Beyond Perfection: Why Women Shouldn’t Wait to Be 100% Qualified

Let's challenge the myth of perfection and be perfectly imperfect. Karen Ann Bulluck Daring to Transcend Woman with long gray hair holding a clipboard in a white blouse and black bottoms.

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Beyond Perfection: Why Women Shouldn’t Wait to Be 100% Qualified

“I don’t check all the boxes.”
“I don’t have _________ experience.”
“I’ve never done _______.”

These are some of the reasons why women still don’t raise their hands when promotions and career change opportunities are presented. I’m sure you can think of several more.

When you start to think those things and make those statements, here’s the question to ask yourself:

Are they Reasons or Excuses?

Ouch. It’s a tough question. It’s one I’ve had to ask myself on many occasions.

Because I’ll tell you a secret: Human beings are absolute masters at making excuses. I know. I used to be AMAZING at making excuses.

The difference between reasons and excuses is simple.

Reasons are a valid and undeniable fact that prevents us from following a course of action. Reasons are based on confidence and certainty.

Excuses are exaggerated stories that we tell ourselves to prevent us from taking action. Excuses are based on fear.

The problem is that our excuses often sound like valid reasons. We can convince ourselves that missing one of two of the job requirements for a promotion or new opportunity is enough to rule us out.

So why try?

Waiting until you’re 100% qualified is a recipe for missed opportunities and stagnation. It’s time for women to challenge the myth of perfection and boldly pursue our aspirations, even if we’re not fully prepared.

We know that our male colleagues will raise their hands if they meet even 50% of the qualifying criteria. We’ve been told this over and over again.

Yet, I keep hearing from many women leaders that they continue to see this holding back, if not in themselves, in other women. Women who are highly talented and have a lot to offer. But they don’t.

Perfectionism is often at the root of holding ourselves back.

Let’s face it. We are taught from an early age that “perfection” is the goal. We have to be perfectly good little girls. We have to get perfect grades. We have to play the piano (or whatever other instrument) perfectly. You have to look “perfect”. Ed Sheeran ever wrote a song about that!

You can fill in the blanks about when you were told to be perfect.

At the same time, we all know that perfection is impossible. No one is perfect. Nothing is perfect.

Perfectly imperfect. Absolutely.

But perfect? No way.

So why do we keep trying? Why do we expect it of ourselves?

Partially because there’s still incredible societal pressure to be “perfect”. Check out this clip from the Barbie movie if you haven’t seen it. It describes the pressure perfectly. <wink, wink>

Partially because we are still expected to do more, be more, accomplish more, and generally prove ourselves more than our male counterparts. Still!

Partially because when we make mistakes or take risks, we face more criticism and backlash than men do, although I believe this is changing with the younger generations.

There are a lot of valid reasons why we feel that we must be perfect, which gives us a lot of excuses to hide, hold ourselves back, or not take big risks.

But we’re only hurting ourselves.

Let’s stop this search for perfection now! Here are a few tips on how to do it:

  1. Recognize that nothing is perfect NOR does it have to be.
  2. Understand that fear underlies the quest for perfection. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being enough. Fear of judgment.
  3. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. As women leaders, we’re often very good at having empathy for others but not so much ourselves. Have empathy. Forgive.
  4. Celebrate your successes, especially those that were imperfect.
  5. Discern that your perceived failures were learning experiencing. Don’t judge them as mistakes.
  6. Get support from other women – a trusted friend, mentor, or coach.

I know some of these things are easier said than done, which is why number 6 is so important. More than anything. We need to support each other in overcoming our need for perfection through loving and nonjudgmental relationships.

Success usually lies beyond the comfort zone. We, as women leaders, must be willing to take leaps of faith, embrace uncertainty, and trust in our ability to learn and adapt along the way.

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