Always Remember, Perfection Is a Myth
Once you realize that you do not have to be perfect, you can truly enjoy the journey of life. Far too often, young women are either taught or come to believe that “success” means that you have to (1) know it all, (2) do it all, and (3) bear it all, while wearing a 1000-watt smile. We do not give ourselves permission to admit when we need help from family, friends, and colleagues; and we certainly do not give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves first. The results of this façade are clear: Women leave the workforce, often near the pinnacle of their careers. When faced with increasing work demands, wage/salary inequity, and difficulties negotiating alternative work schedules, many women feel compelled to leave their professions for months or years at a time. Many of these talented women never return.
After the arrival of my daughter, I, too, wondered whether I would be able to remain in the legal profession. I did everything I could to remain a diligent attorney, an attentive friend, a doting mother, and a loving daughter. Some days were easy. Many were hard. All of them left me wondering, “When will I have it all figured out? When will things be perfect, like they appear to be for [fill in name here]?”
Then, one of my mentors shared with me some unsolicited-but-much-needed advice that I still carry with me to this day: “No day will ever be perfect, so stay the course. Some days you will feel as though you are at the top of your profession, but you will get a sobering dose of reality from your friends and family. On other days, you will feel like the best mom/daughter/sister, but you might receive harsh words from a judge or a client.”
Of course, there are many women who want to remain in the workplace, but are just not in a position to do so. For those who can stay, know that your presence matters. Within our spheres of influence, we can advocate/press/push for change. Through roles big and small, we can model the behaviors that are important in both leadership and life—civility, integrity, and respect. We owe it to the visionaries who forged the paths on which we walk, and to the future leaders following in our footsteps.