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We are Messy and Imperfect…and That’s Okay

There are two sides within me that are constantly at war.

I think it stems from the one and only Barbie outfit I ever really liked (I was a stuffed animal gal – and still am). It was this pink velveteen skirt on one side that was really put-together looking (with a matching suit jacket, of course). And on the other side, it was a hot pink tulle party skirt. You know, so Barbie could go from day to night.

I have never owned anything like that as an adult, but frankly, it sounds really practical for business trips.

To my point though – there was this one side (of Barbie, I guess) that was sleek, put together. And that’s what I really aspired to be when I was younger. If I’m honest, I aspire to be that NOW. Or rather, I wish for it. I wish to be one of those people who is casually elegant, breezing into a room instead of rushing, always with papers or notes at the ready, never flustered, never a hair or breath out of place. Expertly manicured, ironed, well-rested.

However. I am…not.

I am more like hot pink tulle. I get caught on things. I trip over my own feet. I regularly drop my work bag. Once, I showed up to a work conference with my dress on BACKWARDS. I try to be expertly manicured, but I enjoy gardening and I have a dog – and not a clean, sweet dog, but a stinky basset hound. I type for a living. I’m an anxious scratcher. I sit at my desk longer than my chiropractor would like or recommend. I’m always under or over-caffeinated. I’m a little bit louder than I’d like to be.

Sometimes, THIS is the me I dreamed of as a child – the artistic me who wasn’t as fussed over what her house looked like and who loves mismatched dishes and so much art on the walls I can’t possibly fit anything else and who currently has a full-sized skeleton wearing a blazer in her office armchair.

What does any of this have to do with law firm leadership?

PLENTY.

We are all imperfect and messy and that’s….okay.

In fact, it’s great.

I’m not suggesting everyone wear their clothes backward tomorrow to a client meeting – I certainly adjusted my dress the moment I realized. But what I am saying is that our mistakes and foibles make us human, approachable, vulnerable, and humble. And often, those are the things that make us better leaders.

I wish I was coming to work as this imaginary version of myself, where I am perfect and poised. But that imaginary version of me would probably not only be more demanding of myself, but more demanding of others too. And my clients will tell you that I already set a pretty high bar.

Instead, I show up as fully myself – and what is important is that I show up. I am present and I engage with the people that I work with – clients, committee members, colleagues. It’s not always perfect or pretty, but it is always human and authentic. They always get me, pink tulle and all.

So as we embark upon one of the most stressful times of the year, full of end-of-the-year wrap-ups, holiday parties, networking, business development, office parties, sick children, sick family members, sick selves, lots of travel, etc., let’s remember that it doesn’t all have to look shiny and effortless. It can look like…us. However we do it or don’t do it, if it’s messy or perfect or manufactured or handcrafted or last-minute or pre-planned.

Take a deep breath and pause for a moment, send out some gratitude for all of the messy and imperfect folks showing up together, and maybe pick yourself up a full-sized skeleton for your office.