Surprisingly Sneaky Ways We Play Small—How To Pivot Into Power

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By Dawnell Kelly—

You should be more confident. You should own your skills. You shouldn’t be intimidated by others’ success. You should just be yourself.

The list of “shoulds” is long, uninspiring and ineffective with an added flair of judgmental undertones. We know this, but it still takes up space in the backs of our minds.

Consider this: Do you subtly change your demeanor based on who you’re talking to? Obviously, we have over-arching life roles which we approach appropriately – personal, professional, romantic and so forth.

I’m talking about the sneaky side of playing small. Do you catch yourself shifting your posture, how you phrase things or even your opinion based on who you’re talking to? Maybe you shrink down, nod a lot, use your hands excessively, speak quickly or not at all.

Sometimes we try to subconsciously determine who is the dominant authority in any given conversation or situation. Here’s a bite of insight. When interacting with people “more experienced” than you, you don’t need to show up less to make them feel more important.

They know they’re important, that’s how they reached this level of success and experience. If anything, they’re living proof that when you step into your power and live authentically, you too will experience success and wealth in your own unique way.

Speaking of success, what does that mean to you? Are you afraid of criticism if you show up fully in every situation? That’s understandable. As Tara Mohr states in her book, Playing Big, “Often, when it comes to powerful women [personal attacks are] vulgar, shaming, and inappropriately personal.” This is certainly a valid reason to hold ourselves back in the world of business.

However, what if we viewed success differently? What if instead of fear of criticism, we saw empowerment embodied? Not only in ourselves but in all women in business.

When you realize you’re not alone in this, that women everywhere are reading this and relating, it’s easier to be yourself. Take a breath and picture yourself showing up authentically and living in your integrity.

Understandably, a powerful pivot is never cut and dried. You don’t just read this article and immediately call everyone you know to tell them how powerful you are. There is a messy middle of evolution. Part of this transition is simply being aware. So have compassion and give yourself grace as you explore this new concept fully.

Now, check out this point of view – Being successful benefits more than just you, which is why it feels so good. Your truest desires are no mistake. Whether you’re a lawyer who wants to start a meditation practice or a corporate executive who wants to teach soapstone carving, your desires are valid and needed.

Stay with me here. What you desire is matched by someone who also desires it—from a different perspective. As David Gikandi stated in his book, A Happy Pocket Full of Money, “When you truly desire a yacht, at that same moment, someone else truly desires to build one, because we’re all connected.”

Shying away from our true selves is draining (which we commonly refer to as “feeling a little down”). There are many sneaky ways we shy away from what we’re meant to do. One clever way of playing small is “fake progress”.

Fake progress gives the illusion of reaching your goals, but leaves you spinning your wheels with little to no growth. This includes constantly researching, endlessly studying, planning and procrastinating.

You’ll know you’re caught in this cycle when you don’t tell anyone what you’re doing—or worse—you use the phrase “someday” as if it’s a day of the week.

For example, let’s say you desire to create a mentorship program. This will teach and guide people how to succeed in life as an adult. It will fill in the gaps between school and adulthood including financial health, taxes, cooking, housekeeping, healthy relationships, mental health, networking, setting boundaries—you name it!

This idea is exciting! Of course, you immediately start shying away from it. You’re thinking, “But I’m not qualified to run a program like this! I need a mentorship certification, maybe a master’s and some formal program coordinator training to say the least!”

This is where procrastination sets in. Now you’re drowning in a pool of “to-dos” that have nothing to do with your original idea. You quickly burn out with all these perceived “requirements.” Now your program—the one that will help millions of people—stays safely on the shelf.

So, using this new concept, let’s try this again. You think, “What can I actually do today to make this goal happen?” Lightbulb! You realize you can reach out to your target audience—potential mentors. You email 5 experts in the areas in which you need a mentor, and ask them if they’re interested in your mentorship program. Then you get some real feedback right away, so you don’t waste time on the wrong track or get paralyzed in your own head.

Long story short—You can reach all your goals. You just can’t reach them all today. What you can do is realize what you truly desire and block off time regularly to work on it. Use the 1-2-3 Method to ensure you stay on track and you don’t get overwhelmed.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you get excited about doing it. That feeling you get right before you start something exhilarating—going on stage, riding a rollercoaster, starting a podcast, etc. You know the feeling.

Write down your goals related to that feeling. Take one small step to reach them today. Now you’re not only reaching your truest desires–your definition of success–but you’re excited about it too.

I’m Dawnell Kelly, the CEO of Auxly – a project management agency for women-led businesses. Check out www.auxlyhelp.com and connect with me on LinkedIn.



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