok. They are not my audience. Spending precious time on this non-fan group took away from those folks in my corner who are inspired by my work and who consistently cheer me on.

Here are a few guiding principles for Playing Big:

  1. Pay attention. Moving from autopilot to awareness helped me wake up to do the work that I am called to do without getting hung up on how many “likes” or “shares” my posts receive. We can build the tool of attention through meditation.
  2. Go inside for feedback. We are so conditioned to look to others for validation and feedback yet we have the inside track on our own skills and abilities. Do the work to build self-awareness and then tap into the source who knows you best – YOU!
  3. Not everyone is going to value and appreciate your work. Find the people who do. You won’t have to look far to find them, they are usually right by your side.
  4. Trust yourself. As Dr. Brene Brown states, self-trust is a condition of self-love and self-respect. If you can’t count on yourself, you can’t ask other people to give you what you don’t have.

So inhale and exhale, find your authentic voice and step into Playing Big. Give the world the gift of you!

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