What Do You Notice? Flaws or Fabulousness?

by Alli Polin on May 26, 2015

what do you notice

A few years ago a colleague of mine nominated me for an HR Leadership Award for Greater Washington.  I was really honored and thought we’d have a lot of fun hanging out at the receptions, doing some networking and attending the awards dinner together. 

When they called out my name as a winner in the Emerging HR Leader category I was really excited.  I walked up to the stage to get my award and had my picture taken with the other winners and presenters. It was a great night.

Unfortunately, one of my memories that is still sticking around from that experience is of the picture, where we’re all smiling, and I look fat.  Flaws or fabulousness, I think you can tell what I was noticing. 

What Do You Notice?  Flaws of Fabulousness?

When your child asks:  Are you proud I cleaned up my room?

Do you respond:  Yes, but I think you could have done better. 

When your spouse asks: Do you love my manicure?

Do you respond: It’s nice, but did they mean to only paint half of your pinky?

When your friend asks: Great shirt! Where did you it?

Do you respond: I like it too, but it’s already starting to fall apart. 

When your boss asks: How’s the team doing?

Do you respond: Good, but we’re still working on improving our results. 

When your team member asks: Are you happy with the edits?

Do you respond: It’s better, but I’ll take it from here. 

When your colleague asks: Will you be attending the annual conference?

Do you respond: I thought about it, but I hate the location. 

How Can You Focus Less on Flaws and Embrace More Fabulousness?


All of the responses above have a word that shuts out true positivity and brings on the flaws: but.  But dismisses, qualifies and belittles everything that you say immediately prior.  The next time you’re tempted to qualify your statement with a “but,” bring on an “and.”  Even if “Yes and” is not new to you, use this as a reminder to bring conscious awareness to the words you’re using.

Yes AND  

> builds on possibilities

> celebrates accomplishments

> puts aside judgment in favor of appreciation


When you’re feeling in the dumps, hyper critical of yourself and others, gratitude is the way to ditch the stress and embrace the goodness that’s present, yet remains hidden.  


This one is really easy to say and a little harder to do: Look for the good.  As humans, we’re often drawn towards the dark side.  Flaws leap in our face and fabulousness may be hidden beneath the surface.  A little like Where’s Waldo, you need to know where to look and keep looking until you find it. 

Choose Your Mindset:

Nobody forces you to see a fat person when you want to see the smiles.  As humans, we have the power to change our lives and thoughts. Carol Dweck’s research tells us that awareness of when we’re slipping into a fixed mindset (nothing will change, this is as good as it gets) can be a trigger to instead choose a growth mindset.

Be Aware of Cognitive Dissonance:

Cognitive Dissonance is holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time.   When you’re feeling anxiety, do you look for reasons to justify your feeling?  Of course you do, yet it does not make those reasons true…. they’re justifications to relieve your mental stress. 

Read Your Inner Subtitles:

Imagine that you were able to watch a replay of your last hour back on TV – with subtitles to share your inner thoughts.  Those inner thoughts are often more telling than the words you speak. 

You may say: Everything’s good. 

You may be thinking: Don’t look too closely.

Catch yourself and change your inner dialog.

Tell Your Saboteur to Take a Hike

Is your saboteur blocking you from the light and pointing you towards all of the flaws in your life and leadership?  The saboteur in all of us is often described like a devil on your shoulder.  Are you stressed out that your saboteur may be right?

Do this NOW: Tell your saboteur to leave you the *bleep* alone.  Tell your saboteur to pack their bags, move on out.  It sounds silly, but it actually works to free up some positivity and fresh thinking. 

Flaws or fabulousness come down to your way of seeing the world.  Your perspective. Taking intentional actions to shift your way of seeing will also shift your way of being. What you notice is up to you.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Klass May 26, 2015 at 7:11 am

I love your practical insights to seeing the positives instead of the glass half empty! Too often leaders allow others to set their truths. I once worked with a person who was always tearing my suggestions apart. I finally decided to stand up and ask them to try and stay more open-minded. The other person was surprised by my words and tried to see things through my perspective. Speaking up can make a difference.

Thanks Alli and will definitely share and work harder at!


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 8:40 am

Great story, Terri! Sometimes that’s what we need most – someone to be our mirror and show us where we’re overly negative so we can make a new choice. She’s lucky you were on their side.

I’m working harder at it too 🙂


Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ May 26, 2015 at 7:40 am

LOVE this post Alli. Perspective matters. Words matter. When people start to focus on the positive, it uplifts everyone and increases results.

So many mistake this for being in denial or rosy-eyed optimism. Yet see the positive doesn’t mean ignoring the challenges. It simply proclaims that both exist and positive gives more boost!

Many thanks for this great post to inspire everyone this week.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 8:43 am

I agree, Kate. Positivity doesn’t have to mean Pollyanna. It’s learning to take in the whole picture to see new possibilities instead of only seeing what’s less than ideal.

Greatly appreciate your comments and support too.


Blair May 26, 2015 at 7:57 am

I’ve been reading this book on dogs, BF Skinner and positive reinforcement. Your post says it all — and so succinctly! Leading by playing to people’s strengths is an incredible gift. For me, as you point out in “intention” — it has taken some discipline to remove myself from the knee-jerk criticism and to focus on strengths instead — but inside my head and with others — the results are so powerful. Great post Alli!


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 8:44 am

Knee-jerk criticism! That’s exactly what I’m describing. When looking for the negative is our default, it’s not only stressful for us but for everyone around us too. Not easy to make the change but well worth the effort.

Thaks, Blair!


John Bennett May 26, 2015 at 8:52 am

A great list of suggestions as always, Alli. The most important one for me is the one on mindset so. Our mindset is our choice of course. Indeed our biggest detractor is forgetting that most of the time, or choices have the greatest impact on what happens.

There’s absolutely nothing permanent about flaws… No need to dwell on them for sure; the fabulousness is much more important to acknowledge- as we deal (choices) with the flaws.


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

You know, I think a lot of people (myself included at times) forget that mindset is our choice. We get into blame mode instead of owning our feelings, attitude and choices.

Flaws are human… and luckily, so is fabulousness.

Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, John!


Cynthia Bazin May 26, 2015 at 9:17 am

Excellent post Alli! I am DEFINITELY sharing with my community!!


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

Thanks, Cindy! Appreciate your support and your leadership showing all of us what it’s like to lead with a positive mindset!


LaRae Quy May 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Great post, Alli!

As always, you write with such clarity that the issue come alive! We can all remember when we’ve made those types of responses—always focusing on the negative rather than seeking the positive.

Part of it might be because we’re perfectionists or achiever types that are always looking for ways to make the best, better. Another aspect is that negative information is always foremost in our brains because we are still a surival-driven species. To counter that, psychologists recommend you intentionally take time to focus on the positive aspects of the situation before you make a response.

The key word is intentionally…in other words, we have to work at it. Love your tips—yes, and….is a great way to break that habit!


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

Intentionally – yes! Thinking we do it without effort isn’t the case (at least for most people I know)

Love that you point out the overachiever type too. I know many people, including myself, who fit that. Early in my career I would mark up work like mad because I have a vision of perfection. Ultimately I learned that a shared vision can be equally powerful. Took a lot of effort to get there.

Thanks, LaRae!


Karin Hurt May 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Everyone looks fat in recognition pics. I’m pretty sure they put on 10 lbs 😉
The truth is no one is the only thing anyone is noticing is whether they think you deserved it, and who you acknowledge as you accept. I’m sure you handled that elegantly 😉


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

Made my day, Karin. Thanks.


Jon Mertz May 26, 2015 at 10:44 pm


All great points but especially choose your mindset and know your subtitles. We may think we have the right mindset yet what we say underneath the title of our words say so much more. Our subtitles are our real mindset, so we need to be mindful and ensure a positive match.




Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 9:02 am

Subtitles are key. I’ve watched many movies where ignore them and many where it’s all I see because I don’t speak the language. In our lives, we need to choose to notice and re-write when there is dissonance between our words, actions and intentions.

With you, Jon!


Sonia Harris May 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm


Enjoyed the post! Excellent examples, tangible steps! This has been me most of the time – so much so that my husband had to bring to my attention that I frequently notice the 1% error instead of the 99% positive when giving feedback. Like I’m a heat-seeking missile for typos or other errors! I don’t enjoy being in “edit” mode when I’m NOT proofreading. When reading, my intention is to enjoy not “work”. Errors are a distraction from enjoyment. Anyway, I know I need to be more optimistic and this post will help. 🙂


Alli Polin May 27, 2015 at 9:05 am


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Thanks for your honesty here too. You’re not alone! It drives my kids nuts when they read aloud to me and I correct the words that they get wrong instead of going with the gist of the sentence. I tell them words matter. They tell me that they are doing their best. Both matter.

Really appreciate your feedback!


Corina Ramos May 27, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Hi Alli,

I just wanted to drop you a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post.

You’ve shared some great examples, some I’m personally familiar with and offered great suggestions. You’re right it does all come down to as we see the world.

I hope you’re having a great week!



Alli Polin May 28, 2015 at 9:05 am

Thanks, Cori! I really enjoy your blog and appreciate that you stopped by here to read and comment too.

I love that it’s in our power to change the way we see the world… the hard part is making it a habit! Two steps forward, one step back 🙂



Taruna May 27, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Fantastic reading !
Love this blogpost. So true and thought provoking.


Alli Polin May 28, 2015 at 8:24 am


Your comment and feedback mean a ton to me. You are someone that always sees the light through the darkness.

Miss you!!


Chery Gegelman May 28, 2015 at 12:25 am

Great story and great points as always Alli! Yes the mirror you are holding is reflecting me too! I’ve thought and said yes but far too often this year! Thank you for the reminder!


Alli Polin May 28, 2015 at 8:22 am

Thanks, Chery! I think saying “yes but” is the default for most of us. Here’s to rockin’ more “yes and.”


Danica Worthy May 28, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Awesome post Alli,
I love your insight and the awareness you bring to how we see things. I will be sharing this great resource.


Alli Polin May 29, 2015 at 6:42 am


Thanks so much for stopping by and your comment too! I think I just followed you on Twitter today… look forward to getting to know you.




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