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Perfectly Imperfect

by Decker Ngongang

March 6,2007

Last week I had a chance to sit down and have a chat with my counselor / uber- leadership consultant, Mike Whitehead. To many people, Mike is one of Charlotte’s rising talents in leadership consulting, but to me he was my middle school counselor who helped me deal with not having a father at home. I talk to him because he knows me and can see through my many layers and knows who I am and what I can be. So I am usually ready for him when I see him, but he hit me out of left field this time. He said, “There is something that is holding you back, something we have to work on, but I don’t know yet what it is.” From that one comment I knew what it was and told him as the floodgates opened to my inner conflict.

Mike and I talked more about it and it became so clear what was holding me back from the personal goals I have set and the blessings I am yet to realize. I couldn’t trust simply being myself, or sharing my complete self with the world around me.

As leaders, many of us are so tempted to assume a “bravado of perfection” as if it were the necessary characteristic of leadership. We harm our growth, the growth of our organizations, and our potential for change when we live a life so focused on perfection. The common discourse in our country today is so overflowing with rhetoric critiquing our flaws and weaknesses, it becomes a liability to be a real human being with the faults and imperfections that make us each unique. To lead, it seems, we have to become some caricature version of ourselves, erasing or hiding our true essence for the sake of popularity. I realized that I can’t play that game. I am not “strong” enough to hold down those parts of me that are real, raw, and unpopular – my “weaknesses.”

James Baldwin said, “Children are never very good at listening to their elders, but they never fail to imitate them.” Our children are slaves to representations. We heap on them the responsibilities of our actions; they see when we ignore our passions to live up to some image, and they see how we sacrifice our natural sensitivity to appear a hard ass. They witness how we sacrifice our souls to “represent.” In order for the consciousness level of our young people to rise, we must start to be real with ourselves.

Rapper Common has a verse, “I guess realizing that you’re weak is when you’re really being strong.” God blesses many of us with families, friends, lovers, peers and confidants for a reason. We are given our weaknesses as a gift, to let us see how those around us will make us whole, who in our times of need will give of themselves so that we may continue to be the person they love.

The importance of living a fully engaged and intent life is not about quitting our jobs and going to yoga everyday. It is about simply being, living our moments attuned to our feelings and emotions and in our communications giving that to others. For me to grow I have to let go of that bravado that kept me from learning and maturing.

Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

We live in a world that is growing warmer on the ground, but colder in our hearts. Let’s stop being afraid to be real with each other. I can’t be afraid of being “me,” in both my incredible gifts and my many weaknesses, for the good I will do in this world will be manifest at the intersection of the two – my strengths and my weaknesses.

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