5 Reasons to Read: Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr
It's unclear as to how I first came across Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr. I want to say it was through the Women At Work podcast (another HIGHLY recommended resource) but I can't be sure.
However it just showed up in my life (just before the holidays in 2018), it's now been kicking around in my head ever since. I've bought four additional hard copies from my local bookstore (Books and Mortar!) to give away to friends. I've also downloaded the audiobook so I could listen to it again and again while driving or getting ready in the morning (more on this later).
This book has significantly changed how I think about my goals, my interactions with others, what I feel called to do professionally and how I frame professional and personal challenges.
So it makes sense I want to share it with as many women as possible!
(DISCLAIMER: Other than Amazon's standard affiliate payout if you buy the book through my links — which isn't much — I'm not getting paid anything to hype this book. It's just that good.)
So here they are — Five reasons to read Playing Big:
Reason 1: Call a staff meeting with the voices in your head.
There are lots of pervasive, cultural roadblocks that hold women back — a long history of gender discrimination and lack of access to resources are two that immediately come to mind — so many of which are out of our control. What's nice about Mohr's book is that she gives back some control to women in the forms of voices that are already talking in our heads. That's where your inner critic and inner mentor come in (the first two chapters of the book).
Mohr is the first person (resource?) to give me a clear, tactical roadmap on how to best deal with my inner critic. As women, we've been raised with certain ideas about how the world works, and those ideas and perspectives are so ingrained into our thinking that it's extremely difficult to overcome — even if those ideas and perspectives are flat out wrong (not to mention mean!).
In a nutshell, here's what she helped me do:
Many women say the inner mentor work is some of the most powerful work they've done, and for me, it was worth the price of the book.
"Playing big doesn’t come from working more, pushing harder, or finding confidence," said Mohr. "It comes from listening to the most powerful and secure part of you, not the voice of self-doubt."
Reason 2: Name and own your fear
Chapter 3, "A Very New Old Way of Looking at Fear" uses two Hebrew terms for fear which has been extremely helpful for me to name and identify my feelings of anxiety when it comes to taking risks:
You really need to read the book to get the whole explanation, because I can't do it justice, but I know that by being able able to look at fear differently, I have been able to make stronger, more confident decisions (plus help council my friends and students on how to move past the things that scare them).
"That’s the problem with pachad—it fires way too frequently, often simply in an attempt to protect us from emotional risks that we don’t really need (or want) to be protected from. When we feel pachad, we need to work on shifting away from responding out of fear so that pachad doesn’t dictate our actions."
Reason 3: Take the Leap
A lot women I know (who admittedly are mostly white and upper-middle class) are control freaks. Certainly I am. So often when our jobs, relationships, health, spaces and families feel out of our control, we desperately try to lock down and manage the chaos so we feel less anxious about it.
But often that control shows up as hiding and stalling: Saying we're not ready, that we need to get more money or education (that's a BIG one — check out this NY Times Opinion Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office for more on how women often use education as a sort of shield against playing bigger).
"The antidote to all that hiding and stalling is a special kind of action called a leap," says Mohr. This chapter took some time to really sink in for me. On some levels I'm good at leaping, but if I'm honest with myself, most of my "leaps" are pretty safe. Mohr has said that many women end up reading the book more than once (*hand raised*) and the chapters that resonated the first time through are different than the second time. Chapter 7 definitely felt this way to me.
"Leaping changes your concept of self from I want to be a woman who . . . to This is who I am."
Reason 4: Let yourself off the hook.
As a writer, Chapter 4, "Unhooking From Praise and Criticism" resonated so strongly with me I kept listening and reading it over and over again, each time amazed at what new thing I learned and absorbed.
In this chapter Mohr talks about her personal experience of growing up being praised as for her writing skills, but then later on became so paralyzed by praise and criticism she had to stop.
As Mohr grew older she started to become obsessed with getting praise for her work, while at the same time going to great lengths to avoid even the most constructive criticism. Her writing process became so fraught with anxiety that she stopped writing entirely for seven whole years. This follows my own path so closely that I fell to my knees in the shower listening to Mohr speak about it. I'd never realized how much being hooked into praise and criticism held me back.
As an entrepreneur, writer and even professor, I am forced to deal with criticism all the time. And yet I still hate it. I often avoid reading student feedback because I can't stand the feelings that are wrapped up with their comments. This chapter really helped me reframe praise and criticism so that I could actually benefit from reading feedback.
"Playing big is a kind of bold and free motion, and both the fear of criticism and seeking of praise limit that movement. When we are petrified of criticism or are in need of constant approval, we simply can’t play big. We can’t innovate, share controversial ideas, or pursue our unique paths."
Reason 5: Easy is the new hard.
Mohr's advice in Chapter 10 is a breath of fresh air. As women, we are always striving, always working so damn hard to prove we're okay, that we're good enough (if you struggle with this, you should check out Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, another book which changed my life). Being everything to everyone is really, really hard work.
Mohr gives us several other ways to frame and think about our goals, so that goal-setting feels less like a burden and more natural, more fulfilling, more in service to both ourselves and the world.
“I’ve come to know, in my own life, and in the lives of the women I work with," says Mohr, "that where we think we need more self-discipline, we usually need more self-love — not just self-love as an attitude, but self-love manifested through the routines and rituals that we set up to enable the changes we desire to happen naturally and with ease.”
"We want to set up plans for action that work for 'the most exhausted version of ourselves' not an idealized version of ourselves."
Have you read Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr? Are there other books you've read that you've found helpful in your journey to more fully step into your life? Leave your comments below!
Like what you've read? Do me a solid and share it with your networks.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
I support my family and women via my blog, which is why I often use affiliate links. If that's an issue, you can go directly to the websites themselves to buy and I will never know. 2) You can trust my recommendations — I won't sell out to make a fast buck. 3) Early on I appreciated when trusted experts pointed me in the right direction. 4) If you like & want to support my work, then you'll help give others the resources they need to live a brave, authentic life.