The art of being imperfect

‘I see so many women who are great at their jobs, but also at remaining invisible,’ says Elke Jeurissen, founder of the Belgian women’s network ‘De Straffe Madammen‘ (The Strong Ladies).
On Story Club, the site where Business Story Teller Raf Stevens posts his interviews (in Dutch) with a variety of people, Elke Jeurissen explains her drive to give women a platform. ‘All people who do something they like are interesting.’ But we hear a lot less often about the interesting women. This is what she aims to change, so that the still dominant traditional role models and division of labour can finally start changing.
Like me, she observes that many women are very professional, but keep trying to perfect themselves. ‘And then, when I’m perfect enough, I will be found, is what women often think,’ she says.
How women routinely doubt themselves illustrates another woman, featured on Storyclub,  Hilde Jonckers. She advises the leaders she coaches on how to dress well. She certainly sounds as if she knows what she’s talking about, but in her interview she wonders: ‘who am I to put myself on the market as style adviser? Am I really good enough? Am I competent? Will I succeed? Once I’m totally visible in my current profile, will I be able to sustain it?’
Elke rightfully points out that always having to fake it, never showing any vulnerability, is unsustainable too. But being vulnerable and self-effacing is not the same.
In many a blog on leadership, I come across the advice to women to develop a thick skin. This is exactly the kind of unsustainability I (and I think Elke too) mean. Because inside that thick skin, behind the wall we build around ourselves, we still are hurt by others. This we may not show, but very often we add insult to injury by, ‘safely’ behind the wall, scolding ourselves. The thick skin doesn’t protect us at all, neither from being hurt by others, nor from that disapproving inner voice that undermines our confidence. Sustainable vulnerability is rooted in confidence, in the acceptance that I am not perfect, and that’s perfect.
For the record: Hilde has totally embraced her perfect imperfection, and has no fear of being visible. By the sound of it, both Elke Jeurissen and Hilde Jonckers have mastered the art of being truly strong women.

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