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Quit Playing Small: An Unexpected Lesson From Oprah

Caroline ZookCaroline Zook Caroline ZookCaroline Zook

Written by

Caroline Zook

Quit Playing Small: An Unexpected Lesson From Oprah

A few weeks ago around Christmas time, I found myself flipping channels and landing on the annual ABC News special “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014.” Now, who knows why I stayed on the channel because none of the interviews were particularly that fascinating to me personally until Barbara sat down with Oprah.

I admire Oprah for all sorts of reasons that I won’t bore you with here, but she said something really interesting in her interview that got me thinking a lot about how I’ve been inadvertently limiting my own potential.

In the segment, they cut to footage of an old interview between Barbara and Oprah. Barbara asks O something like “How did you get here?” and the then-34-year-old Oprah says “Somewhere, I’ve always known that I was born for greatness.” 

Cut to the present and Oprah laughs, remembering the interview saying, “A LOT of people misunderstood that.” 

She goes on to say “I used to be afraid of being full of myself. I used to apologize. What I was saying is ‘I knew my life was going to go beyond that front porch of my mother’s house.’ “

[Click here to watch the segment if you like (starts at 1:23)]

Immediately when I heard her say that, it was like a bell went off inside me.

I’ve been honest in the past with you guys about the fact that one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my business is confidence.

And until I heard Oprah say “I used to be afraid of being full of myself,” I never made the connection that it actually has nothing to do with me not believing in my abilities. It has everything to do with me fearing what people might think if actually express my belief in my abilities.

Whoa. That one tiny sound bite is the key to a major mindset shift for me. 

As a young girl, I was taught to be humble. Agreeable. Cautious of appearing too full of myself. After all, no one wants to be friends with someone who’s cocky. And, even though I wholeheartedly believe I’m the furthest thing from cocky, it’s my big fat fear of being perceived anything close to that – ultimately, of being rejected in some way – that keeps me from asserting myself fully. Of asking for what I want. Of charging what I’m worth. Of ever admitting out loud the future I see for myself.

And it’s a shame.

The segment went on to show a few covers of O Magazine – of course, featuring Oprah herself on the cover, as always – and I thought to myself what a brave decision that must have been for her. I’m sure there are people all over the world that find it showy or arrogant or presumptuous of her to assume people want to see her on the cover of every magazine. But guess what? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say she’s okay with that (especially as the millions roll in) because her people know where her heart is.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying that bragging or being full of one’s self is the key to success. Not in the least. All I’m saying is that those who can let go of the fear of appearing TOO anything, are the ones that can actually fully express their own potential. 

It’s not just about believing in yourself. It’s about having the courage to SHOW people that you believe in yourself.

“It’s not just about believing in yourself. It’s about having the courage to SHOW people that you believe in yourself.”

As I write this, I’m reminded of a quote I once saw by Marianne Williamson.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

When we play small, nobody wins. We miss out on realizing our potential and the world misses out on all the great things we can create when we’re living out the fullest, brightest expression of our gifts.

Now, if you’ll indulge me, here’s your challenge this week:

I’d like to give you full permission to email me right now with one thing that you know you are REALLY good at.

Go ahead, try it out and see how it feels to acknowledge your own strengths to someone else. Not in a bragadocious or cocky way, but just in an honest way. Let me know what you excel at because I want you to practice owning your gifts.

Meanwhile, I’m going to practice seeing myself on the cover of my own magazine and being totally cool with that.

Here’s to not playing it small.

Quit Playing Small: An Unexpected Lesson From Oprah

(Big Fat Takeaway)


This article written by

Caroline Zook

She/Her | Artist, designer + writer passionate about helping soulful creatives grow into their brightest selves. Lover of bright colors + even brighter people! One half of the crazy duo running these parts!

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