Why I'm Finally Showing People I *Don't* Have It All Together

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As a recovering perfectionist, admitting that I don’t have it all together is scary.

My entire life, I’ve tied my self-worth to accomplishments and accolades: straight As, honor roll, dean’s list, perfect attendance—you name it. This was how I measured my success, my likeability, and my worthiness.

While social media didn’t exist when I was growing up (thank goodness!), I still put too much pressure on myself to be perfect at all times before filters and hashtags were even a thing. I’d worked tirelessly to maintain my good-girl, all-American reputation—and I wouldn’t dare do anything to deter from that image.

I know vulnerability and the #nofilter life are all the rage right now, but I wholeheartedly believe in keeping it all the way real. It’s way too easy for people to look at my life and think I have it all together.

On paper, at least, I check all of the boxes.

Successful career? Yes. Supportive family and friends? Double check. Handsome husband? If I do say so myself.

But there are also days when I feel insecure about my weight, days when I’m struggling to check even one thing off my to-do list, and days when I would rather stay in bed than face the world.

It’s so easy to compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel on social media because we’re the ones sitting in our mess. But I think we do each other a disservice when we only show or talk about “the good stuff,” especially as women. And, to be honest, it’s downright exhausting to keep up the charade of never having an off day. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Whenever I end up sharing the not-so-glamorous parts of life in my weekly newsletter, readers will often reply “omg, me too!” or “I thought I was the only one.” Or, I'll even just get a simple “thank you for sharing.”

At our core, I believe we’re all craving connection. We want to know we’re not the only ones who make mistakes, who second-guess ourselves, who trip and fall publicly (both literally and figuratively). By being honest, you’re able to build a support group with other people who’ve experienced the same thing.

But, as best-selling author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown said in her popular TED talk, “in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.” (Also: Her book Daring Greatly is an incredible resource.) And that, my friends, can be terrifying.

In order for us to be seen, we have to be vulnerable. And in order for us to be vulnerable, it requires a lot of courage.

At my day job, we like to call it courageous vulnerability, because showing up as our full authentic selves requires both courage and vulnerability.

Yes, being vulnerable can open ourselves up to rejection, criticism, fear, and shame. But it can also give us freedom to be who we really are—freedom to be happy, to be creative, to be loved as we are.

As it turns out, there are some mental health benefits associated with vulnerability as well. According to psychoanalyst John Bowlby, vulnerability helps build lasting intimate relationships. Being vulnerable can also increase your sense of self-worth. In a recent study, researchers found that “verbally expressing our feelings exactly as they are without beating around the bush may help us overcome emotions faster.”

Keeping it real is also a bonus in the workplace. According to Harvard Business Review, vulnerability promotes higher levels of hope and trust, which can increase employee engagement.

If you want to ease into vulnerability, here are few ways to test the waters:

Ask For Help

If you’re anything like me, you operate under the delusion that you can do it all on your own, which only leads to stress, exhaustion and burnout.

Next time a friend offers to help you with a project, take her up on that offer. Or better yet, reach out before you find yourself in full-on panic mode.

Tell the Truth

Nine times out of 10 when someone asks you how you’re doing, you probably respond “fine” or “good” without even thinking.

I’m guilty of this, too.

But in an effort to be both honest and vulnerable, I’ve started answering this question truthfully. It can be so easy to power through, smile, and pretend nothing’s wrong—but the only person you’re hurting is yourself.

Go At Your Own Pace

Keep in mind, you should only be as vulnerable as you feel comfortable. Start with a small action and see how it feels, and try another. Consider it "micro-vulnerability."

You owe it yourself. As Brown goes on to say, “You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging."

You. Are. Worthy.

This article was originally published on Shine and written by L'Oreal Thompson Payton.

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