"The goal in life is not to attain some imaginary ideal; it is to find and fully use our own gifts.” - The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear & Take Life To The Next Level by Gay Hendricks
We all know what it’s like to visit a friend who just had a baby, or even that magical moment of getting a new puppy when the words spill out of our mouths: “They’re perfect!”
So exactly when does that change? When do we shift from this perfect miracle of life to “perfectly imperfect”? Is it when we first start to cry as we advocate for our needs? Is it when we start to cultivate our courage by touching and exploring places and spaces we’ve never been? Is it when we speak up when noticing an injustice? Is it when we get scared and say or do something that we later regret? Is it when we begin to notice sexual energy coursing through our bodies as the most gorgeous specimen of life enters the room?
When exactly do we go the route of imperfection? Perhaps it's when shame sets in, judgement bubbles up, self-analysis won't quit, and we are left with something less than perfection.
But understand none of that is native to you.
As women, we carry an incredible willingness to bow to what has become one of the most popular and bogus taglines of today’s self-help (misunderstood religious dogma) movement: “perfectly imperfect.” There are three primary challenges with this ever-normalized slogan:
1. The hijacked mind of limitation keeps us where we are, stunting the magnificent presence we are.
Stunting our magnificent presence keeps us in a survivalist mindset. When we let our mind run the show on its own, it taps into the reptilian part of the brain and sees through filters of limitation and threats. Not only will the mind see the external world as something to be defended against, but it will seek out the problems, obstacles and challenges right where we are. As we evolve as a species and become increasingly aware of our potential and capacity, it is extremely valuable to challenge the predominant thought forms and opinions and really ask ourselves: “Do I believe that? Do I believe that there is something in me that is fundamentally imperfect?”
2. It is a complete setup to defer or outsource responsibility.
When we outsource, someone else is holding the reins. Outsourcing our responsibility and affirming our helplessness is the basis of every great fairytale. And that is seductive. Don’t we all, on some level, wish that someone would come along and save us? And yet, the drama triangle of victim, villain and hero is tired and unfulfilling. It affirms and deepens the belief that we don’t have all that we need within us.
3. Shame sets in and it’s like doing the butterfly stroke — hard and arduous!
We begin the ruthless game of comparison. An internal dialogue gets noisier and noisier, orienting our attention to our deficits. That pattern is chemically addictive to the brain.
This psychosis of making ourselves wrong creates ripe brain space for the perfectly imperfect message.
To suggest that ultimately our greatest and deepest sense of self is flawed is what continues to create generational and systemic layers of suffering. We are not imperfect. We are not perfectly imperfect. We are stardust who have the elements of the universe in us. There is nothing imperfect about that. So stop buying that bullshit.
"You’re capable of more than you know." - Glinda, The Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”
As entrepreneurs, creatives and all around badass-beings, it is perfect to have a healthy ego. It is necessary to be able to boldly declare, “We are the ones here to shift business, to transform organizations and to splash self-expression all over this spot.” The ego has gotten a bad rep. It has been blamed for every bit of suffering humanity has experienced.
For generations, we have been led to believe that we must work to lose any sense of the ego to achieve the most noble of titles: a “nice” woman. That may not be the language we were each fed, but it was the message. And yet, the ego is essential. It’s the part of our unique personality that has the capacity to make decisions, discern appropriate strategies and tactics for specific environments, seek out pleasure and avoid pain, which are all good things!
Yes, the overactive ego can cause us to spin out but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently imperfect. We are growing, evolving human experiments who are perfect! Let’s lay down the old, inherited and limited ideas of how we “should” be and give ourselves the gift of tapping into what we really desire.
Slough off that played out idea of perfectly imperfect. Let’s start taking 100% responsibility for the perfect attributes, talents, history and circumstances that we each uniquely possess. Even our most challenging moments are intended for our genius.
No one can do life like each of us can. No one. Imagine the world we could create if we each owned our perfection.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.