The quote “Be messy, complicated, and afraid, and show up anyway” greets me every day as the background photo on my phone; a reminder that the filtered version of myself is not a true representation of the complexities and layers that make me whole.

In reflecting on intentions for the new year, one of the things I’ve vowed to let go of is crafting perfect images of myself for others. As I mindlessly scroll through the feed of my life, feeling pangs of jealousy about others and their flawless appearances, I have to stop and remind myself that behind each photo is an untold story – some unfiltered and raw experience masked by an intricate editing process.

We’re all fighting to be seen and be heard.

I’ll admit I’ve fallen victim to ruminating on a perfect way to construct my life and refining myself again and again to cast the ideal visage into the world. I wanted to be seen and heard in a way that made me look like I had it all together. Looking at others, life appears to be a checklist.

Go to school. Check.
Get a job. Check.
Get married. Check.
Raise a family. Check.

I only share the highlights of my achievements, afraid that my vulnerabilities might reveal a less than perfect representation of who others believe I am. Afraid that others will see that my own checklist doesn’t quite match up to the norm.

Recently I had a morning that went astray. I pressed the snooze button a few too many times, ran into an important meeting late, ripped my pants in the frenzy, spilled food on my clothes, and pushed a pull door. This was not in the plans for my checklist of the day.

As I gathered my belongings to head to my next engagement, one of my colleagues glanced me over and complimented, “You are always so put together. I don’t know how you do it all.” I sighed and laughed loudly.

“You have no idea,” I giggled. I recounted the catastrophe of my morning and shared my vulnerabilities, despite every fiber of my body aching to smile and play it off. The small moments of raw honesty often enable us to break down the images of perfection that restrict and confine us.

I am messy and passionate and uncontrollable and relentless. But I always show up.

Even when my hands are trembling and sweat slides down my brow, I still show up.
I think that’s such a vital part of life. To just be present.

Even when you have a coffee stain on your pants and lipstick on your teeth. Even when you don’t have the whole list completed. Show up.

My checklist has eraser marks and lines through tasks and re-written ideas. It’s messy. It’s complicated. A reflection of me.

Most of my worst moments don’t make it to the masses, but as I reflect, some of my best moments don’t make it either. Laughter with tears spilling from my eyes from inside jokes with girlfriends. The pride and sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a project I’m satisfied with. Witnessing the sky dance through a sunset. All feelings I will never be able to showcase and describe to others as a component of a checklist.

The next time you start to stress about your unfinished list, ask yourself: Did I show up today? Even if things didn’t go according to plan, was I still present?

If the answer is yes, acknowledge that triumph.

Success is relative. My success is different from your success… which is different from the next person’s success. We may never see a person’s messiness and how they trudged through the mud, but we saw how they dusted themselves off and ended up polished.

I’m vowing to live a life that doesn’t just look good, but a life that feels incredible. A life that fulfills me and sustains my sense of joy. This is what I strive live for now – not a picture perfect portrait or carefully crafted list.

Why? Because life is messy. And I’m learning how to let go to leave room for the present.

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