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Getting to the meeting on time…with makeup

Makeup and trains

Last week, I was running ever so slightly behind in leaving the house for an important meeting in the city.

So I packed up my notes, handbag and assorted bits and pieces and headed off. Being late would definitely not be a good look.

About 3 minutes after leaving the house I realised I’d forgotten to put on all my makeup. Being bare-faced would not be a good look either.

In a flash I computed that I’d gone just far enough that returning home to apply said makeup and recovering 3 minutes of ground would definitely make me late. So in the spirit of “never turn back” I kept on going. I could always do it somewhere on the way.

And I did – on the train. Something I had promised myself I would never do. Whether it be lipstick in crowded lifts, mascara at traffic lights, or nail polish on a plane (I’ve seen all of these) I’ve always thought putting makeup on in public is a little exhibitionist. And the need to contort your face to get the stuff to go on properly is somehow embarrassing.

But despite my distaste for publicly applied makeup, when it came down to it, my value of “don’t be late” outweighed my value of “don’t do makeup in public”.

The value of values

Funny isn’t it how we can hold something up as an important rule for ourselves – then break it when we need to. Somehow we value our values differently. Not all values are created equal it would seem.

And that’s good. In managing two conflicting values – one must hold more sway or the tension of trying to uphold both simultaneously could threaten to pull us apart.

In my last blog post A sacrifice to the altar of work?  I wrote about the tension between being offered a “super job” versus the responsibility I have to my family. And the competing values of work versus family is something many of us struggle with. There is no perfect answer.

Over the years it feels like I’ve done it all – I’ve been a stay-at-home mum, I’ve done part time work (2 days, 3 days, 4 days), I’ve done full-time work, and I’m now in the second time around of running a business from home.

Which formula worked the best? Who can tell. Each was right in it’s own time. But the decision last week became easier and easier as it was clear the commitment required was well beyond my ability to make and hardly left any room for family at all. And so my value for family rose to the fore and had it’s way.

But it’s not always so easy and not always so obvious.

A time and a place

Sometimes we make rules and values for ourselves that are very good and helpful in one sphere of our lives – but that don’t particularly work well, or may even be destructive in other areas. Sometimes we keep our own rules even to our detriment – as if they were Divine – without remembering they are made by our very own selves.

I am blessed with an ability to spot errors and mistakes – a mile off. A mistake on a page jumps out at me and I’m restless until it’s fixed and all put to order. It contributes to my overall desire to do things as perfectly as I possibly can. This is enormously helpful in my work which relies heavily on critical thinking and accuracy.

I’m betting you all want your health information to be accurate to the last detail. Well I do too. So spotting errors helps me write and edit health information that is as accurate as possible. And that’s good. I sincerely hope it helps.

The problem arises when I apply the same standard to myself. It’s one thing to look at a piece of writing, scanning for errors – but something else completely to look at myself only ever looking for errors, mistakes and deficiencies. It’s painful, kind of cruel, and doesn’t help in achieving personal growth or polishing character traits in any case.

That’s because it’s a value of perfection gone awry. We are not meant to be perfect – nor is this a goal even worth wasting breath on trying to achieve.

A better balance

It wasn’t until a recent conversation I had with my coach that I realised that error-spotting and perfectionism were incredibly useful values and strategies for the work that I do, but that it was inappropriate to reflect them on myself – as if I could edit myself into perfection like I do to a piece of writing. Just like I valued family over “super-job”, there are other values that are more helpful for achieving personal growth and even happiness than critical thinking.

He made me think. Is it a good idea to “whip” our family, friends or colleagues into shape by continually pointing out errors and demanding higher and higher standards? We all make a myriad of achievements every day – and if that is never celebrated how do we expect any of us to want to grow? How do we expect any of us to flourish? Would a child learn to walk if we only ever noted the falls and trips without praising the tentative steps in between?

We need to deliberately turn a blind eye to slip ups at times – because in terms of people, sometimes love and kindness is more important than being error-free. And if this is true of our relationships with our family, friends and colleagues – it is also true of ourselves.

So yes, critical thinking is good in its place, but it’s not the only value to live by. A good dose of kindness is required to temper the harshness of self-criticism. A spoonful of kindness may just help build us up while the medicine of critical thinking goes down. Dealing with ourselves kindly, even while acknowledging the errors and slip-ups, can help us achieve more and perform better than we ever thought possible.

So putting makeup on the train wasn’t embarrassing and exhibitionist. Rather it displayed flexibility, was solution-focussed and helped me achieve my broader goal – getting to the meeting on time.

A big thanks to my Facebook friends for helping me realise that putting on makeup on a train could be a good topic to write about. 
And thanks to GD for continually challenging my thinking – this blogpost is definitely the result of that. 
😉
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18 Comments

  1. I like the make-up analogy. Great post!

  2. Rob Burnside

    “And if you don’t happen to like it, pass me by…”

  3. Rob Burnside

    It’s one possible conclusion, Dr. J. (not that your blog piece requires any) and the old tune “Pass Me By” (Aussie isn’t it?) popped into my head right away after I finished reading your essay on fluid values. I think it’s nothing short of brilliant. And I’m further encouraged to believe you’re settling in, which is good.

    • Aaahhhhh. Tx for clarifying and thanks for your positive feedback. I am truly very grateful to everyone who reads my writing. I don’t know the particular song you refer to (least of if it’s Australian) but I wonder if this is what you refer to??? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgJccx2i0ho

      • Rob Burnside

        Yes, exactly, and what a treat! I first heard it during the opening credits of “Father Goose,” a delightful Cary Grant/Leslie Caron movie from 1965.

      • 😉

      • Rob Burnside

        (~) – before my mustache turned white

      • I like the self-confidence sentiment expressed in this song – methinks it may need developing even further…watch this space

      • Rob Burnside

        will do fer sure

      • Have a good evening Rob!!

      • Rob Burnside

        And you, Dr. J. (although it’s not evening there, I suppose). To cover all possibilities, I’ll also urge you to carp the day.

      • LOL (it’s almost lunchtime!!)

      • Rob Burnside

        Then I’ll say, “Order well!”

      • 😉

      • Rob Burnside

        One of us has had too much coffee….or tea. Perhaps both of us.

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