Angelina Jolie and Me: How To Be The Perfect Woman

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Do I expect too much?

I only aspire to be as sexy, beautiful, worldly and actively humanitarian as Angelina Jolie; to be as successful politically as Hillary Clinton; to write Nobel Prize winning literature like Toni Morrison; to be as creative as Madonna and to dance like Janet Jackson.

Of course, while doing this, I should also be an amazing, selfless daughter and friend; revolutionize the world through my work; maintain a beautiful home; and throw killer parties. Not to mention being the world’s best girlfriend, and looking effortlessly gorgeous at all times.

Is this too much to ask???

Perhaps, yes… which I have to say is one of the gifts of being a woman in my 30s. Still ambitious, still reaching for the pinnacle of success in everything I do, I also am more comfortable with my own limitations, finally realizing that I have some! I have learned to be content with who I am now.

That is a miracle for someone like me. It is literally only in the past month of my life that I truly learned to “just be” – to love my life as it is, without needing it to be different or more.

I credit an ex-boyfriend with helping me get here. He was “the one who got away” for me, the great love that never came to be.

I found out in September that he’s engaged to another woman, someone he just met this past summer. I thought I was over Steve until I found this out.

Then, as I sobbed in my best friend’s arms, I realized I was still devastated that he hadn’t “chosen me.”

Luckily we are still friends and I was able to ask Steve why I wasn’t “the one.”  It boiled down to one simple thing.

Steve said he felt I was always striving to be somewhere other than where I was. I wasn’t content with myself, or happy with life now. Nothing was ever good enough for me.

I’ve had friends and family tell me before that I am too hard on myself, that I am already enough as I am. I never really listened. Somehow hearing this from a man I had loved deeply jolted me awake.

My God, I thought — he’s right. The word “content” was not in my vocabulary. I had always equated contentment, or in the past even happiness, with complacency. If I was happy where I was, wouldn’t I stop growing?

I am happy to report that the answer to that question is no. Somehow in the past month I have learned to love my life exactly as it is. This does not mean I am not going after my dreams.

Here I am after all on — publicly living them out!

Yet somehow I’ve finally learned that just being me is enough. I don’t need to be Angelina Jolie + Hillary Clinton + Madonna in order to be a successful person.

I can be the best Lisa.

That is enough.


Lisa_avatar(Lisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule — 50 pages due by December! Being invited to join was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. Lisa is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday).

  • Rashmi


    Each word from the heart, so true and so full.

    Blessings for the AWESOME LISA!!

    Grace and divinity to you , Always

    Best of Grace!!

    Love ya!

  • Hey Rachel,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this – would love to see it!!! You can send it to me on Yehoodi or I can PM you my email so we can be in touch that way too. :)

    I love it that that post sparked something for you!


  • Rachel

    Lisa, I thought I’d give you a heads up — my next PT post is based off the Yehoodi “perfect woman” post you started. If you’d be interested in seeing it when it comes out (or before), let me knowl

  • Wendy

    Hey Lisa, great post and that Harry meets Sally quote says it all. I think I might rent it one more time just for that line. Perfection does not exist with the exception of well edited movies and airbrushed magazine photos. Your doing great!

  • The Perfect woman. This sounds really good as a concept, but I don’t think that it works. For so long, my sights have been set on being the perfect man. It did lead to a lot of important growth, but it also caused me to over work and over stress about things in life that I absolutely cannot control. I found that women fell in love with “the idea of me” and not me. I found that I never had any time to relax or ground or even have a bad day. having a bad day, this was out of the relm of possibilities. I had become something other than humane. When I lost that, I had lost my compass. I couldn’t tell anymore when I had pushed too hard and I needed time to rest. I lost some insight on the fact that people also grew from my humanity. Maintaining one’s humanity, this is very heroic in this day and time. In addition to feeling like I had lost a sense of my humanity, I also lost a sense of passion for the little things. Now, I have learned to slow down a little more, take time to enjoy the in between times, and I have learned to enjoy my surroundings. When all of the dust settles, all we have is right now because tomorrow isn’t promised. Your the best!

  • Thanks Dee and Daphne (Daph, we definitely DO deserve the best!).

    Kim I love the way you handle things with your girls… will have to learn from you if I am a Mom someday :-)

    And Heather trust me I *wish* I’d given up on perfection long ago because it has caused me to suffer a lot. I’m much happier not being “perfect” – since no one is – and just being me. A much more fun place to be.

  • Heather, the e-commerce builder

    Perfection is a tough one. I gave up on perfect a while ago, but still have those twinges of “she is thinner”, “she traveled more’, “her house is bigger”. I think that makes me human… or I have PMS! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kim, the traveler

    “Nobody’s perfect.” I tell that to my girls all the time. Our imperfections are what make us so unique and interesting. When my girls start to complain and compare themselves to other people, I tell them that we aren’t plastic Barbie dolls or robots. How boring would that be?
    I never tell them that they are the best or perfect at anything. That just leaves room for the feeling of failure if they’re not. I tell them that they are great or did they did an amazing job at something. Or if they didn’t do that great, I tell them there’s always room for improvement.

    Being comfortable in your own skin is a lifetime quest. Some people seem to get it faster than others. Or they just look like they do. I’m definitely better now than in my 20’s, but I would be more comfortable with “less” skin;)

    “Perfect” is different in everyone’s eyes. I, for one, think Apngelina Jolie is a little creepy;) When I picture someone comfortable with themselves, it’s usually a beautiful sweet grandmother looking after their grandkids, teaching them the facts of life.

  • Daphne

    Oh, Lisa! You are the most perfect Lisa EVER! I am so happy and thankful that we have both come to realize that we are wonderful just as we are and that we deserve the best!

    I guess I have never actually thought about what a perfect woman was or the perfect me…but I am learning both what my own, subconscious expectations for myself have been and who the best Daphne is. You are definitely helping me with that!! Love you to pieces!!

  • Dee


    Very nice article. It is truly an insight that escapes both men and women, but I think for women it is even more challenging than men because there are just so many more categories of “how to be excellent”

    You da’ bomb gal!

  • Thanks all for helping me learn… I love what everyone shared:

    Cath this is inspiring to me, and I am starting to feel this way as well! “Ever since I started working on my dream I left behind all care about being something other than who I am.”

    Julita, I love what you shared – so true honey! Please be happy being beautiful YOU!: “I am just realizing that I can be happy with who I am. that i really do NOT need to be a world class anything to be happy. I do not need to be perect in order to be happy. so, my dear friend, why even try to be the perfect me?” and thanks for your kind words about my mom… She is AMAZING isn’t she?

    Jak it is definitely all about the PRACTICE…

    Kirsty, beautiful thoughts… Love Pema Chodron, love this: “It’s about befriending who we are already.” You’re so right, no need to even “try” to be perfect… just love who we are already…

    Seema if I bottle it, we will sell it – what a fortune we will make, eh? In the end I think we all are really seeking inner peace and contentment… It is SUCH a joy to experience that even if it is not 100% of the time… It’s a practice like Jak said…

    And Remy, I look forward to seeing YOU evolve and unfold before our eyes too as you live your dreams… It’s good stuff! Glad that you are happy to be YOU now too – the “perfect man for you” will love you as you ARE. :-)

  • Wow, such wisdom… more on all of your thoughtful posts soon… Just wanted to quickly say Cath I can’t believe you quoted that “When Harry Met Sally” passage – yes that nails it! :-)

  • Remy

    firt off, cath, totally impressed with your When Harry Met Sally reference. I’ll just end it with “Mr Zero knew.”

    My son has reminded me in a very respectful way that I am “0 for 2” when it comes to husbands. Even tho they were different guys and I was married 10 years apart, I married the “same guy” twice. I know this cause of how I had changed myself to be with each of them, to make them want to be married to me. Problem was, after a few years, when the ‘real me’ came thru, they didnt recognize me, and that was the beginning of the end. Gosh, hindsight is so amazing. Thanks for the reminder to be me. Hmmm. What does that mean~ :)

  • Seema

    Good for you, Lisa! I am still trying to figure out how to just be. Contentment without constantly striving for more. If you can bottle the formula, let me know! =)

    Catherine, tell me you didn’t do that from memory! haha

  • Seema

    Good for you! I am still trying to figure out how to just be. Contentment without constantly striving for more. If you can bottle the formula, let me know! =)

  • Kirsty

    Thank you so much for sharing Lisa. It’s funny how the universe has ways of stopping us in our tracks for moments of self-reflection :-)

    I just recently went through an almost identical situation as you, and realized ‘it’s not me, it’s not him – it just is’. Every now moment is an experience, and each now moment we are different people from the moment before … and the moment to come. Constantly growing and observing ourselves.

    Pema Chodron puts it beautifully –
    “The point is not to try to change ourselves … it isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

    How about rather than striving to be ‘the perfect woman’, we strive to accept who we are right now in this moment?

    Hugs sweetie –
    Kirsty xxx

  • Jak

    well said, Lis
    Practicing it is what’s next eh?!

    Funny, I had a friend once get concerned when I told him that I was content like never before. For him it sounded like I was settling in some way. For me, as a dad, hubby, who loved his work — I no longer felt that my life was anywhere else but in my hands…

    Keep rockin’ it.


  • Julita

    oh, Lisa, you are so amazing that it is only natural for you to expect perfection in everything you do! I still remember your perfect SAT score!

    when I think of a perfect woman your mother comes to my mind. every year for the past 16 years of my marriage I would think of your mother on mother’s day and I’d hope that I could be half as good of a mother as your mother is. I remember your mother saying to me once that I would need to give up my career in order to be a mother. at the time when I was about to start my PhD program in electrical engineering (microelctronics) your mother’s words did not mean much to me. but now I know that what I did in my life makes perfect sense. you see, I never obtained my PhD, I never became a world class researcher, I never really accomplished anything in my life.

    when my second daughter was born I chose to give up my career to stay home to be just a mom, and you know what? I was happy for 10 years staying home with my girls watching them grow and become their own persons. only now in my 40s I am starting to dream again as my girls are starting to need me less. I am starting a new career in nursing. I love my work, and I am just realizing that I can be happy with who I am. that i really do NOT need to be a world class anything to be happy. I do not need to be perect in order to be happy. so, my dear friend, why even try to be the perfect me?

  • Catherine

    Ahhh how many times have many of us related to that scene in When Harry Met Sally . . .

    Sally: He just met her… She’s supposed to be his transitional person, she’s not supposed to be the ONE. All this time I thought he didn’t want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me.
    Harry: If you could take him back now, would you?
    Sally: No. But why didn’t he want to marry me? What’s the matter with me?
    Harry: Nothing.
    Sally: I’m difficult.
    Harry: You’re challenging.
    Sally: I’m too structured, I’m completely closed off.
    Harry: But in a good way.
    Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I’m gonna be forty.
    Harry: When?
    Sally: Someday.
    Harry: In eight years.
    Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.
    Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.

    And sometimes you run into them years later and you get down on your knees and thank the Gods that he is not your husband. Sometimes life takes care of you that way.

    Ever since I started working on my dream I left behind all care about being something other than who I am. I think that is the best part about having a big dream.

    • Julita

      I so agree with the above:

      ‘And sometimes you run into them years later and you get down on your knees and thank the Gods that he is not your husband. Sometimes life takes care of you that way.’

      just had a similar experience in my life.

      and Lisa, Steve was simply not the one!!!!

  • Randi


    “Perfectly” expressed.