Each month, for the past four months, I’ve been attending a Playing Big book club at work. I’ve been doing this mainly to figure out what ‘playing big’ really meant… and then to try doing it! Disclaimer: I’ve only read four chapters so far – but they’ve had such an impact on me, far beyond my expectations, that I wanted to share my experience and encourage others to give it a read.
The blurb reads:
Five years ago, Tara Mohr began to see a pattern in her work as an expert in leadership: women with tremendous talent, ideas and aspiration were not recognising their own brilliance. They felt that they were ‘playing small’ in their lives and careers and wanted to ‘play bigger’, but didn’t know how. And so Tara devised a step-by-step programme for playing big from the inside out: this book is the result.
I’ve attempted to read books like this before: ones claiming to have the answer to all of my ‘problems’, cryptic and vague, hard to relate to and quite frankly, boring. I was so pleased to find that Tara Mohr’s book isn’t one of those. Instead, I’m doing the Kindle-equivalent of scribbling in the margins and attacking the pages with a highlighter. Mohr just gets it. She writes what I’ve struggled to put eloquently for a while now. And while I wouldn’t put ‘playing small’ down to just gender bias, her book has awoken me to the fact that such bias is so ingrained that I wasn’t totally conscious of the fact that I was even playing small to begin with. It also made me realise that the fears I thought were unique to me are much more widespread. A broad statement, but all women in the workplace could perhaps benefit from playing bigger.
Her first chapter talks about your ‘inner critic’. I’ve always considered my inner critic to be a voice of reason. My imagination gets the better of me, but my voice of reason brings me back down to earth. She tells me that it’s silly to get my hopes up, or to believe that I might be more capable at something than other people are. My voice of reason keeps me grounded.
It didn’t take long to stop viewing my inner critic as a voice of reason. Instead, I started to question what she was saying – and found that it was often only in situations where I was considering doing something out of my comfort zone that I had this voice. Once I’d had that realisation, it became easier to acknowledge it (because that’s important too), but choose not to let it affect my decisions as strongly as it might have before.
As I continued to read on, I felt this desire to do something that embodies Tara’s message. I couldn’t really figure out what that ‘something’ might be at first, but I knew that this was me wanting to ‘play bigger’.
The third chapter looks at different definitions of fear. I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil the book, but essentially there are two types of fear – the ones that make total sense (like zombies running towards you…) and the ones that make you afraid because they ‘transcend’ you (like… I want to start a business and that’s incredibly exciting and something I’m passionate about, but what if I fail?). She lists a whole host of ways to overcome this second type of fear. The one that stuck with me, and has since become an incredibly useful tool at work, was being able to analyse the worst-case scenarios until you feel calmer and more prepared about doing the thing you’re afraid of doing. So, starting a business could go wrong, I might have to move back in with my parents for a bit, but then I’ll find a new venture, and I’ll have learned the lessons from before and I’ll be back on my feet before I know it.
So with this desire to play bigger in the back of my mind, I chose to take a (small) leap of faith in myself and volunteered to facilitate the next ‘Playing Big’ book club, on the fourth chapter: ‘Unhooking from Praise and Criticism’. The chapter gives brilliant guidance on taking criticism and knowing how to both seek and unpick useful feedback from the sea of reactions.
What feedback do I need to incorporate in order to be effective in reaching my aims?
I related to the chapter so much that I had to stop several times while I was reading, just to take it all in. I think it was this chapter itself that has made me recommend the book to pretty much everybody I come across. I went into the next book club session, still nervous, but also incredibly excited to share my experience of the chapter – I was keen to understand how others in the group had felt reading it too.
There’s something really special about being part of a book club with women who are all there for the same reason – and it felt amazing to be able to show how much the book has helped me so far. It really helps to know that you’re not alone and that stepping out of your comfort zone is much more possible than it might first appear.
I can’t wait for the next session and for my next opportunity to play bigger!