The impossible quest for perfection
For a short time growing up I wanted to be a nun. There was something about their piousness that fed my perfectionist tendencies – my need to always be good and loving. But in fourth grade at Catholic school one of my teachers was a yelling, patronizing nun so my notion that habit-clad women were perfect quickly evaporated. Besides that, I liked boys. So, I married my soul mate and became an etiquette consultant instead. Yes, it took me more than 40 years to do so, but I think there was something about the yearning to be perfect and good that still called to me.
However, much to my dismay and sometime embarrassment, there is no perfect. Just like my fourth grade teacher was not perfectly pious, neither am I perfectly polite. I occasionally swear, have sent emails with overlooked errors and I am not always gracious, especially when I’m upset. I have been late to meetings, sometimes struggle making small talk and I don’t always remember names. I have my faults and make my share of mistakes. Sure, I am probably more aware of them because I am an etiquette consultant, and that definitely adds to the pressure to be flawless.
But, when I’m able to stop judging myself for not being perfect I remember that etiquette is not about being faultless. It is about being the best person you can be and feeling comfortable handling social and business situations. Most importantly, it is about being a kind, courteous person.
I am always learning and my mistakes sometimes make the best stories when I am giving a corporate training or coaching a client. They also keep me humble.
So, if you forget to introduce someone, use someone’s bread plate or gossip about your caustic coworker, don’t beat yourself up. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and strive to do better next time. That’s my mantra and I’m sticking to it.
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