biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: 3 Big Lies That Could Be Holding Back Your Business

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Tara Sophia Mohr, a writer, coach and teacher who helps women play bigger in their careers. She’s a columnist for Huffington Post who has been featured on the Today ShowForbes Woman, Whole Living and in numerous other publications. In today’s post, Tara tackles some of the lies that may be keeping you from true success, and she offers even more advice in her post 10 Rules for Brilliant Women. Thanks, Tara, for this inspiring post! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

You’ve learned so much about the tactics of running your business, but what if what’s holding you back now isn’t the operational stuff but some lies running through your head?

In my work helping women play bigger, I see biz ladies telling themselves 3 big lies — to the detriment of their careers and their happiness. Are these untrue thoughts holding back your business?

Lie #1: “I’m not ready yet.”

We’ve all got an inner voice that says, “I’m not ready yet.” “I’m not ready to submit my portfolio to that magazine.” “I’m not ready to reach out to that major potential client.”

Here’s my loving question to you: How the heck do you know? I know it feels like you aren’t ready. I’m all for women tapping into their inner wisdom to assess what’s right for them. I really, really am.

But smart and talented women consistently underestimate what we are ready for. When we feel scared of leaving our comfort zones or of failing, we come up with what sounds like a very mature reason to not go for it: “I’m not ready yet.” We usually follow it up with the very responsible “I’ll get more experience/education/practice first.”

In my own work, I decided to give up assessing what I’m ready for and be guided my own creative impulses and dreams instead. When the Today Show called, I was overcome with the feeling of “I’m not ready yet.” I was sure I had to hone my message more, or practice doing some smaller, regional TV shows. But I also knew that the “not ready” voice in my head was usually wrong. I put one foot in front of the other and did the show. The “I’m not ready voice” turned out to be completely false. I did better than fine — it was a great segment and a huge impact on my business.

What would happen in your business and life if you set aside the question, “Am I ready for that yet?” and instead followed your creative impulses and your heart’s desires?

Lie #2: “If this was really my calling, I wouldn’t feel so resistant to it.”

You might have noticed that while on the one hand, you feel called to start the business, to do that more radical thing with your creative work, to start writing, to start speaking — whatever it may be — on the other hand, you also fear, resist, and generally want to run the other direction from that calling.

We’ve got a false idea in our culture that we’ll always feel in love with our callings and run toward them with open arms. The truth is that we resist our callings — sometimes for decades.

We avoid our callings because they take us out of our comfort zones and because they demand that we leave the herd. We resist them because going for them entails risk of criticism or failure.

If you see your resistance as a normal reaction to your calling, what new possibilities open up?

Lie #3: “All this great feedback should make me feel more confident about my work.”

Not true. Fascinating research by Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford University shows that praise doesn’t boost confidence. Get this: when people praise kids on their innate talents in some area (e.g., “Wow, you are so good at art!” or “Wow, you are very gifted at math!”), they become avoid doing more challenging tasks in that same domain (art, math, etc.).

Why? The kids worry that their next piece of work will prove that they aren’t actually so gifted.

Many creative women (myself included) have had this experience too: praise about their abilities has made them feel afraid to put themselves out there and take risks.

Dweck’s research uncovered that when kids are praised on effort (as in, “Wow, I saw how hard you worked on that painting – good job!”) rather than innate abilities, they eagerly jump in to a next, more challenging task.

In your own life, can you pay less attention to praise you receive, and focus on congratulating yourself for hard work and persistence?

Has one of these three lies been impacting your business? Please share in the comments.

Suggested For You


  • I feel like the “I’m not ready yet” lie affects me constantly with my business! I feel like I’m still too small to get the things I want. Thankfully I have a great business coach (my husband) who tells me differently all the time.

  • All of these are dead-on, but that last one especially. Well-meaning people always seem to tell photographers they’re talented, when in reality it’s usually hard work and dedication (and lots of time behind the camera) that got them to that point. It scares me half to death when people call me talented, I’d rather get a “you’ve come so far” comment any day.

  • Have these lies been affecting me and my business? Heck, yeah.. Some days those lies are running my life and leaving me paralyzed. Other days, I say”Good morning!” to them, and get to work. I find the best defense against them is getting something (anything?!!) done — right now.

  • I recently found this series of posts and I am LOVING them. I eagerly await each one (and I go through the archives when I can wait no longer). So, first, thank you so much for exploring these topics!

    Now, secondly, thanks for the motivation. Today I am going to do what I feel like I am not ready to do… stayed tuned (I hope).

  • #3 is spot on…confidence is really an inside job! i get a lot of fantastic compliments on my art but it really comes down to what i think of it and believing in myself and my ability. altho outside validation is awesome, it is very short lived!

  • Wow, I needed this advice. I just started a new business venture and feel so under qualified and afraid to make a mistake. I am afraid of taking on new clients because of a fear of failure or not being ‘ready’. I guess I just have to push myself to do what I know I CAN do.

  • ?This is so perfect! I feel that it applies to me no matter what I’m focusing on today – making paintings, trying to sell my paintings, or even the more commercial aspect of my business. I can always do better and aim higher!

  • This was so helpful. I was actually going through each and every one of these thoughts just this morning. Time to jump off the self-doubt wagon and start kicking some butt. Thank you!

  • This post is spot on. I left my job to run my own business 10 months ago and so far it’s going okay, but I know I need to push myself even further out of my comfort zone to turn okay into great!

  • Smack! Right to the point! It was like big fat reminder. Thanks.
    Been hearing a lot about getting out of the comfort zone. I’ve actually like, put a foot out and then back in kinda. Maybe I should really get out there.
    Fear of failure, judgment and the other’s opinion are what’s keeping me back. the hell with that. I am actually trying it out now. :D

  • Great post! They’re all true for me, but number 3 is the one that is most surprising to me. Good feedback is wonderful, but also makes me really nervous. I’m afraid of raising expectations and having to live up to them. Yikes! Thanks for the reality check.

  • Number three has had the biggest impact on me. Being told constantly as a child how talented you are, takes all the hard work out of a result. It also muddles up the reality of persistently working, over time, to reach a goal.

  • And I thought it was just me! Great to see these points written down and validated. It will be harder for me to ignore or give in to these feelings now.

  • All three ring true to me as well. #3 really hit home though. I am my own worst critique and when I get compliments on a project I’ve worked on all I can see are the flaws. Thank you for posting this!

  • Perfect. These really hit home today and I love love this post as it is always inspiring. Totally can relate to #1. Just do it!

  • Great advice. I work as a copywriter and get consistent work with companies. But, I’ve hesitated to go for the “big fish” that ultimately would pay considerably better because I feel that I’m not ready yet. I keep telling myself when I have more in my portfolio, then I’ll do it.

    Thanks for the advice. It came at just the right time.

  • I was walking back from my local shops yesterday knowing I’d wasted yet another day, thinking of why…in the three years I’ve been freelance/ self employed, I’ve had so many ideas on how to develop my business or a side line I can go into, but nothing has happened. I thought…it’s me! I can’t blame anyone else..I’ve not finished anything off, not pushed through the barrier to make it work..other women have successful businesses up and running in that amount of time. I’m creative and full of ideas so why why why am I holding myself back? Then I read your post and it all makes sense! Thank you. Still don’t know what to do about it but at least I can try to analyse things from the right perspective now and see if I can change my mind set somehow.

  • Wow perfect timing. I recently started taking part in weekly markets in our Capital city of Cardiff. Its in vintage/antiques and painted furniture and ive only been involved in this area for about a year. People are very nice, praise a lot and buy my things but it hasn’t helped my confidence. I feel less confident to branch out into the designs I really want to do. This week im throwing in some more of my hand painted, detailed pieces. Hopefully they will go down well but all i see is the things I could do better! Why do I do these things to myself? Whats the worst that can happen? People dont like them and I have to repaint, so what!

  • I think the biggest lie is the “I’m not ready yet” . If you get organized and focus and for sure have a Great partner like I do have my husband. You have lots of chances to overcome this lie!

  • This is really helpful–I’m so guilty of the “I’m not ready yet” mode of procrastination. Thanks for introducing me to Tara Sophia Mohr. I really like what she has to say.

  • I can only hear the first one (I’m not ready) in my head, and only sometimes. BUT I’m pretty good at realizing it’s a lie and talking myself out of thinking that.

    The other two (about ‘my calling’ and ‘praise’) I can’t relate to at all. I haven’t felt so passionate about any other job or career ever in my life. The praise I get from customers and always fuels my drive and gives me confidence to move forward. It’s difficult for me to understand it would have the opposite affect in others.

    Either way, thanks for sharing!

  • Wow. That last lie really resonated with me. I can’t tell you how often I’ve told myself “I’m not good at sales” or “networking just isn’t my thing” and I think it’s directly related to how I’m congratulating myself. If I’d just focus on the efforts I’m making and not the results I think my overall attitude could be much more positive and maybe even more productive (but even if it’s not more productive, who cares?! At least I’d be having a better time!). Thank you for this post.

  • Yes! Every one of these is true- in fact they seem to just rotate through my psyche. That’s fantastic advise to focus on the effort. Isn’t it all about the journey anyhow? All about the inspiration, the spark, the flow? I keep an eye on that spark when any of these thoughts hop in.

    Thank you for this great post.

  • Number three really resonated with me – I studied & wrote poetry in college and have pretty much stopped because some of my senior thesis work was so highly praised by my professor/peers that I freaked out and have been afraid to write. That said, this post is giving me the courage to move forward with this and other endeavors! Thank you :)

  • All true. I especially thought that #2 was very insightful. It can be very hard to know where resistance is really coming from, and whether or not you should be pulling back as a result. Great post.

  • Wow, I could really relate to all three of those. I think many of us suffer from “imposter syndrome”, and it’s a little comforting knowing that we’re not alone!

  • This is such a great article and like for many other commenters, it came at the perfect time! I’ve been mauling over starting a blog for a while now. I even have a small notebook where i write down all my ideas but havent felt ready. Everytime time i think Ok, tonight im going to start that blog! i get home, look at my computer and chose to do something else instead. This fear of not being ready really is paralyzing. So thank you for this, and for the segment on Heritage radio too!!

  • Yes!
    I am about to embark on another job of Window Displays and I have great ideas ,but I am so afraid they won’t like it. It’s a woolen store and I don’t knit at all
    (I’m a sewer). I know my visions and what catches my eyes ,but It’s got me in knots.

  • Let me tell you have I have had this tab open in my browser for a couple of days and I was so afraid to read it because I knew it would apply to me. Thank you so much. I read it and now I’m going to take action.

  • It has been interesting to read these comments along with the post. Lots of insight there too! These are all true for me but like many others it was number three that caught me. Through school I was always told I would be a writer. I was so built up about it I was afraid to prove them wrong. I became an artist instead and didn’t run into it again until I was in an international show with well known artists. I just kind of plummeted after that for about six months and never did figure out why. After painting my way out of that corner I have since run into it on and off but not quite so badly. I occasionally teach and I think this is such a good thing to keep in mind. I always teach people tho that everyone has something unique and it is their job to find what it is that is theirs. It keeps a bit of a lid on that..Thanks for the post!!

  • I am REALLY excited to take Playing Big this year. All three of these have impacted what has, by just about any measure out there, been a pretty stellar career. I know I could do so much more. So, SO much more. And enjoy it and just really take it to the next level.

  • After reading this, I think when someone tells me, “Your so talented!” which is nice to hear…but after seeing lie #3, Im going to respond with, “Thanks! I have worked so hard!!” That way I reinforce that idea that it is really hard work, and I must keep at it. :)

  • The “I’m not ready yet” is my #1 crutch in really getting my professional organizing business version 2.0 off of the ground. It’s especially difficult because this is my second go at creating this business. The first “failure” is always at the back of my mind. Thank you for these series of articles. The advise is sound and the tips/tasks are practical and useful.

  • so true, it’s so hard to leap out of your comfort zone. You will always surprise yourself when you try… and what’s the worst that can happen? I’m going to show my mum this blog too because her world is becoming smaller and smaller because of her lack of confidence.
    and me… I’m going to start NOW…….

  • Oh, boy! Get out of my head. Actually, THANK YOU, I have been engaged in all three of these lies and it is definitely holding me back. I am in the process of going forward with some big commitments, so this helps!