Last week, I had an important meeting that had my nerves on fire. Not to mention, I was literally on fire because of the relentless heat in New York lately – I’ve never been more thankful for unexpected rain before. Even if my hair goes flat and frizzy, God bless the downpour and let it flood.
Escaping the burning pavement into one of my favorite buildings in New York that also happens to be one of the greenest, I took in a deep breath to calm my nerves. This meeting could change my life and here it was, getting ready to begin regardless if I had sweat beads trickling down my back or not. I checked in with security, giving my best shot at a grin that hid my nerves, headed up the escalator to reach the elevators that moved so quickly up 40 floors that it made my stomach leap.
Nodding at the elevator attendant who pushed the numbers for me and led me to the cart that would take me up to my could-be future, I entered the doors without acknowledging the man who was sharing the ride with me. As I always do when I’m face-to-face with a mirror, I straightened my hair and attempted to graciously wipe the sweat from my brow without messing up my interview-ready makeup. Playing the part of a girl at a bar mirror, I did a 360, only to notice my tag was untucked. Mouthing the word “s**t” to silently to myself, I tried to carefully conceal it without appearing to ridiculous to this man standing near me. I had avoided eye contact out of embarrassment and because I wasn’t sure if he thought I was some crazy girl fidgeting on an elevator that houses some of the most influential players in publishing.
I didn’t realize, of course, that he happened to be one of them.
As I awkwardly reached across my back, contorting my body to perfect my outfit, I was caught off guard in mid-tuck when this man said, “You look perfect.” Surprised and instantly curling my lips to form a smile, I realized who it was at the same moment he realized who I was. Out of shock, I said his name and thanked him for the compliment while he wished me luck. I would later email him to describe how great it was to run into him before this meeting and he would respond by saying he hoped to see more of me and that my meeting went smoothly.
It did and you know what, I didn’t look perfect.
I didn’t say the perfect things. I didn’t read off a script. I didn’t have the best experience, the best clips, the best anything. I didn’t go to the best journalism school, I didn’t have the most solid background that a journalist of my age and tiny tenure could have. My dress wasn’t expensive and in fact, I didn’t even own it – it belonged to my friend M who thought it looked great on me and encouraged me to take it out for a spin and for some luck. My shoes were a little too big and my face wasn’t as perfectly clear as the models who grace the magazine I hoped to write for.
But I did a great job and more importantly, I was myself. And that’s the best anyone can ever be. If I spent less time worrying about how I looked or if I was saying the right thing or if I was putting on the best show or writing the most diverse articles or being the most creative, and just relaxed – then maybe I’d feel more at ease. Maybe if I could look at myself and say, “You look perfect” instead of criticizing all the ways I didn’t measure up, I’d find that sense of simple confidence that is so attractive, so employable.
Maybe if I looked at myself through the eyes of a stranger instead of the my own eyes, I’d see how perfect I really am…in my own imperfect way.
Daily Gratitude: Today I’m thankful for my friends who encouraged patience the last few months, it finally paid off!