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  • Writer's pictureAnna Blackman

Stories of success and imperfection

So I have written 2 blogs over the past 2 years - both of which were related to my mental health and alongside that there is more than one video of me talking about the importance of talking, seeking help and highlighting that sometimes all someone needs is someone to listen to them.

My motivations for being videoed (most of which I haven’t watched as I can’t bear to!) and writing about my experiences are two fold. The first is that I have a deep seated desire to help other people - it is a really important part of who I am and I think it has been from a very young age. And by sharing my experiences openly I know it helps other people. When I write that it feels a bit grandiose but a number of people have told me it has helped them so I guess it must be true.

The second reason, however, is because for much of my adult life I have never felt good enough. I have never felt like I fitted in and I still don’t - yet I am very close to my 40th birthday! I am a wife, a mother - and a Partner in a professional services firm yet I still feel like the 21 year who joined PwC after doing a geography degree (also lovingly known as a ‘degree in colouring in’) because it was nearby and it looked like a good graduate scheme! How did that happen?? How did I end up here?! How I am seemingly very successful yet I don’t feel good enough and I don’t feel like I fit in?

And there is my second motivation - I can’t possibly be the only one. And if I am not - perhaps it will help others if I talk about it? I have spent most of my adult life in a professional services firm surrounded by very talented and bright people. I think we would all recognise role models are important and I am lucky to have had some incredibly inspiring role models but I was always left feeling like I wasn’t good enough - because sometimes I found things hard and the people more senior than me didn’t look like they ever found anything hard. They were intelligent, polished and articulate - and the vast majority kind and supportive. I learnt a huge amount from working with them and I am lucky enough to have some of them as my some of my closest friends.

But I still don’t feel good enough - and here is the thing - I don’t ever I think I will and I am not sure I want to feel like I fit in. Because I am just not sure that is who I am. A dear friend once told me that people like working with me because ‘you disarm them with your warmth, you listen to them and you show real empathy. You’re not what people are expecting from a PwC partner’ and do you know what - I am starting to realise its okay to not be what people are expecting. Even as I write this I have my doubts - but I come back to - if I have them then surely other people do as well?

I think we all need a good dose of perfection sometimes (is that what social media was created for?!) as it gives us aspiration and hope - but we also need imperfection, honesty and vulnerability. I know ‘vulnerability’ and ‘authenticity’ are new found buzz words in a lot of management/business blogs and books - and we now have a name for not feeling good enough aka imposter syndrome - yet we haven’t managed to really shift diversity in professional services - and maybe that could because some people think they aren’t good enough or they don’t fit in?

Social media has given us a peek into people’s lives (at least the bits they want to share with us!) and one of the things I have found particularly interesting in the past couple of years is the growth of what I would call ‘anti-perfection’ (my words not theirs) advocates - reminding us that, particularly as parents, life is not shiny and lovely all the time and that sometimes kids scream, shout and don’t sleep (mine was soooo not a sleeper!) but we still have wonderful lives.

Now I am not advocating people in professional services need to recreate staged beauty photo shots (‘Knee Deep in Life’ is hilarious - google it I promise you will laugh!) but I am advocating we share our successes (however we define them) and our imperfections. After all, as everyone keeps telling us, eventually robots and AI will do most of our work!! And when that happens all we have left are the things that make us human - our creativity, our emotions and our ability to empathise.

If you have managed to get this far (well done and thank you!) you might be wondering what the point of this is! Two things have recently struck me. The first is ‘I am now one of the people who acts like superwoman (again my words no one else's) and am I giving the impression to those around me I have it all under control and that I am wordly wise?! I don’t think I am as I try really hard not to - but I fear that outside of the work I have done on mental health awareness that maybe I am.

The second thing is that perhaps if I went first, other people would be willing to share their stories of success and imperfection to help others realise what they are feeling and experiencing is entirely normal - and that they are not alone! So today I decided I would write this.

And why is this a ‘tale of success and imperfection? Because I have been procrastinating and quite frankly battling with my internal voice for about 6 months on whether to write this. And because, quite frankly, I haven’t had the energy or concentration to do it. Today I won that battle and I wrote this down. Whether it has any impact doesn’t really matter but at least I have done it. And I have beaten the procrastinating inner voice…….sound familiar to anyone??

Earlier I mentioned diversity and inclusion - which is a really challenging issue. How you really drive this in a professional services firm and across society is a complex issue that will not be easily or quickly solved. And on my optimistic days, I really believe we can and will - but I don’t have all the answers nor am I an expert - but I don’t mind sharing my experiences with other people, and if it helps just one person feel better then I have achieved what I set out to achieve.

First published on LinkedIn on 11 December 2019


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