The N of Living Imperfectly: Nothing More Perfect than a Fruitless Hot Cross Bun #atozchallenge

N Challenge LetterI have just finished my breakfast of chocolate chip infused hot cross buns. A little bit of Easter indulgence to start my Easter Saturday and I’m feeling good.

According to Wikipedia:

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada, but now available all year round

The emphasis on currants and raisins is mine.

I love hot cross buns and regularly indulge from about February to April.

But according to my morning newspaper:

When oven-warmed on Good Friday, they should fill homes with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (not chocolate, quinoa and soy).

So my home should be filled with the smell of fruits and spices rather than warming chocolate and as should my stomach.

Apparently Sydney, like other parts of the world, is experiencing  a non-traditional hot cross bun revolution. A revolution involving inventive bakers putting their buns out there containing:

  • chili
  • earl grey tea
  • ingredients to tempt the gluten free eaters
  • ingredients to tempt the vegans
  • mocha and chocolate
  • Nutella
  • Vegemite and cheese
  • lemon
  • marshmallow
  • molasses

There are also many other variations. Here is a recipe from Gastronomy.com for green tea and azuki hot cross buns if you want to be really adventurous.

I’m not sure what your relationship has been like with raisins and currents, but we have never even been on a first name basis. Grapes yes, dehydrated grapes, no. Sultanas in pinch, but fruit cake, never!

However, this hasn’t stopped me from seeking out or enjoying great buns.

Good enough to eat!

Good enough to eat!

But now I’m meant to be guilted into feeling my buns are second rate by the traditional nutmeg naggers.

This quest to convert me to current is as fruitless as my hot cross buns though. For I have decided that I am going to enjoy my perfectly imperfect Easter with my masterfully sourced buns.

Do you have any preferred hot cross bun flavours? Do you have a current penchant for currents?

Happy Easter to all my readers.

 

The M of Living Imperfectly: Managing From The Rear #atozchallenge

Handling betrayal

M Challenge LetterWe are all a walking bunch of expectations. Some involve solely our own behaviour, but for most of us they involve the behaviour of others or the achievement of an outcome involving others. I have always thought that being able to manage the expectations of others is a key skill. It certainly is in the business world. It is why the business world is so hung up on finding “influencers” and why being able to “manage stakeholders” is just as important if not more so than possessing any technical skills for a particular role. Managing stakeholders and influencing involves an intricate dance across a tightrope walk, with sometimes unpredictable results.

Like any dance, it requires practice, repetition and energy. Expectations are generally like trip wire unless they are communicated. They invariably aren’t and you only know you’ve crossed the invisible line when the alarm sounds.

Which is why having to do the same dance in non-business life seems exhausting.

Isn’t the theory meant to be that you find a group of friends and a spouse where you can be you, a you who will sometimes inadvertently disappoint by not meeting unilateral expectations? And isn’t the consequence of not meeting this expectation meant to be a moment of annoyance (if that) a possible readjustment of activity and moving on and getting on the with the friendship/relationship?

I’m not talking here about major life decision expectations, but rather day-to-day behavioural expectations.

It’s the age old social dance.

Lately, I have been constantly feeling like I’m being managed from the rear. True leaders lead from the front and are not afraid to articulate their expectations and to motivate their team to each those expectations. This is managing from the front. By contrast, managing from the rear is never putting your expectations self out there, and manipulating others to fall in line with your expectations. The manipulation can come in several forms, including guilt, leverage or anger.

On one level, it is partly my fault by letting my people pleasing tendencies respond. On the other level though, people really need to learn to lead from the front and manage their own expectations.

Perhaps this is really what happens when two perfectionists with slightly different tendencies come together.

So I have come full circle on the need to manage others’ expectations. I think we all need to take hold of our own first and not require others to necessarily fall in line with our thinking unless this outcome has been expressly discussed.

Dealing with someone’s constant disappointment is exhausting and is as wrong as being constantly disappointed.

Lead me from the front and there is a chance I will follow. Because constantly looking in rear vision mirrors can distort the real image.

The L of Living Imperfectly: Losing Yourself In Fear #atozchallenge

OK, so I know I’m not perfect. The past week of commitments has meant that I had to let the Challenge slide. It’s the first time in 3 years I have done so and whilst I would have preferred to be putting up my “O” post today like the rest of you, I am content to be back at “L” and continuing my Challenge journey. I’m looking forward to catching up all around, on the reading on the writing and on the commenting.

All of this is just to prove that I don’t pre-bake my Challenge posts. If I was that perfect I would have written them for the week and programmed them to magically appear. Whilst that’s a great idea, I prefer my posts to reflect what I feel on the day.

What’s a Challenge without a challenge, right?

L Challenge Letter In my K post I commented briefly about being held hostage to another’s fear. This is something that is always a possibility in a relationship. In our strive to love someone and make someone else happy, we can take on their fears.

When my kids were younger and invited their young play mates over to our house, it was always interesting talking to these children because  more often than not, at that age they are a reflection of their parents. A veritable transmitter of their parents’ fears. Now, everyone has the right to raise their kids the way they see fit so this is not about judging anyone’s parenting style. But it wasn’t long before you could see what grown up fears and ideas had been transplanted into these young minds.

The fear of catching a cold or of becoming messy were the real obvious ones. But there were others like fear around certain foods that were not for medical reasons or fears about activities that were perceived dangerous, something like walking on the sand at the beach near the water.  Of course, as the parent of the host child you listen, adjust and respect the visiting parent’s/child’s values.But how many of these kids were missing out because of their parents’ fears? How many of these kids would end up losing themselves because of these fears? And how many of them would transmit these fears across the generations to their own children?

In adult relationships the same thing can happen. Your partner has certain fears. For ease, let’s use dancing. How many of you have stopped dancing because your partner doesn’t like it? You go to weddings and other celebrations and you don’t dance because your partner fears looking like this and getting this reaction:

dancing

 

Dancing is a relatively straight forward fear and probably most of us can get by without dancing if we have to. But what about those more complex fears, the ones that go to your core, your passions, who you are? They can’t be sacrificed so easily without losing your sense of self.

The loss tends to come incrementally until one day the light goes on. So what do you do at that point? Do you keep losing yourself for the sake of the relationship or do you make changes in your own life to reclaim the lost parts of yourself?

The choice is not easy and there are a whole lot of complexities to sort through, particularly if the happiness of the other person is important to you. The bottom line though is that you are just as worthy and your happiness is just as important as that of your partner’s and no-one has the right to force their fears onto you. Acceptance does not mean total conformity and losing your identity. A true equal relationship is about both people being free to be able to be who they are.

Reclaiming who you are is not about being selfish. True selfishness comes from requiring someone else to live by our standards alone.

Dare to be imperfect, dare to be you.

The K of Living Impefectly: Keeping It Real #atozchallenge

 

Being yourself battle

K Challenge LetterAs most of you know this is my third A to Z Challenge and every year this sneaky letter K causes me grief. This year is no different and I’ve really grappled with this K post. I’ve never thought about K as being a problem letter, but clearly this is a lesson in imperfection teaching me to park my expectations at the door.

Keeping it real has always been a big one for me. I have always firmly believed that building meaningful relationships is all about trust, of which one of the central pillars is meaning what you say and saying what you mean. Clearly this is not always the easiest path to take and at times can be quite a solitary journey. There are other times when I meet a kindred spirit on that road and that’s when I can really feel the friendship flow and that sense of connection. There are yet others when people at first blush appear to be the real deal, but scratch a little below the surface and you know you are dealing with a pretender.

Keeping it real to me also means:

  • not having to appear busy to increase my worthiness
  • keeping commitments that I have made, but being discerning about making them
  • not being afraid to express myself respectfully
  • trying new things and laughing at failure
  • backing myself and knowing I am the real deal
  • understanding my value proposition
  • rolling up my sleeves to get the job done
  • helping people when and where I can
  • owning my part in an outcome and not blaming others for my own failures
  • eliminating passive aggression from my life.

That last one in particular is a big one for me right now. I deserve crave authentic communication. Real discourse that gets to the heart of an issue/problem so we can get on with the business of fixing it or going our separate ways if that is an option.

What makes keeping it real also hard is that we don’t want people to perceive we are selfish when we practice it. However, the reality is that although we like to think we can control perception, we can’t because by its very nature it is derived from another’s thoughts.

duck authenticity

In the end, I believe it costs us more to be what others want us to be than it is to keep it real. It takes real energy to constantly mould and play into others’ expectations. I’d rather channel that energy in becoming acquainted with myself and to manage my own expectations.

The I of Living Imperfectly: The Irony of the Perfectionist #atozchallenge

I Challenge LetterThe fundamental irony of perfection is that we are taught to strive for it only to discover that it is that ever present striving that prevents us from living a happy life. On the surface perfectionism is an admirable trait as it usually produce excellence, but it comes at a cost. And that cost is the feeling that what we are doing is never enough, we are never enough.

I work in profession dominated by A type personalities. To play the game and succeed, we were all striving to bring not only our A game, but to perpetually push and push so that one day we would be able to bring and sustain our A+ game. Writing this now it reminds me of the old party game of blowing at an air filled balloon to ensure that it never reaches the floor. Having kept the balloon in the air, at the end of the game you are left breathless and dizzy, but with a fleetingly temporary sense of achievement.

I have been researching the ways that perfectionism is ironic and have come up with the following list:

  • if ever anyone could achieve the state of perfection, it is doubtful anyone could tolerate that perfectionist for long. Fun is an integral part of life.
  • true perfection is about enjoying the moment, enjoying life. Perfectionism tends to rob us of this enjoyment and of our sense of awe and wonder.
  • believing as a perfectionist that you must never make mistakes means that you will probably look out for any mistakes or signs of failure so you can correct these immediately.

  • the demand for perfection can actually impede performance. For example, you may turn you into a chronic procrastinator because of the fear of making mistakes. This also extends to being less innovative and creative or less open to new ideas.

  • far from being liberating, perfectionism is a psychological dictatorship. As one site puts it:

These personal restrictive ‘prisons’ are built on a solid foundation of rigid rules and assumptions of right and wrong, with walls of ‘should’s’ and ‘ought’s’ and ‘mustn’t’s’, strong bars of perfectionism, unbreakable locks of defeatism, and guards of arrogance on a constant duty to ‘be right’.

This description is so apt. I was trying to describe this very thing in my F post a couple of days ago and was struggling to put it Charlie Browninto words. I have discovered over the past couple of years that letting go of the black and white thinking plays a huge part in jettisoning perfectionist tendencies. That, and humour. However it is so very easy to slip back into old comfortable habits, so one must be ever vigilant and practice conscious awareness.

One thing that has struck me already about this Challenge is that in writing about perfectionism, I am taking a rather hard line. I don’t mean too, but it generally reflects the hard line I am taking with myself for having not realised all of this sooner (more perfectionism???). On the surface, perfectionism seems to have served me well, but I am only just getting a true picture of what I have missed in being the perfect perfectionism practitioner.

It is only now, by letting my grey matter think in grey terms that I am seeing colour. And that seems to be the most ironic truth of all.

Irony quote

 

 

The H of Living Imperfectly: Hair and Hoary #atozchallenge

Indeed, simplicity is the grand secret of a lady’s toilet. When she burdens herself with a profusion of bijouterie she rather detracts from than adds to her personal appearance, while all outré fashions and ultra-style of dress, though they excite attention, neither win respect nor enhance the attraction of the wearer Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

H Challenge LetterWe all long for perfect hair no matter where we are on the ageing spectrum. Women obsess about it, men fantasize over it, our babies lovingly pull or stroke it.

Much has been written and opined about what makes hair perfect, both in terms of colour and length. Just this past weekend, my Sunday paper ran a feature on hair length. It pointed out the connection between hair length and femininity and suggested that the ideal woman in the eyes of a gentleman is a feminine woman and that the appearance of a woman brushing her long hair is very feminine, sensual and appealing.

There is clearly politics in female hair for it is expected that a woman’s hair must at all times be age appropriate.

Apparently, the rule of thumb is that whilst single, young women should maintain long hair as this is correlated to sexual desire. Once married though they are expected to cut their locks to ready themselves for the practical duties of housing-minding and child-rearing. Ladies, apparently marriage and short hair also means that we can “give up” as we have snagged ourselves a husband. Moreover, it is expected that once a woman hits 50, she must part with her tresses as a sign that her job of rearing the children is over.

H is also for Hmmmm.

I have a 50 year old friend who wears her hair long and grey. She is a very natural, nurturing person who has never coloured her hair. Her hairgrey hair length is about at her shoulder blades with bangs at the front and a feathering of length down the sides of her face. Simply by virtue of her choices, my friend has received many unsolicited not so positive remarks about not only her hair colour, but also its length.  These remarks are made not only by acquaintances, but also by complete strangers. The fact is she looks terrific and she is comfortable in her locks. She is also a married  mother of two and simply likes long hair.

Why should her hairstyle make anyone else uncomfortable is beyond me. I can only ascribe it to perfection gone made and expectations we have on what a middle aged woman should look like.

By contrast, I am hard pressed to raise any real interest in my hair from anyone and more particularly the males in my family. I have worn my hair short until a couple of years ago when I decided to grow it out as a testament to the heavy physical duties of my child rearing days being over. I let it grow to shoulder blade length and only recently decided to go a little shorter. The humid summer just past may have played a little in that decision. Two days ago I changed my hair colour considerably. One person in my family noticed, namely my younger son oh, and possibly the cat.

Maybe this is because my hair was not swinging in slow motion. Have you ever noticed that every shampoo commercial ever made depicts a young girl swinging her hair from side to side in slow motion? This might be an explanation of why washed hair in real life never looks as good as on the ads – shampoo was never meant to be used for full speed hair.

Living imperfectly means ignoring settled convention and wearing the hair that makes you comfortable. Long, short or a bit of both with a dash of grey, the choice is an individual one.

We should not become entangled in convention perfection.

The G of Living Imperfectly: Generations and Guilt #atozchallenge

Whether you’re working from home because your kid is sick, you freelance or you’re still looking for a job, there’s one thing you must do during a conference call: Get your kid to shut up.

Children hate anyone who takes your attention away from them. Like the animals that can sense an impending earth-quake, children can tell when you are about to say something very important to a client. They have a superpower and they use it for evil. You must prepare. – Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alice Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, Abrams Image 2012

Letter GIf you are a parent who is always perfect in how you deal with your children and have no tolerance for those who are not then you are going to hate this post. I suggest you look away now to avoid the stress and anxiety not to mention beads of sweat that will form above your immaculately presented upper lip once you have delved into my imperfect world. For I am about to jump into that can of worms that is perfection and parenting or as I sometimes call it, perfecting the generations.

I have been a human being for 50 years. I have been a parent for almost 20 of those years. Little did I know that almost 20 years ago, I would be given my pass to the secret code. The Mo Code. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Mo Code in a blog about how to survive a road trips with teenagers. The Mo Code is my term for things that real mothers do and say, rather than what they should say. This is in sharp contrast to the utterances of Stepford mothers or the advice given by parenting manuals and advice columns, highlighting a kind of parenting credibility gap.

From the day I first gave birth, I was thrown into a vortex of expectation, both mine and others’. Everyone wants to be perceived to be the perfect parent, or if not perfect then at least a good one. And so the Mo Code comes into play. How dare we admit that parenting is hard or that little Johnny sometimes wears the same socks for three days straight? Or that we have allowed our children to watch TV for 15 minutes whilst taking a client call? Or that we sometimes feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped, tired and stressed, namely we are not perfect parents? Most of us admit these things only to the closest of confidants and definitely behind the curtain.

And then there’s the guilt. Guilt, parenting and perfection is the great triumvirate of birthing. Those clever ad executives with their baby product clients know this and peddle all three. Everyone’s a winner, right? Well everyone except us parents. Because any satisfaction or that we may have gained from buying into this consumer perfection, quickly evaporates when the next product comes onto the market.

Really, at the end of the day the only legitimate judges of our parenting are our children and ourselves, and even then how success in parenting is defined is highly subjective.

The important thing is that we keep parenting real. We need to talk about the hardships, the pitfalls, the wins and the losses and what really works for us. And we need to do it without guilt and with humour and authenticity. In this way we will be doing a huge service notimagesFEOCU3NX only to ourselves but to future generations of parents who will carry the weight of expectation well beyond the time their baby bump has disappeared.

For this reason, a book such as Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us  is to be welcomed. Not everyone will applaud or understand as the Amazon reviews will attest. However, it brings the real covert behaviour of the Mo Code out into the open and creates a new dialogue from a most refreshing angle. As this post from Essential Kids tells us:

In fact, a recent survey by parenting website BabyCentre in the UK found that lying is widespread among mothers. The pressure on them to be ‘perfect’ led to more than half of those questioned saying they felt the need to lie about their parenting skills to make them seem like better parents to others. Nine out of ten mothers confessed to using television to keep their children quiet, while 71 per cent admitted to lying to their child to make their day easier and a fifth of those questioned said they occasionally replaced a healthy dinner with chocolate and sweets.

These statistics don’t surprise me and I suspect they would be closely replicated in Australia.

It’s a real shame that we feel the need to be pressured by perception. Parenting is a unique journey for all of us and we should be supporting each other rather than treating it and our kids as the trophies of our perfection.

I really hope that one day we can let our parenting authenticity shine though so that we can enjoy it 100% guilt free like these authors.

The D of Living Imperfectly: Dancing and Daring #atozchallenge

Lead the lady through the quadrille ; do not drag her, nor clasp her hand as if it were made of wood, lest she, not unjustly, think you a bear.

You will not, if you are wise, stand up in a quadrille without knowing something of the figure ; and if you are master of a few of the steps, so much the better. But dance quietly ; do not kick and caper about, nor sway your body to and fro; dance only from the hips downwards; and lead the lady as lightly as you would tread a measure with a spirit of gossamer –  Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

D Challenge LetterIt’s been heartening to see a few comments come through about dancing. Most of us love to dance yet most of us hesitate because we think we are not good enough. I have never danced with a spirit of gossamer, but as a teen and twenty something I loved to dance. I still do, although now I get to do it far less often.

I recently saw a documentary about a dance troupe called the Hip Op-eration Crew. Billed as the word’s oldest hip hop dance group, these spirited men and women are dancing up a storm. The members of the crew aged between 67 and 95 all live on Waiheke Island, near New Zealand and hip hop together. Whilst the majority of the 25 members are women, there are also a few males brave enough to take to the dance floor. 11 members are in their 80s and 90s, with the average age being 78.

Recently the Crew performed at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas and stole more than a few hearts amongst the hip and famous. Here’s a glimpse of their performance at the Worlds (photo from the Group’s Facebook page).

Hip Operation Perfermance Las vegas

The Crew’s main message is about fighting ageism and promoting respect with youth. They seem to be doing a fantastic job having been picked up by main stream media around the world. The documentary I saw was a two part special on ageing disgracefully and also featured a 79 years young Florence Henderson embracing life beyond Mrs Brady. The story begins with a shot of two senior citizens sipping tea with a comment to the effect that this is what is expected of our elderly. It then unexpectedly morphs with a delightful cascade of colour into a blaze of imperfection.

I am all for fighting ageism and growing old disgracefully. But more importantly, for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the dance. The dance steps are not perfect. Neither is the co-ordination. None of it seems to matter, for if the Crew had waited for perfection they never would have made it to Vegas.

And this is the point. What opportunities do we deny ourselves by our strive for perfection? Could it even be a spot on the world championship stage?

There are no world championships for perfectionism. And if there were, the chances of earning a perfect score are pretty slim.

And speaking of dancing, I am off to a highland festival tomorrow. My first ever. There will be dancing, there will be kilts, there will be extreme imperfection.

fools dancing

The C of Living Imperfectly: Choice and Career #atozchallenge

Talk as little of yourself as possible or of any science or business in which you have acquired fame Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

C Challenge LetterA couple of years ago, I went to see John Farnham in concert. For those who are unfamiliar with Mr Farnham’s work, he is an Australian legend singer whose biggest hit was a song called You’re the Voice from an album by the name of Whispering Jack. This particular concert tour was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the 1986 album. He sang the whole album track by track in order. As John (who has a wonderful sense of humour which comes through in the concert banter between songs) explained he had the idea of undertaking this concert tour in his kitchen one night and that unfortunately, he didn’t really think it through. For you see, his biggest song was track number 2 on the album which meant it was sung early on in the show.

I feel the same way about the letter C and the concept of perfection as applied to career. This is a real big one for me. And it has come earlier in the Challenge than I would have liked. So much for building to a crescendo.

For this post, I have no real wisdom to share other than my own experience.

Career has always been a big issue in our family. Being the child of immigrant parents it was drummed into me form an early age that education was a priority and that I should pursue a profession. My parents had sacrificed a lot in delivering to me a world of opportunity in this land called Australia. I just had to do my bit.

And I did. And it was good for about the first 20 years. My identity and much of my energy were firmly tied to my career. The one other thing I really wanted to be outside of career woman was a parent and thankfully, the Universe blessed me to have that experience twice.

But one day, I woke and it was good no more. Every job has its ups and downs, stresses and strains, wins and losses. Mine was no different. Every other time though the feeling of malaise lasted a matter of days or weeks. This time was different. This was a lingering, confusing doubt that had me thinking “what if” and what really was on the other side of that office divide. I remember leaving every office at lunch time and breathing some real air and watching people having a life and feeling very disconnected.

For the next seven months I tried everything to push through the feelings as I had always done in the past. And with every passing day, I sank perfect careerdeeper and deeper into despair and confusion. Tasks that had been easy and second nature seemed insurmountable and I had lost my will to learn. My thoughts swirled round and round in my head in ever-increasing circles, the answer was there somewhere but it was just beyond reach.

It was dumb I suppose, but the thought of changing careers was impossible. Based on the remuneration and status I had achieved, by earning and being anything less I felt I was letting both myself and my family down. How could I possibly justify such a radical change given the sacrifices my parents had made, given how much I had invested in my career? How could I justify having to spend money on being retrained and reskilled whilst not bringing in an income and how could I justify being so selfish? How could I do any of it at my age?

The perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter and the perfect income earner all were at stake.

So I quit. I quit so I could think and strategize and I firmly believed that when I walked out the door, I never wanted to work again. Everything that I held certain was  up for grabs. It literally felt like I had walked off a cliff and had no idea whether the landing would be painful. I had never, ever just walked away from anything before.

During my time away from work, I explored that non-office life and provided for my family in a non-monetary way. I walked and thought and thought and walked and came to the realisation that priorities can and do change in life and that it was quite acceptable to change track to give effect to this new world order. That was my light bulb moment, career perfection blown away by the wind that was enveloping me on the cliff tops which formed my favourite walking path.

I had been stuck in a prison of my own making and at last I found the key.

What then transpired was that I went back into the workforce in a similar, but not the same area. What I lost in income, I gained tenfold in motivation, focus and learning.

Career perfection or career satisfaction, the choice was always mine to make and I didn’t even know it.

In the words of John Farnham, from You’re the Voice”

We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older

The B of Living Imperfectly: Beauty and Belonging #atozchallenge

As the ladies and gentlemen arrive, each should be shown to a room exclusively provided for their reception; and the gentleman conducts the lady in his charge to the door of the ladies’ dressing-room, while he goes to the gentlemen’s apartment, each to prepare their toilet suitably to entering the reception-room – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

B Challenge LetterResearch for this year’s Challenge has led me to find some great reading material. One such treasure has been  Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are. The title says it all, doesn’t it? If a book could be a mirror, this one would be mine right now.

In it, she describes midlife in a nutshell:

People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis”, but it is not. It’s an unravelling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unravelling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

It truly does feel like an unravelling. And after the unravelling comes the sifting, the sorting and finally the reassembled product. Perhaps it is our discontent with perfectionism that finally brings us to this point. Maybe we discover that we can truly never control perception, because by its very nature it is in the eye of the beholder. And perfection is all about perception, our own and that of others.

Which leads me into today’s topic of beauty and belonging. As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves and we so often try to acquire it by fitting in and seeking approval. However, according to Brown this is a false pretext because:

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Strong words. Strong concept. Holy Guacamole!

To most of us beauty plays a central role in self-acceptance. It is the basis upon which the cosmetic, cosmetic surgery and fashion industries are built all of which sell the outward ideal of perfection. The messages start early and young, especially for women. Being physically beautiful is essential to social success and possibly even success in general. Physical beauty should be a priority, because physical beauty (or lack of) is the first thing people notice about you, it is essential to perception, it is a worthy investment. Beauty is an industry and perfection is its weapon.

Which brings us to the recent phenomenon of the no makeup selfie. You may have seen invitations through Facebook or may have given one Being yourself battleyourself to post a no makeup selfie to raise funds for cancer research. Whether this concept actually raises money is still up for question as is the issue of whether it actually has merit in the eyes of cancer sufferers. Leaving both of these aside,  what I have found extraordinary about  is that posting a no makeup selfie should cause such a level of angst or be seen to be a brave thing by women.  This has been expressed in various ways including some expressing relief that they did not receive an invitation to post. Have we really come to a point where showing your true authentic self without “your face” on is that novel or indeed that newsworthy?

To belong, we need to accept ourselves first. And that means with make up and without.

Sleep, nutrition and self-love are really the only make up we need to put our best face forward. Further, none of these run or smudge.