Notre Dame cathedral easter 2019

Precious or Perfect? Wisdom from Notre Dame

Do we have to be perfect to be precious?

On Monday evening, the fire at Notre Dame cathedral decimated the roof and the burning spire (called the “arrow” in French) crashed from the sky to the ground.

Memories disappear in minutes.

The recently cleaned stone, usually brilliant in the sunlight, is now 50 shades darker.

What lies ahead for this most visited site in Europe?  As of Monday evening, donations flowed in to contribute to Notre Dame’s renovations.  She lost her perfection.  She remains precious.

Are you convinced of that in yourself?  Each of us knows that we are not perfect.  Are you and I also convinced that we are precious?

This mindset determines our future.  What we think about ourselves influences how we invest in ourselves to grow.  It also impacts how other people invest in us.

Perfection Perverts Relationships

It took me decades to come to truly know that I am enough.  Period.  I have value as a human being.  Not because of what I do or who I know.  Because I am.

I don’t need to be perfect to be precious.

When I am convinced of that in me, then I can be convinced of that in other people too.

Beforehand, I fixated on being “good enough” by being “better than.”

Comparison focuses one towards critique and reinforces unconscious biases: to find what is “wrong” with the other person and to highlight what is “right” in me.

We find what we seek.

If you and I are looking for weaknesses in others, we will find them.

At the same time, when we seek qualities, we find them too.

The same behavior could even be viewed as either a liability or as a potential strength! It depends upon our mindset.

  • Is your colleague dissipated or highly curious?
  • Is your boss arrogant or focused?
  • Is your child stubborn or a person with convictions?

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Notre Dame has been with Paris for centuries.  Even without her roof, she remains precious.  Maybe even more so.  She “needs” us now.

Perfection Perverts Perception

We all make judgements about people, and our predisposition is to believe that we are right. 🙂

Psychologists warn us of several ingrained biases.  The correspondence bias is when someone makes conclusions about another person’s character based on a behavior.  Context is insignificant.

  • When Samira leaves a large tip at a restaurant, she is considered generous. We overlook the specifics of the situation.
  • When Sydney arrives late to work, he is unorganized or uncommitted. No excuses.

On top of the correspondence bias we add the actor-observer bias where a person undervalues the situational influence in other people’s behavior and over-values it in his own.

  • When you or I just landed a lucrative contract and leave a large tip at the restaurant, we might feel generous.  It is our mood, not who we are.
  • When you or I arrive late, the traffic was terrible. We are not making excuses; we are relating a fact!

The perfectionist mindset limits someone’s ability to accept these research-proven biases.  Divergent viewpoints would call our analysis into question and destabilize our sense of value and entire being!

For the perfectionist to “be right,” other people are wrong.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Among the statues of Notre Dame (and they still stand), we find both saints and goblins.  Grotesque gargoils don’t make her beastly.  Gorgeous handiwork does not make her divine.

Reframing Empowers
Reframing Frees from Perfectionism

True or False: “I see it, therefore it is real.”

I have learned we see what others choose to show.

Few of us expose our dark sides.  In fact, we go to great extents to hide them, sometimes even to ourselves.  We readily display confidence and results-orientation at work and keep out of sight the fear of not measuring up or lack of motivation.  These represent the underwater portion of the iceberg,

Fear drives many of us to invest time and energy to hide our imperfections.

Fear of what?  Fear of whom?

Naming our emotions initiates our ability to tame them.  

I have also learned that facing our emotions is an effective way to live life with few regrets.  That is what I wish for you and for me.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

I arrived in Paris after my MBA to work in marketing at l’Oréal.  Our training included six months in the field meeting customers.  My work week began early on Tuesday mornings as I headed by train to a provincial French town to arrive in time for store opening at 10 o’clock.  I returned to Paris well into Saturday evening, where my friends were already galivanting around town.  Not surprisingly, they did not want to go out on Sunday night.

I was lonely.

On top of that, my boss believed in motivation by critique.

I was demoralized.

That’s when I regularly walked the streets of Paris on my own and frequently rested on the Pont de la Tournelle which has a view on the back of Notre Dame.

I marveled at how, from the front, the cathedral’s towers emanated strength and majesty.  The buttressed rear view exposed another angle: architectural ingenuity and graceful stone.  The slim buttresses are essential to hold up the imposing towers and the elegant spire.

There is more than one viewpoint.

The same applies to my life and yours too.

I stand in awe before Notre Dame’s regal facade.  It’s her “imperfect” side that encouraged me.   In those solitary months, she helped me learn to like being with myself.

Perfect to Grow

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

Wisdom set in stone.

You and I have a task: to embrace our limitations so that we can learn.

Did you know there is a bell named Denis at Notre Dame?!

Bells of Notre Dame
The new bells on display in February 2013. My namesake, the Denis bell.