Stop Setting Perfect as The Expectation

This weekend I came across this article about “Why Millennials Women Do Not Want to Lead”. One of the things I thought was interesting was the author’s point that women associate leadership with perfection in a way men don’t. And that to lead, one needs to embrace imperfection.

It makes sense. Imperfection imparts authenticity and empathy . It means being able to fail, which means you can make course corrections. To continue to make a brand analogy, for many luxury goods imperfections are a sign of quality, exclusivity and uniqueness. Imperfection takes it beyond a science to an art…the involvement of a human hand. To be imperfect one has to be able to accept the insecurities and anxieties within onself, which makes it easier to understand and address them in others:

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”  — John Kenneth Galbraith”

Unfortunately, many women often don’t warm up to imperfection until later in life.  There is something that happens around the teen years where girls stop doing things if they can’t do it perfectly. I’ve seen it, felt it and read about it often. That’s why I loved this reflection from a 40-something who reclaimed her imperfection and how much happiness and freedom it gave her.

“STOP setting PERFECT as the EXPECTATION. Life will never will be perfect but you can make your own perfect. I would say that at about 35-37 years of age, I started to accept myself.  I realized that I had all these unrealistic expectations (being PERFECT) about where I should be in my life; in my career and what size clothing I should be wearing.  The truth was, where I was, was actually a good place AND I could enjoy it and appreciate it.

I had been trying to lose the same 5 pounds for 20 years. When I was going to stop obsessing about it and enjoy the person that I was and be happy with the way I looked.   Although people acknowledged that I was doing well for myself, I never felt it.  When was I going to admit that to myself and enjoy the fruits of my labor?  Then I realized that life is not perfect and it never will be and that’s okay.  The truth was where I was in all aspects of my life was a good place, it is my perfect.  – 40-something, business owner, single mom, NYC

It’s never too late to embrace imperfection. But what can we do to raise a new generation of imperfect women? My advice…practice being imperfect as much as you can. In fact develop your own brand of imperfection.

What are your thoughts on how to practice imperfection? A few thought-starters:

1. Play sports.

2. Laugh at yourself – try stand up comedy or take an improv class.

3. Kids have play groups — why not get a work group. A group of people who work in your industry where you can test out yoru ideas without fear of judgment. See this video from Ignite NYC to get ideas.

4. Do Kareoke as often as you can.

5. Try yoga.



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