The Almost Murder of Mary Poppins

Growing up trying to be practically perfect

Inspiring Women, Management Today and the almost murder of Mary Poppins.

If you have the opportunity to attend Management Today and Women In Management’s Inspiring Women Conference – go. Seriously go – besides being supercharged by ‘can do’ energy – and you never know where that might lead you – I myself nearly murdered my childhood heroine, Mary Poppins.

I grew up with Mary in more ways than one, my father was Mr Banks, quite literally as it happens. He was a Bank Manager with one of the leading high street banks for his whole working life. So while singing ‘Feed The Birds’ at seven years old was endearing – at age 15 it was a rebellious act of defiance. I loved her calm assertive approach and her ability to make chores fun. Go on,  you can admit it, you were humming ‘A spoonful of sugar’ just reading that sentence! Oh and the scene where she pulls the magic tape measure out of her never ending carpet bag (if only my handbags were that accommodating!) to show she measures up practically perfect. Let’s press pause on our Mary Poppins memories and allow me to take you back to the conference room.

It’s 11.35 and we’re all hooked on Jo Haig’s address to us all. She’s talking about confidence in women and how we all need our ‘confidence cloak’.  I’m certainly absorbed – I love psychology and this section was grounded in neuroscience and sound academic research. No NLP pseudoscience here, thank you very much! At the age of 44, in this crowded room full of aspiring and accomplished business women and entrepreneurs, my childhood heroine is about to be pushed from her perilously high pedestal. With hindsight having Deborah Leary, CEO of Forensic Footsteps, as one of the key note speakers could be handy! But no investigation is needed.  I will confess: I contemplated killing Mary Poppins in a coldly calculated act.

Being practically perfect – the silent confidence killer

I’m making notes by now. Always a sign my ticket was worth its price. The subject of confidence broadens for a moment. One of the main confidence killers, we learn, is our constant quest for perfection. We delay and delay taking action because what we’re working on is not quite ready, not good enough. We just need another day to work on it before its ready to be viewed, or listened to, or presented. We’re nodding, the whole hall engaged. Then, there she is, in glorious technicolour in my mind’s eye; Mary with her tape measure – telling us all she is practically perfect and suddenly everything becomes very clear. I need to free myself of this drive for perfection. In one split second Mary is transformed from heroine to archenemy. I need to give myself permission to fail, produce something every once in a while which is ‘good’ and to stop my perfection procrastination.

Reader, I murdered her. Well – perhaps not quite, but I certainly pushed her, two hands firmly on her back as she fell from lofty heights. It would be a crime to kill her, particularly as when asked for any final words she simply smiled and began to hum ‘Votes for Women’. Well then, Mary, float down safely on your umbrella. Know you may stay a valued member of my mentors panel, just as long as you throw away your magic tape measure and come to see, as I have, that not everything needs to be perfect all the time.


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