I have a confession to make.
I am not Superwoman. It’s shocking, I know, but don’t judge. As planners, I think we see ourselves as being able to juggle it all, perfectly, all the time. When we don’t, dare I say that it bothers us more than the average person?
I believe to succeed in such a detail-oriented career, we have to have more than our fair share of perfectionism in our DNA, and perfectionists tend to take even the smallest failures to heart.
Only my closest friends and a handful of family members know this about me, but I’m going to share it with you anyway. I have a short-term memory disorder that was brought on by a medical incident that happened 13 years ago. I don’t share it with many people, because I see it as a sign of weakness in this career field. When so much depends on details, and your short-term memory tends not to play well with details, it’s a problem.
How bad is it? I’ve left my son at tennis practice and my daughter at play practice. It takes me a good 10 times visiting someplace to remember the driving route. My husband calls me “50 First Dates” based on the Drew Barrymore movie (every time she goes to sleep, she wakes in the morning with a clean slate and no memories). That example’s a little extreme, but sometimes it feels that way!
Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s high time we all admit – to ourselves and others – that we are only human. This drive to be Superwoman (or Superman) is often self-inflicted, and it’s wholly unrealistic. Well, maybe not for those of you in your 20s – you people have way too much energy! But time creeps up on us all, life gets in the way, and something’s got to give.
We strive to keep all these balls in the air: career, family, relationships, health, spirituality, community, and so many more. In our field, our ‘career’ ball can get really heavy depending on how many clients we have, how many events we oversee, and how much we’re on the road. That career ball is only going to get heavier, the more you juggle and the longer you try to be perfect.
I heard a great metaphor from a planner friend of mine. He said that all the balls we have in the air are made of rubber, except one: our ‘health’ ball is made of glass. If we spend all our time trying to take care of others and don’t take care of ourselves, our ‘health’ ball can shatter. My family and friends are really forgiving when I’ve got too much going on, but my body isn’t as forgiving.
How many times have you come home from a hugely important event, only to get really sick? That’s about as clear as a sign can get! You’ve put yourself last, and you’re depleted.
So back to my story. I’ve done so much over the years to mask my memory condition. I write everything down, and put every little thing in my calendar via Siri. I’ve also surrounded myself with some really smart people who are strong where I am weak. Some things can’t be helped, though, and failure does get embarrassing.
For example, I recently had a wonderful lunch with a woman from one of the local CVBs, and we got to know each other for the first time. When I went to my local MPI chapter meeting three weeks later, I saw her and couldn’t place her. I wondered if I knew her just from her photo on LinkedIn or if we had met in-person previously. I hate to just walk up to someone and say, “I can’t remember who you are, but I think I know you from somewhere.” It literally could be someone I met last week, and then I look like a complete ding-dong. It wasn’t until this woman took the stage and introduced herself that I recalled who she was. Ugh. I spent two hours with her less than 30 days ago.
From now on though, I think I need to come clean and admit I have this challenge. We all have them – these annoying physical or mental challenges that we deal with every day, sometimes silently. Why can’t we admit we’re flawed and we can’t do it all?
I think we all feel a little vulnerable in our jobs sometimes, and disclosing any form of weakness could put us at a disadvantage. Because our career is perceived as ‘fun,’ there’s always someone waiting in the wings if we fail. But guess what? That person is flawed, too. We all are, and until we begin to admit that we can’t keep 100% of the balls in the air 100% of the time, we’re destined to fail – and possibly in a big, ugly, public way.
What’s your personal challenge? How do you structure your day-to-day life to accommodate it? Do you feel like you need to be Superman/woman, or have you admitted to yourself and others that imperfection is OK?
Midwest Meetings and Shawna would love to receive your answers to her questions posed in this article. Contact Midwest Meetings at firstname.lastname@example.org and contact Shawna at email@example.com.