“The thing is, I know I’m not perfect. And even more so, I know you know I’m not perfect. But for some reason, I always want you to think I’m perfect.”
I sat across from my friend just outside her kitcken, in the airy living room of her picturesque condo. It was her birthday and we were catching up over spinach wraps and red wine. I told her all about the ways I felt like I was being stretched and grown and kneaded into a more refined version of myself, but that the process of getting there was a struggle.
The truth is, I think I used to live under the pretense that I only had messy parts, but that as a whole, I was a pretty put-together person.
I would survey the situation of my life and conclude the following: I live on my own in a city 700-miles away from the familiar streets of my childhood, I’ve been working the same steady job for almost four years, and I only have ugly-full-body-heaving-snot-fest-cry sessions on the floor of my apartment every couple of months. I would look at all the areas of my life that I saw as lacking – my desires to do more, the fact that the plans I had for myself in college had not even started to manifest themselves in real life, the way my hair gets jacked up and frizzed in the Carolina humidity – and I say, “These are just parts. You are not messy,” and remind myself that I was doing okay.
And, friends, I am here to tell you that I am. I am most certainly doing well better than okay.
But, lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am messy. Not just the parts, but the whole.
In waves of anger, I’ll let a harsh word slip through my lips. When I am hurt, I will retreat and put up concrete walls. When I am feeling spoiled and bratty and entitled, I will pout when things don’t go my way. I lose patience. I get frustrated. I cry at my desk at work. I struggle to make time for all of the important people in my life on a day-to-day basis and, sometimes, when I look at the To-Do’s piling up and down and all the way around in my planner, I kind of just want to climb into my bed with a Choose Your Own Adventure paperback and find my way out of adulthood.
But I can’t. And neither can you.
We will always be messy, always be imperfect and as much as we try to fight against it, there will be days when we just can’t keep it together. We will drop the ball over and over and over again in the same old and tired ways. And do you know what? The neurotic, OCD-gripped perfectionist in me gets really skirmish when she tries to swallow that truth.
Instead, I am choosing to remove myself from the stance of defeat and to give myself permission to be messy in these three ways.
1. I will be willing to apologize.
Just because I am messy and always will be messy doesn’t mean I can go about my life with complete disregard for other people; be it friends, family or strangers. The truth is that, yes, I will disappoint and I will let people down. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Apologizing and admitting our shortcomings to people often helps create a space where others feel the comfort and freedom to do the same. When we pave the way with honest humility about our junk, we lead others to do the same.
2. I will stop comparing my struggles.
Real Talk: Traffic gets UNDER. MY. SKIN. I could be sitting in my car going 50 MPH and singing along with NEEDTOBREATHE or Hillsong United and have a big smile plastered on my face. The second I get backed up in traffic? I am instantaneously in a fierce battle; fighting the good fight to keep the 25 years of New York moxie from Mike The Situation-ing out of my mouth. But traffic might not do that to you. Bottom line: My struggle looks different than your struggle – and your struggle looks different than mine. When we get “struggle envy,” we misplace our compassion and isolate ourselves from community. Embrace your messiness and meet others in their own.
3. I will laugh at myself – and sometimes, the situation too.
There are some days when I just need to stop taking myself so seriously. Some days, I just need to laugh at myself and utter a, “Sheesh, D. Lighten up.” Remind yourself that carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders will not accomplish anything but a bill from your chiropractor. Sometimes, when appropriate, we need to laugh in the face of our perceived failure before it roots itself somewhere where we’ll water it. Train yourself to react with laughter instead of meltdowns and I promise, the world will seem like a brighter place. Lose another make-up brush to your toilet because you always forget to close the lid when you get ready in the morning? Laugh it off! Accidentally type “asses” instead of “assess” in a company-wide e-mail? Laugh it off!
What are some practical ways you can give yourself permission to be messy today?
Photo: Creative Commons via Jess Pec