In this exclusive extract from her ground-breaking book Playing Big, Tara Mohr explains how women can handle self-doubt and stop feeling held back…
I think of it as “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. We begin our journey here because it is what most holds women back from playing bigger.
All women grapple with this voice of self-doubt in one way or another. For some women, it is most prominent around their professional lives. For others, it comes up around their sense of competence as mothers or partners. For others, it speaks mostly about appearance, body image, or aging. And for others, it chatters most loudly about their creative dreams— to make music or paint or write. We are so used to living with this voice, most of us don’t imagine it could be otherwise. It’s become the background noise we live with. Since women don’t talk to one another about the most vicious things it says, we don’t hear counterarguments or get support, and we don’t learn that other women—women we admire because they seem so confident—hear the same irrational, harsh voice in their heads too.
The costs of women’s self-doubt are enormous. Think of all the ideas unshared, businesses not started, important questions not raised, talents unused. Think of all the fulfillment and joy not experienced because self-doubt keeps us from going for the opportunities that would bring that joy and fulfillment. This is the bad news around women’s self-doubt: how pervasive it is, and how much has been lost because of it.
Yet there is also good news about women’s self-doubt— and the good news is less well-known: while “confidence issues” seem complex and difficult to address, they don’t need to be. It turns out you don’t have to find a magic source of confidence, dig deep into childhood wounds to find the roots of your insecurities, or figure out how to permanently banish that critical voice in your head. Instead, 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.
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