Ep #77: Are You Playing Small?

playing small

I’m serving you some tough love on the podcast today, friends. This topic is a huge one in getting to your goals – if you have any – and if you don’t, that’s fine too. I’ll be addressing the difference between playing small and feeling content where you are right now.

All of us tend to want to play small or unconsciously hold ourselves back when we think about up-leveling any area of our life. Whether it’s a business goal or a personal goal, there are a multitude of stories we tell ourselves to feel secure and safe where we’re at. Today, I’m breaking down some of the most common stories I’ve seen in other people, as well as stories I’ve told myself, to help you question if you are truly happy where you are or whether you need to break out of your shell.

If you’re wishing for fame, fortune, recognition, or anything else for your life but you’re not willing to do what it takes to get there, that’s the worst place you could possibly be. I’m showing you today that you can be absolutely 100% happy where you are, or the alternative is to do something about it and it’s going to be so worth it in the long-run.

If you want to keep this conversation going, you have to join my free Design You Podcast community on Facebook. We have great conversations over there about the podcast episodes and our podcast guests are in there too! So head on over and I’ll see you there! 

What You'll Learn From This Episode

  • What I mean by playing small.
  • How to identify if you are playing small.
  • The one reason why any of us play small and some ways this might be showing up in your life.
  • What unworthiness looks like when you’re holding yourself small.
  • Why it’s important to dig into your beliefs and practice thought work.
  • The difference between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking.
  • How the fear of rejection can keep you playing really small.
  • What determines how far you’ll go and how successful you’ll be.
  • The only difference between those who reach their goals and those who don’t.

Featured On The Show

Full Episode Transcript

You are listening to The Design You Podcast with Tobi Fairley, episode number 77.

Welcome to The Design You Podcast, a show where interior designers and creatives learn to say no to busy and say yes to more health, wealth, and joy. Here is your host, Tobi Fairley.

Hey friends. So today I’m back with a solo episode, you know the ones where it’s just me talking. It’s not an interview, but I love these episodes because I always have so many things that I’m thinking about and working on and putting to work in my own life that I’m dying to tell you. And I have one of those for you today.

So in the coming months, I have a ton of mind-bending, mind-blowing interviews with amazing guests, but for today, I want to talk about the idea of playing small or holding yourself small. So that’s what we’re getting into right here, right now. Are you ready? I’m ready.

So what do I mean by that? By playing small or holding yourself small? Well, it means you aren’t becoming all that you’re capable of. You aren’t believing in yourself at the level that you could be believing in yourself, and you’re not stepping into your greatness or even believing that you’re great. So you’re holding yourself small or playing small or showing up in a way smaller way than you could be.

And maybe it’s even that you believe that you aren’t capable of doing what it would take to reach your dreams. You know those things when you lay your head on the pillow at night and you’re like, I don’t even want to tell anybody, my dreams are so big and I have such a huge vision for what I could be and what I could do and what I could change, and all that stuff. But you might not even believe that you’re capable of doing what it would take to reach that.

And even more interesting than that, some of you know you could but you’re just not willing to. So let me be clear about something first before we go any further with this conversation. You are only holding yourself small or playing small if you believe that you are. So here’s what I mean. You get to decide what your life looks like and it is absolutely 100% your choice whether you do anything with your life.

Like whether you make a lot of money, whether you have a job outside the house, whether you step into your potential as a person, as a human, as an artist, as a creative. You get to decide what you do. And you can completely decide 100% honestly, truthful with yourself that you do not want to show up any bigger than you’re showing up right now, that the place you are is perfect for you.

You are not only fine with it; you’re elated about it. Being fine with it, that might fall into the playing small. Being perfect with it, elated about it, knowing that this is exactly how you’ve designed your life to be, and maybe it is not going after huge goals and you’re great with that because what you desire is calm and simple and quaint and connection, deep, deep connection in a smaller way with your family or your friends or those you love.

Totally fine. That is all good if that is what you want. I have no judgment at all whatsoever and really, nobody else should either. Now, some people might judge you. We can’t control what other people do but I’m just saying like, no judgment on my part and hopefully on anyone else’s part because of this podcast and this topic if you’re choosing the life that you have and you’re really, really happy with it. Totally your choice. I love it. It’s your life. We all get to make our lives the way we want to be. That is not what I mean by playing small.

But here is what is totally different than that. If you are not where you want to be financially and you haven’t reached a level of success or recognition or you haven’t served a group of people at a level that you know you can, or the world at a level that you know you really dream about serving, or changing things, or making a difference, if you haven’t done one or all of those things and you’re not happy about it, it’s not what you want, you want something bigger but one of these things that I’m about to read to you, one of these statements, if one of these is true for you then you are playing small.

So if you want bigger money or fame or recognition or to make a difference but you’re not willing to do what it takes to get there, or you aren’t willing to do the hard work, if you think of it that way, it’s just too hard, or you aren’t willing to be emotionally uncomfortable because heck, it’s uncomfortable to stretch ourselves, to have big goals, to put ourselves out there. So if you’re not willing to be uncomfortable.

If you’re not willing to face your fears about a lot of things – I’m going to talk to you about one in particular in a little bit, but if you’re not willing to face those fears and those fears that would come up if you were going to play a lot bigger, put yourself out there in a bigger way, if you’re not willing to do that, that’s one of the things that says you’re playing small.

If you’re not willing to spend the time it would take. Because some people want instant gratification. They’re like, well I want all that but if I can’t have it in the next year or three years, then I’m out. Or what if you’re not willing to spend the money it would take? And maybe you don’t even believe you have the money or that you could make or generate the money. You’re like, I can’t afford it. I can’t afford it, often is code for I’m playing small.

And if you’re not willing to risk failure or more accurately, not just risk failure but if you’re not willing to experience the failure it will take to get to your goal because let’s be clear, it’s not just that we risk failure. We got to go through failure because none of us are going to get any of this stuff right on the first try.

So if you’re not willing to fail multiple times at something, or if the rejection that you would have to feel, that it would take to get to where you want to go is just not an option for you, and if you’re not willing to think creatively and problem solve and figure things out and think differently, think differently than the way you’ve always thought about something, then you’re also playing small.

So if any of these things, if any of these thoughts, concepts that you’re not willing to do are involved, even though you desperately dream about and want a higher level of success financially or in some other way, then you really aren’t willing to do what it takes to get there and that, my friends, is playing small.

You aren’t willing to do the work. And a lot of times you’re not willing to be flexible in the how it happens or the how long it takes to get there. And you’re not willing to keep showing up every day even if it’s not on your timetable or your plan. If it doesn’t look the way you thought it would so you’re out, that is also playing small.

So if any of these describe you, and trust me, they describe most of us, but we’re just talking about you right now. I’m just talking about me, you’re just thinking about you. So if any of those things describe you, then you are absolutely holding yourself small, you’re playing small.

And the way you know, again, is that there’s a disconnect between your dreams and what you’re willing to do to achieve those dreams. So as I said a little bit ago, if the dream is exactly what you’re living, you don’t truly want anything more than what you have right now then you’re all good.

But be honest with yourself because some of us want to pretend that we’re happy right where we are and we know that’s not true. There’s that voice in our head or that yearning in our heart, or something in our spirit that just says I want more. I could be more. I want more money, I want more recognition, I want to make a bigger difference, I want to be significant in some way, but we’re not doing what it takes to get there.

So why? Why do we hold ourselves small? Well, there’s truly just one reason, but that shows up in some different ways. So let me tell you what the one reason is, then I’m going to give you some examples so you can see maybe how you’re holding yourself small, playing small.

So do you know what the one reason is? There’s only one reason why any of us play small. It’s our beliefs. And this is so timely for me right now with my Design You coaching program because this month when I’m recording this podcast, in the month of September, September is all about our beliefs and how our beliefs are holding us back. So this has been top of mind for my community, but it’s also just top of mind for me because I’m digging so deep into this right now.

I’m calling myself out in the areas, the ways, the places that I am playing small. So what beliefs keep us small? Well, to be perfectly honest, the list is basically endless. There are so many reasons why we do this. But I’m going to give you some of the more common examples, the more common ways we say this, think this, do these things, these beliefs, that show up for a lot of us and really equal us playing small.

So I’m going to give you those examples and then you’ll be able to see if you’re falling into those categories, if you’re sort of guilty of these beliefs or what I prefer to call lies. Because let’s just call it what it is, right? Beliefs, that sounds sort of like, we have them, we all have them, they sort of sound like the truth. Let’s just go ahead and call them lies because they are not the truth.

Beliefs are just thoughts that you’ve thought for a long time. And so they seem true because they just are so natural for you because you’ve practiced them so many times in your mind. And they’re not the truth. So if you’re guilty of believing some of these lies that you’re telling yourself, I want you to know it because they’re keeping you stuck in a place that doesn’t align with your dreams.

So here’s the first one. First, a lot of people don’t think, don’t believe rather, that they are worthy. They don’t think they’re worthy of success, or maybe they’re not worthy of success at a certain level. That’s how tricky it could be. So I’m believing and have been for years, I’m worthy of success, to a point. The point where I get to every single time, and then I have to up-level again and learn to believe that I’m worthy of success at an even higher level.

And we have to do this work consciously. So I totally get it. I get what this looks like. So it might not be that you just think you’re completely unworthy. If you’re like, no Tobi, I don’t think I’m unworthy, look at all the things I’ve done in my life. But I want you to dig in and make sure you’re not believing that there’s a cap on your worthiness.

So worthiness is a pretty woo-woo topic, it’s a little hard to quantify, but I want you to think about this because often, unworthiness sounds something like this. Well, I’m not like so-and-so. Put any name you want in there. Put my name in there. I’m not like Tobi. She’s done so much or she’s so smart or she’s just really good at business, or she’s just really creative.

And honestly, it does not matter the who because so many of us have a laundry list, again, like a mile long of the people we could put in that spot. Well, I’m not like Oprah. I’m not like Michelle Obama. I’m not like Mother Theresa. I mean, whomever you want to put in there, is there a person that you think – any person, even just one person, even if it’s something you know personally, is there a person that you’re putting in that blank? Well, I’m not like so-and-so. I’m not as worthy of that level of success, that level of money, that level of recognition that so-and-so is worthy of.

She’s done more than me. She’s got more experience than me. She’s smarter than me. She’s whatever more than me, right? That’s what unworthiness looks like when you’re holding yourself small. And it’s tricky because it sounds so true, right?

And if you’ve ever thought any thoughts that fit into that whole imposter syndrome category, like why me? Why would they hire me with all the amazing options out in the world? Why would they feature me in their magazine or on their cover with all those other amazing celebrities out there? Why would they choose me to speak at their event? Or why would they choose my product to win the award? Why me? That also is unworthiness.

Unworthiness feels kind of like not believing there’s a seat at the table for you. Actually, just like that, or that there’s some kind of club that exists that’s a different level than you. Like they’re in that club and I’m not good enough or smart enough or rich enough or sophisticated enough or some other enough to be invited into that club.

And whether it’s a real club or one we make up in our mind, which more often than not it’s that one, we’ll grab a bunch of people that we admire, we’ll throw them in a club in our minds together like they actually have this sisterhood, like a secret handshake in our mind, they’re all in the club but we’re not good enough to be in that club, that group of people that get those kinds of clients or those kinds of projects, or those kinds of speaking engagements, or that kind of publicity.

So are you guilty of believing there’s clubs, these secret clubs that you’ve made up in your head and you’re not part of, you’re on the outside of the club, the circle? So no matter what level you get to, if you don’t practice mindset work, if you don’t dig into your beliefs and see what you’re believing and be honest with yourself, and if you don’t cultivate these feelings of worthiness, then you’re always going to feel like you don’t quite have what it takes to get to the next imaginary level of success that you have created in your brain, in your world, in your belief system.

And you may have heard me say this before, but I love calling a belief system your BS because so often it is truly full of BS. We’re believing all this stuff that’s not true, that has no really basis in reality but our eyes, our thoughts, our evidence sure does seem to support it. So we believe it.

So think about this right now and think about where you fall on this worthiness scale and whether you feel like you’ve accomplished a whole lot in your life or if you believe you’ve barely accomplished anything. It doesn’t matter. I promise you, at any level, there’s a good chance that you can imagine a few or even a long list of people that you feel like you just aren’t up to their level.

And if you have the situation where you were going to be with them at a dinner or you both were invited to speak on the same stage at an event or something like that, that you just wouldn’t feel comfortable or capable enough or confident enough to join into the conversation, or to also speak at that event where they’re speaking, or any other scenario that comes to mind where you just don’t feel like you’re as worthy or as good or as capable or competent as they are.

If that exists, that’s unworthiness and I want you to check and see where you’re holding yourself small, playing smaller, not taking risks, not becoming what you could be because of this. So just an example to give you, when I’m thinking about this, I can think of a lot of people that I feel like are in a different category than me, and I have to work on this.

Let’s just pick somebody like some of my influencers that I think are like, on the super high level. So say, Oprah Winfrey, or even Rachel Hollis. She’s really been becoming very popular and I’m inspired by her and I think she has a million followers on social. And so I ask myself this question. Do I feel like I can jump into a conversation with those ladies or even be speaking at an event where they’re speaking on the same stage, and be in the line up with them?

Or even be interviewed by them and know that I am just as smart, just as capable, just as interesting, just as whatever as they are? Or would I feel less than? Would I feel insecure? Would I feel totally on a different level? Because if I would, that is unworthiness and that very belief will keep me playing very small no matter how high I get.

So it’s true for me, it’s true for you, and believe it or not, it’s probably true for some of those people that we’re putting up on the pedestal. So it’s something we have to work at. So besides unworthiness, there’s some other reasons that we hold ourselves small. So there’s the concept or the belief of scarcity, meaning there’s not enough.

So what does a scarcity belief look like? Well, if you ever ask yourself what do I have to offer that isn’t already covered? What could I possibly add to the conversation or the marketplace in the way of a course or a program or a service, or something of value that hasn’t already been done? That is scarcity thinking.

Abundance thinking, abundance beliefs tells you there’s plenty of room for you to get in and make your mark. Scarcity thinking says why would I try that? It’s already been done. So if you ever find yourself thinking that. I even just had someone tell me that on a phone call today. Well Tobi, why would we create a program? You’ve already created one.

So if you ever find yourself thinking well, Tobi, or Amy, or Brooke, or Rachel, or Hillary, or Susan, or whomever has already created a program like that, or sort of similar, or a program, period, why would I create one, then you’re totally falling into the scarcity belief trap and this one is huge.

And here’s what I said to the lady today. I’m like, I think I’ve got less than 200 people in my coaching program. It’s making me a whole heck of a lot of money and it’s growing like crazy, but guess what? 200 people. There’s eight billion on the planet almost. Do you think there’s room for some other programs, even if they’re similar to mine? You better believe there is.

So no matter what category, group, audience, industry, if you choose an abundance mindset, there’s always room for you if you believe there is. So when you think there isn’t enough room for you to show up in your own big, authentic way because someone or a lot of people beat you to it, that’s scarcity and it will cause you to play small.

And also, in the same kind of vein or category of that type of scarcity thinking are a couple of other things that really are best friends with scarcity. And that’s time and money. So pay attention that if you think there isn’t enough time to play as big as you could, or enough money to do what it would take for you to play bigger or really big, then guess what, you’re still in scarcity.

So you will stay right where you are because guess what, if we believe it, so it is. If we believe there’s not enough time, there’s not. If we believe there’s not enough money, there’s not and there never will be. So that’s having scarcity beliefs. And I want you to notice that whatever you believe, it will be true. 100% of the time every time. That’s why beliefs are so important to understand, to be aware of, and to be willing to change.

So I find myself sometimes thinking scarcity mode, scarcity beliefs and mindset that I can’t be a star or shine in certain categories of the market. So I can totally shine in the design industry because I’ve already done it. I have evidence. I did it. Now, years ago I didn’t know that I could and I had scarcity about it back then but I worked through those beliefs.

Now it’s so easy for me to see what I can do in the design industry. Been there, done that. But if I’m not careful, the scarcity creeps back in that I couldn’t possibly be a star or shine or add to the conversation in another area. In life coaching, in digital marketing and online content creation. And all of that, just like anything you’re thinking with scarcity is BS.

But it still sneaks up on you and it does me too, so you have to really pay attention. So if I’m thinking well, I can’t be a star over there because all those people know so much more than me, and if I started to share my ideas or have a conversation with them or they heard me at a speaking engagement and they thought I was silly or stupid, then that would be horrible, right? That’d be the worst thing ever.

So if that’s the case, if those experts on those topics would think that I was dumb, then there’s not enough room for me over there and I’ll just stay in my lane and just be a star where I already have been planted. Total BS, y’all. Completely. And it’s very, very sneaky, as I said, the way scarcity shows up. And it seems so true. We believe it.

That’s the most frustrating part to me about mindset work is our thoughts are optional. We don’t have to think them. We can pick a different one. But when we’re not used to practicing awareness around them, we’re not paying attention to them, they just float in and out thousands of times a day and we take them at face value. We believe they are the truth, and I’m here to tell you they are not.

So there is always room for every single one of us to show up as big as we want to anywhere, in any category if we’re willing to and if we believe there is room for us. So again, whatever you believe will be true. If you believe there’s no room for you in that industry, there won’t be. If you believe there is, then remarkably, miraculously, there’s room.

So check in to your beliefs. I remind myself all the time about this. I remind myself that I know a lot. Not only can I add something to conversations, I might know stuff that those people don’t even know, that I’m admiring and putting on the pedestal. I have so much to offer, I have so much to add, but guess what, even if I don’t, at the very least I can still step up to the table or on to the stage and see what I can learn and how I can grow by showing up fully and completely, and not holding myself small.

So I remind myself that all the time. I remind myself other things like that best marketing and the best content is so simple. The best marketing, the best content, the best courses, the best programs, guess what? A lot of time they’re written on a fifth grade level so they’re easy to digest and easier to use.

So we make up this big story in our head that things have to be so out of the box, so off the charts, brilliant, smart, unique, creative, and it’s just not true. In fact, a lot of times that stuff never even really connects with an audience. So stop making it seem undoable, unreachable. That’s scarcity mindset. Just because I may not know the most or I may not be the most unique, I know, I firmly believe that I could be very valuable to at least some part of the industry of the audience and maybe, just because I do show up I’m of value because a lot of other people are too afraid to.

So scarcity and worthiness, two biggies. What else is keeping us playing small besides these two? Well, there’s the very related to both of those, fear of rejection. This one is huge for so many people. What if I put myself out in a big way and I get rejected? What if I don’t feel supported and I feel so embarrassed in some way? That is just the worst thing that could possibly happen.

In fact, so many of us truly believe that we can’t survive rejection and its emotional friends like embarrassment that we literally will die of that. But I’m here to tell you nobody dies from emotions. We think they’ll kill us, but we’ve heard the term die of embarrassment, but nobody really dies just from being embarrassed.

So I want you to see if fear of rejection is an issue for you that’s keeping you playing really small. And rejection can mean a lot of different things, right? So here’s what it might look like for you. I’m afraid, I fear rejection because what if I create social media posts and I don’t get any likes? Or what if I do an Instagram story or even a live video on Facebook or Instagram and nobody shows up?

Guess what friends, if you do a live video, nobody’s going to show up. At least not for a while. And especially not on the first one, other than maybe your mother, right? Or like me, my aunt Helen who will see me on Instagram or Facebook, hey, what’s she talking about over there? But let me just tell you, if that’s going to be mortifying to you, if that’s going to feel like rejection, you’re going to quit after the first time.

So what if you get no likes? What if nobody comes to your webinar? What if you do a webinar and you promote it by email and social media for weeks and nobody shows up? Are you going to then go back in your shell? Are you going to play small? Or just thinking about that, will it keep you from ever doing the webinar because you’re like, nope, not doing it, nobody’s going to show up and I’m going to feel like a fool?

Guess what, you get to choose whether or not you feel like a fool. You get to choose whether you decide that’s just learning and experience and yay, I got my first one under my belt and nobody saw me make all those mistakes because no one was watching. It’s all in your beliefs, but a lot of you believe rejection is so bad, and there’s a whole list of these that you could come up with right off the top of your head.

What if no one came to my live event or my speaking engagement? What if nobody clapped? What if nobody gave me any validation or compliments about what I said or did or created? What if nobody bought my course or my program? What if I pitched myself to a magazine or to speak at an event or to be on a podcast, or I asked someone else to be on my podcast, what if they all said no?

What if I entered a competition for my work and I didn’t win, or submitted myself for an award or to be on a list? Like one of those lists of the best people in my field. What if I submitted three years in a row and I never got chosen? Or what if it was just some other kind of competition or thing that I pitched myself to, or hey, what if I pitched myself to a big time client that I just felt was way out of my league? What if they said no? I’m just not going to take a chance. It’s just too risky. I’m not going to do it. I’m going to stay small. I’m going to play so small.

And guess what, if you never pitch, if you never post, if you never show up, there’s 100% chance that you’ll never get a yes. But you’re letting fear of rejection keep you small. Another way to put this one is not just fear of rejection, but I’m not willing to fail. I’m just not willing to fail.

And whether you are willing to fail and how many times you’re willing to fail is the very thing that determines how far you will go and how big your success will be. We have all heard it but we haven’t necessarily compared it to us in our own lives and how we’re playing small, but we’ve heard people talk about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter manuscripts and how she was rejected 12 times before someone said yes.

And think about that, it’s not just like, “Hey, do you want to publish my book?” And they’re like, “Nah…” I mean, she went through 12 official pitchers for book deals to publishers, 12 times she got rejected, again and again and again she got rejected, but she did not give up. How many rejections would it take you? One, maybe two, absolutely no more than three? Probably.

For most people, that’s the case. And even before that, more people than not won’t even try because they’re just fearing what the potential rejection could feel like, okay. So, how many times are you willing to fail, really, before you quit and play small again? Are you even willing to fail once? Are you willing to fail five or 10 times at something that you really dream about?

What about 25 times? Would you fail 25 times at something? Would you fail 50 times? What about 100 times? And I mean to reach those dreams, your financial dreams – what if they were huge financial dreams and being willing to fail 100 times would mean that you would actually reach them, would you do it?

So say you had a dream of making $10 million a year, would you be willing to fail at pitching your services or your program or your courses or your ideas 100 times, 1000 times, if it meant that you would eventually get to that point where you’re making $10 million a year every year beyond that, and more?

Most of us would say, “Well, Tobi, if I knew for sure that I would make the $10 million then of course I would be willing to go through the 100 failures. But if I don’t know for sure, then I’m out.” And guess what – it doesn’t work that way with the for sure. None of us have a crystal ball. None of us know for sure that it’s going to work. But I’m here to tell you that so often it does, if you’re willing to keep getting up and failing and tweaking and changing and trying again and getting back on the horse day after day after day. If you believe it will work, even if you have no evidence that it’s going to, no guarantee and you’re willing to keep believing and keep trying until it does work, guess what, it’s going to work.

But so few people are willing to do that; almost nobody. Which is why, back to my example, so few people make eight figures, which is $10 million, a year, right? The people that do make that and more, we want to think they’re an anomaly or something, but what really the truth is, that they were willing to keep doing it until they hit that.

And when you think about the people who make, say, $100 million, think of all the times they failed and see how you’re playing small, how you’re showing up, versus how they’re showing up. And you may be like, “Well, I don’t want $100 million, Tobi.” But what if you even wanted a million, or you wanted $100,000 and you’re not willing to do that?

So I want you to see that the only difference in those who make eight figures or nine figures or beyond, a million, a billion, those who do and those who do not, the only difference is that those who do are willing to do whatever it takes until they reach that goal.

Now, I don’t mean whatever it takes illegally, although I’m sure there are some people who do things that are sketchy and illegal, but I’m talking about whatever it takes you to do as far as showing up, being confident, playing big, taking risks, doing the hard work. They don’t give up. They don’t play small. They don’t let worthiness or scarcity or fear of rejection or fear of failure derail them from what they’re committed to believing and achieving, okay.

So there’s just a few others that I want to run through, some other really common things that you might be using to play small. And the next one is worrying about what other people think of you.

So, very much like fear of rejection, this one is huge for so many people. It’s just rampant in our society. And I hear it said all sorts of ways, but it usually goes something like this, okay. We’re having a conversation and I’m trying to see what’s holding people back, what’s keeping them small, and they say something that sounds so valid and so truthful and so legit, and I help to help them see – and hey, I’m guilty of it too, that’s why I can see it so well, I’m so familiar with these – but I have to help them see that these are not the truth.

But they say things like this, “But, Tobi, I don’t want to be one of those people, you know.” And here’s the list, okay; one of those people, the ones that send you a million emails a day to try to sell you things, I don’t want to be one of those people. And I don’t want to be one of those annoying people on social media or on video. Or I don’t want to be one of those people who are terrible at video and terrible at speaking engagements. I definitely don’t want to be one of those. Or I don’t want to be one of those people that tries to get me to buy something. You know those people, the ones that sell those MLM products like, I don’t know, Plexus or Rodan and Fields, or some supplement thing or whatever.

And by the way, I’m not endorsing or smashing these. In fact, I buy several MLM products. But I love to see how people are so afraid of and uncomfortable with the people who are willing to go out and sell that stuff and do a dang good job. So they’re thinking, “I don’t want to be one of those people that bothers people to try to get them to buy their product. How about maybe they just believe in their product? But anyway, let’s get back to the list.

So, I also don’t want to be one of those people that pitches me to work with them, like when I’m at a party or at an event, I sure don’t want to be one of those people that comes up to me and pitches me at a party. Well, I would call that opportunity, but if you want to think of that as being one of those people, then trust me, you’re not going to get a client at those events.

What about this, I don’t want to be one of those people that sounds salesy, or I don’t want to be one of those people that seems pushy, or I don’t want to be one of those people that embarrasses themselves online or onstage at a speaking engagement. I don’t want to be one of those people that are too expensive, that really gouge people with their prices. I don’t want to be one of those people that says no.

Hello, people pleaser. But some of you don’t want to tell anybody no, right? Or I don’t want to be one of those people that come across as bossy or a know it all or overconfident and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people that seems aggressive, right? And I don’t want to be one of those people that sounds like they’re bragging about their success, or one of those people that everyone knows makes a lot of money because they talk about it all the time.

And there are so many other sneaky versions of this that hold people back and hold people small every single day. But I want you to see, I’m having a little fun with these, but you legitimately think all of those reasons, or whichever ones that apply to you, are legit. I don’t want to be salesy or pushy or bossy or expensive or aggressive, but guess what, what if what you perceive as all of those things, which by the way is just your opinion, what if that’s what it takes to get to where you want to go? And what if the people you think are aggressive, most other people don’t think are aggressive at all, you’re just really timid and you’re just really uncomfortable pitching yourself or selling.

Guess what, that’s holding yourself small. That’s using this as an excuse. If I don’t want to be one of those people, so let me stay firmly planted in my comfort zone and make as little money, as little difference, have as little success as possible because I certainly wouldn’t want anybody to ever think I was one of those people.

And a lot of times, it’s someone in our own family that is afraid is going to think we’re that. So many of us were taught by our parents or other people in our lives to show up and be, say, ladylike, or sophisticated, or don’t be annoying, or don’t talk about money, or don’t sell to people at an event because that’s inappropriate. And I just want you to know, you get to decide what’s appropriate or not, but I don’t want you to just take at face value beliefs that were passed down to you from your parents or someone else in your life without at least questioning them, without at least saying, why do I believe this and why am I not willing to be that if it’s going to stand between me and my dreams, if it’s going to keep me small.

As one of my favorite books, which is called You Are a Badass at Making Money, what it says is would you rather be cool and poor or rich and cheesy? So, plugging in all of those different scenarios that I just said, think about it, and ask yourself, would you rather be cool and poor or rich and salesy, rich and annoying, rich and embarrassing, rich and pushy, rich and expensive, rich and bossy, rich and overconfident, rich and aggressive, rich and braggy, rich and fill in the blank… Are you letting what other people think of you, including your parents, who might not even still be here on the earth, are you letting what they think of you or would think of you playing small? Because guess what, it’s also likely keeping your bank account small. It’s also often keeping your fulfillment small and your life small, okay, and so many people are.

And finally, the last one I want to talk about is the reason I see a whole, whole lot of people playing small, staying small, not putting themselves out in the world, is because you’re not willing to do the work to get where you dream of going, okay. So usually, that looks like one of two things for people; either you believe the work is too hard, or you believe it’s too uncomfortable, one or the other, too hard, too uncomfortable.

And either way, however not willing to do the work shows up for you, or most of us, it sounds like this, “I don’t feel like doing that. I know I said that’s my dream. I know I said I want to create a course or a program or pitch myself to this big client or this magazine or raise my prices or whatever else was on your to-do list. But right now, in this moment, I don’t feel like doing it.” Because why? It feels hard or uncomfortable.

And guess what happens for most people when you think the thought, “I don’ feel like doing it,” and then you feel whatever feeling that conjures up, which could be, you know, tired, afraid, anything. When you feel that feeling, the action most people take is procrastination. I don’t feel like doing it, so let me procrastinate. And we are so very good at justifying our procrastination when we’re trying to stay small, aren’t we?

So as a part of this justification that I see a lot with people and sometimes with myself is that we can even become bothered or even angry when we see other people succeeding because it puts pressure on us, right? We’re like, well they’re doing all that stuff and it just kind of makes me mad because they’re being super successful and I don’t feel like being uncomfortable or doing hard work right now. And so guess what happens; we start to even question if those other people are really successful. Because as long as we can discredit what we see – well they’re probably not even successful anyway, it’s probably all a façade so I’m not going to go do all that hard work for nothing – guess what, playing small.

I even was just listening to a podcast earlier today that was calling people out for downplaying or being skeptical or questioning the truth of other people’s successes, and I loved this concept, this message because, you know, a lot of us can go into that. We can be cynical and not believe that others are really successful. And I’ve heard this many, many times when people are like, well you know that – and fill in the blank. It’s hard to say Oprah’s not successful because we see how much money she makes because on the news it says she’s like a billionaire. But there’s plenty of other people between us and Oprah that we’re like, well I don’t know, is that Amy Porterfield or is that Jenna Kutcher or is that Rachel Hollis or is that, I don’t know, name anybody, athlete, musician, actress, businessperson, whoever you kind of idolize or notice in your circle, it’s so easy to say, well I don’t know, are they really making money? Are they really as happy as they seem to be?

And I want you to see that being cynical and not believing in others’ successes is such an easy way to justify you not putting yourself out there. And this podcast was saying, guess what, all you people out there who are saying not only is the grass not greener over there, it’s actually fake grass, those people aren’t even successful, they’re lying – she was calling people out for saying that and saying, what gives you the right to question other people’s success if you’re not even in the ring?

What gives you the right to think those people must be lying if they’re that successful because it couldn’t possibly be that they were just willing to do all the stuff you’re not willing to do. It couldn’t possibly be that they were willing to do the work and you aren’t, they were willing to feel the rejection and you’re not, they were willing to pull up a seat at the table, even if it felt uncomfortable and to believe in abundance. It couldn’t possibly be any of that and that they made sure that those beliefs like scarcity and rejection and worthiness and staying in their comfort zone weren’t keeping them small. It must be that they’re just lying, right?

I love calling ourselves out on this, when we’re trying to stay so rooted in being small, staying small, and playing small. And I think this is so true. And it reminds me of when Brené Brown talks about the Teddy Roosevelt quote, and she specifically says, “You really don’t have a right to judge others when you’re not even in the arena.” And holding yourself small is not even getting in the arena.

And if you’re not in the arena, then why are you judging or trying to poke holes in other people’s success instead of going out and getting in the arena and creating your own, okay. So maybe, when you start to notice that, when you’re not willing to do the work and you don’t feel like showing up for yourself and then you start poking holes in other peoples’ success, maybe it would be better to shine the light, not on them, but on you, and question yourself and why you aren’t willing to succeed, question why you are quitting on yourself before you even really start. Question why you’re willing to believe that something is too hard or too uncomfortable and why you’re allowing yourself to take the easy way out with the, “I don’t feel like it,” or one of the other excuses we’ve talked about on this podcast.

So I want you to ask yourself again right now, after hearing all of these examples of how you could be playing small, are you? Do you believe you’re playing small or are you truly putting yourself out in a way that would absolutely get you to the next step on the path to your wildest dreams, okay?

And again, you get to decide, you don’t have to do any of this stuff. But just notice, if you’re really, really sure that you like your reasons for staying right where you are. Be 100% sure that you’re totally good with it, that you’re totally good with not being all that you can be, or making the difference you could make.

And if you are, then stay right where you are. But if you, instead, find yourself wishing for the fame, dreaming of the fortune, of the recognition of the achievements, but just not willing to do what it takes to get there, I personally think that’s the worst place to be.

I would rather either be totally happy right where I am, or do something about it. But wishing for the results and not being willing to change your beliefs or not being willing to do the hard work, that’s just agony to me. And until you decide to go all in, to be willing to question your beliefs, then nothing is going to change.

Okay, so, a pretty hard pill to swallow today, friends. But you see why I’m so passionate about this stuff, because I’m talking to myself every bit as much as I’m talking to you. And I get it. I’m working hard on it. But the flipside of going all in, the result I’m creating with going all in, gosh, is it ever so worth it?

Okay, so that’s all I have for you today, friends. And let me know on social media and our Facebook community, if you’ve headed over to Facebook and joined The Design You Podcast Community or send me a DM on Instagram. Reach out to me and let me know what you think about this episode and if you’re playing small. I want to hear from you. And trust me, you can look like you’re playing really big to other people and still be playing small because you know you’re capable of so much more.

And that’s exactly where I am in my life right now because, yes, I’ve done a lot of amazing stuff and I’m super proud of it, but I know that I’m capable of so much more and so I’m ready to go the next layer of believing and doing to get to where I dream of going, okay. So let me know what you think about that and I’ll see you back right here next week with another very exciting episode of The Design You Podcast. Bye for now.

Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of The Design You Podcast. And if you’d like even more support for designing a business and a life that you love, then check out my exclusive monthly coaching program Design You at tobifairley.com.

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Hi! I'm Tobi

I help creative women (and a few really progressive dudes) design profit-generating, soul-fulfilling businesses that let them own their schedule, upgrade their life and feel more alive than ever!

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