Playing Small vs Playing Big

I am striving to do the work. In the last two weeks since I have written my last post, Hard Decisions I have done less than I feel I am capable of doing. When I said that I wanted  to start selling my jewelry I wasn’t specific enough. I have floundered without a set schedule or clearly defined work. I have done stuff, just not the high-level stuff that will move me and my business forward. In short, I let my fears and anxieties win. I haven’t been taking myself seriously, first as an artist and now as an entrepreneur.

I make good jewelry, I don’t want to brag or sound arrogant, but I have worked hard over the years and built up my skill sets. What I’m struggling with now is figuring out exactly what I want and need and figuring out exactly how to do it. My problem is that I’ve played small, not living up to my potential.

I have read a lot lately. I’m halfway into the book: Playing Big* by Tara Mohr, in which she talks about woman’s issues and how they hold themselves back, for many reasons, culturally and otherwise. She talks about the inner critic. According to Tara the inner critic is “…’the voice of not-me’ -the internal chatter that tells a woman she’s not ready to lead, she’s not enough of an expert, she’s not good enough at this or that. It’s the voice of self-doubt, of the inner critic.” I identify strongly with her idea of the inner critic. I think that way a lot.

I have listened to the voice of my inner critic too much these last few weeks, letting my fears and “what if’s” get the best of me and letting it prevent me from doing the work that I need to do. The good news is that instead of waiting for the voice to go away “…you simply need to learn how to live with the inner voice of self-doubt but not be held back by it, to hear the voice and not take direction from it.” Tara writes: “In fact these woman [Cherry Murray and Twyla Tharp] grapple with self-doubt because they are playing big, regularly exposing themselves to criticism and visible failures and expressing their unique ideas and leadership in the world. Their words show they’ve been able to play big because they know to recognize the inner critic as just voice within – not the ultimate authority”

In order to deal with the inner critic what you need to do is label it, recognize that it there and keep going. “It seems too easy, but it’s true: you don’t have to do all that much with your inner critic.” says Mohr. This is very counter-intuitive to me, because what I’ve thought in the past is that I need to fight against it. I wrote about my fears in a blog post called “Choice and Fear“.  I need to remember, as Tara says: “You are not the critical voice. You are the person aware of the critical voice.”

In the book, Mohr gives 9 strategies for dealing with the inner critic, which I will not get into here, but the main thing not to do is not engage, don’t argue with it. The reason for this is: “When you spend any time arguing with the critic, the critic is ‘winning’ because while you are busy arguing with it, you are not doing your thing, putting your voice out there, risking failure to fulfill your aspirations, nurturing your budding dreams.” I love the language that Tara uses when she writes.

In conclusion, having an inner critic is a good thing, as Ms. Mohr writes: “many women find their inner critic speaks up most loudly around their most deeply felt dreams for their lives and work, because we feel particularly vulnerable about them. They experience the most panicky, overwhelming, self-doubt when they are moving towards what they truly long to do. The inner critic is like a guard at the edge of your comfort zone…when you hear a major inner critic attack, you can often greet it as good news: it likely means you are playing bigger.” Because my inner critic has been so active that means that I’m headed in the right direction. If I didn’t hear my inner critic, then I would be running away from what I am meant to do. I want to play big.

I’m working on playing bigger, staying in the uncertainty zone. I’m going to try some of the suggestions in the book and do some of her exercises. I need to work on acknowledging that the inner critic is speaking, naming it and moving on.

Is there anyone else here struggling with moving forward in the face of your inner critic? What strategies are you using? Please let me know if you are, I’m interested in hearing more.



  • *please note, this is an affiliate link if you click it and buy something I will get a small amount of money*

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