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 A of Living Imperfectly: Attitude not Aptitude #atozchallenge

Do not endeavour to shine in all companies. Leave room for your hearers to imagine something within you beyond all you have said. And remember the more you are praised, the more you are envied – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866

A Challenge LetterOld etiquette books are a great source of entertainment. Pages and pages of rules and tips on how to act and how not to act. In short, an almost complete prescription for how to be perceived as perfect by your fellow members of polite society. The entertainment value comes from seeing whether the rules as prescribed are still relevant today and if so whether the consequences of a transgression are still quite as harsh. For this reason and because to me these etiquette books are the antitheses of authenticity and a symbol of the energy involved in striving for perfection, I will try to open each Challenge post with a relevant quote from one of these books.

We spend a lot of time working on aptitude. Studying, researching and honing our skills in our relentless strive to show the world a finished and polished product. In most cases, we never even get to the point of showing the world the skills we have mastered because in our minds they are deemed not enough or as we wish them to be. And the world and we miss out. For in all of the finishing and polishing we have missed the chance to truly be ourselves and to learn even more. Worse yet, we often chose not to attempt something at all, because we know that it will not be prefect.

True it is we marvel at those who display amazing talent.

It is also true that after a certain age, we also marvel and even admire those that try no matter how imperfect they are. Namely, we admire their attitude. And why is this? Why does the 80 year old skydiver fill our hearts with so much inspiration? Is it because their technique is perfect? Or because we have finally let them off the hook of the need to be perfect?

At what point in the human life cycle is the statute of limitations reached for the need to strive for perfection ?


It is a real shame that we only allow ourselves and others the luxury of true authenticity in the twilight of their lives. This is the one time when we seem to celebrate attitude over aptitude.

When Zig Ziglar framed his famous words he did so in the context of describing the powerful benefits of a positive attitude. This post is not about advocating a positive attitude (although that helps – a lot), but rather an attitude of I am who I am and I’m ready to show the world even though my aptitude may not be the standard that I think is required.

To illustrate this point, I had an interesting conversation with a lady at my Zumba class a couple of weeks ago. She had come a couple of times but was still feeling a little awkward at the end of her third class when she said:

“I think I’ll have to practice to some videos at home before I come back, I just can’t master the steps”

To which I told her: “Don’t worry, it will come.  It took me about six to eight classes to start getting the hang of it”

To which she replied “I’m so glad you said that, it makes me feel a lot better. I really love the music and I love to dance.”

Denying yourself fun and enjoyment because you miss a few steps is just reinforcing your perfectionist comfort zone. Hearing someone had the same struggles is liberation.

Closeting your talents in the strive for perfection denies you the opportunity of real learning, feedback and growth. It may also deny you an opportunity for connection. One of the surest way to connect is to give someone the opportunity to say “yeah, me too.”

Daring to believe in your aptitude is daring to be imperfect.

To all of my fellow A to Z bloggers, happy A day and let the Games begin!

Is there something you have always wanted to try but haven’t for the fear of not doing it perfectly?

M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on]