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
Old 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?