As boss and career women, we often don’t realize how we can sometimes be our worst enemies when it comes to putting ourselves in the running for life-changing experiences.
A few weeks ago, the Hashtags & Stilettos podcast episode “Stop Playing Small” by longtime podcaster crush and House of Success PR founder Sakita HolIey had me seriously evaluating how I really wasn’t playing as big I thought in my career. Sakita’s firm handles everything from product launches, media outreach, social media management, as well as influencer and consumer marketing engagement for top beauty and lifestyle brands. As an eleven-year industry vet and full-time entrepreneur for eight years, Sakita is no stranger to playing small and the debilitating effects it has on us Black women as individuals and as a collective.
According to Sakita, playing small can manifest itself in a variety of ways. She notes, “It’s anytime that you deny the full scope of your ability or when you try to shrink yourself. It could even be in a physical sense such as when you try to sit in the back of a room. You always downplay. You self-deprecate, make jokes, and belittle yourself for any reason.”
Sound familiar? Sakita spoke to xoNecole to share more about tips for combatting playing small, how it affects our finances, and why we as Black women need to come together and demand what we’re worth. No matter what stage of the career journey you’re on, Sakita’s advice will help you get started towards showing up and showing out when it comes to your accomplishments and capabilities.
Why did you feel the need to talk about the issue of “playing small”?
The reason I did the Hashtags & Stilettos episode is because I needed to call it out. I had to shine a light on it in the ways I [play small.] I also know that there are so many people who suffer from it and downplay their abilities, the work that they do, and what they’ve earned in life. There are so many ways that you can dim your own light. Playing small is impacting our businesses, careers and how truly full of a life we can live.
We live in a society right now that due to social media, if you don’t post, it didn’t really happen. If we want to get an idea of who people are, the first place we go to look is their social media. If you’re playing small or not sharing all of your greatness, what we do share becomes what we see. It also becomes the story that we tell ourselves about that person. While we can’t control other people’s perception of us or what they see, we are in control of how we present ourselves. That’s something we need to play attention to.
How has playing small cost you money or opportunities?
I’m a lowkey and private person. I don’t crave the spotlight at all. But, in public relations and having your own business, you constantly need to or should be on the scene. People should see you and know what you’re doing. You should talk about your work. For a long time, I have not done that. [However,] I know that every time that I do, it brings some business leads. When I think about the years that I didn’t, I’m thinking about all of that missed opportunity.
For other people as well, when you don’t put your name in the running for things, you’re playing small. When you know you’d be perfect for a role or for a project, and you don’t raise your hand, [you’re playing small.]
What are some practical ways that we can stop playing small and start putting ourselves out there for more opportunities?
1. To play big, disconnect from the fear of self-doubt in your mind. If you see something that you want to go for that sparks something within you, go for it before you start thinking about it.
2. Have people around that can hold you accountable and push you in that direction so that you’re not second-guessing yourself or being too afraid to pursue things or apply for things.
3. [We get caught up in] rejection committee thinking. A lot of times we assess a situation and think we’re so smart. We think we’re being logical and [list] all the reasons why someone might tell us no. “If someone wants to tell you NO, they don’t need your help to do it.” They don’t need you to list reasons to not hire or give you a promotion.
4. Focus on the reasons why you are a great fit. That’s what you need to be trying to leverage when you put yourself out there.
5. Leave it to chance. When you put yourself out there, there’s a 50/50 chance that it can work out or a chance that it won’t. As long as you’re not going to die, those odds are fine.
6. Play big at every single stage of your career journey or business journey. Even if you’re starting out, you’re still good at something. Even if it’s just one thing. Put yourself out there to do more of that thing or for more opportunities that will get you more experience or visibility with the right people that can change the game for your career.
“Play big at every single stage of your career journey or business journey. Even if you’re starting out, you’re still good at something.”
As Black women, how does demanding what we’re worth affect the larger community?
We’re working harder than anyone else. We work more than anyone else. Oftentimes, we are struggling more than anyone else — even with the amount of excellence that we put forth. We’re always getting the short end of the stick. By evening the playing field and earning what we’re worth, that will help the people coming up behind us. The people next to us will also be able to get what they are worth.
The more we’re doing this as a collective in our own little lanes and lives, we help everyone else. If I’m getting what I’m worth, then I’m now in a position to provide opportunities for someone else. I’m now in a position to share resources that I may not have had before. Imagine all of us being in a position to help one other person. It grows from there. When we’re barely getting by ourselves and still doing excellent work, we can barely help ourselves. How can we help someone else?
Is there ever a time when playing small is beneficial?
No. The only thing playing small does is it keeps you safe and keeps you comfortable. It may feel warm and cozy, but it doesn’t allow you to grow.
What resources have helped you along this journey of playing big?
A great book is The Dip by Seth Godin. It teaches you when to stick and when to quit. If you want to be the best and be great, you will have to go through a “dip.” There will be times when it gets really hard. In order to get to that winning place, you have to get through it.
The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Green is all about doing things in the face of fear. It uses 50 Cent’s story of how he almost died. He’s literally fearless. We see that in how he moves and does business. He doesn’t always make the right choices or say the right things but he is fearless and that has helped him tremendously in business.
Like any muscle, we’ll need to increase the reps in order to start seeing results.
As Sakita mentions during the end of our chat, “If we practice playing big or putting ourselves out there, it will become second nature.” I feel the fervor and determination in her voice as she says, “Every day, you get another chance to be mindful of your actions and how your choices and decision impact your career…there’s so many things that I have to go through to get to that winning place, but I know if I continue to move in this direction, I cannot lose in the grand scheme of things.”
So, the next time you start talking yourself out of driving towards that big dream, what will you choose to do?
To get inspiration on how you can stop playing small, follow Sakita Holley on Instagram.