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My Chaotic Morning Shows Why You Shouldn’t Assume Someone is ‘Put Together’

I spend a good amount of time every morning trying to make myself look “put together.” I say that in quotes because what being put together means on the outside is drastically different than what it means to be put together on the inside. When I first started understanding and explaining my experience with depression to others, a good deal of feedback I received sounded something like, “But you don’t look like you have depression.” This was hurtful not only because it invalidated my experience, but also made me realize how intensely I had been hiding behind a mirage of makeup and fake smiles to appear “happy” on the outside.

For example, one morning my efforts to look put together involved throwing up my 4-day-old unwashed hair and kicking through a pile of clean clothes, thrown recklessly on the floor of my closet, to find work-appropriate pants. Still in my underwear, I then had to chase my dog into the living room after he’d gone running triumphantly away with my bra. Cool. Thanks, bro. I ran after him spraying lavender essential oil-infused water (clearly my efforts to help him calm down are working…) until he dropped my undergarment. Yes, I still threw that bad boy on, dog slobber and all.

Finally dressed but inevitably running late, I turn on my coffee pot and take Sammy outside. Want to know the fun part of this adventure? I forgot my damn keys. Yup, I locked myself out of the building with no phone at 7:27 a.m. I am supposed to be at work at 7:30 a.m., mind you. So, we waited. And waited. Until finally, some kind soul came down the elevator and let us in. I ran upstairs, threw on some lipstick, poured my coffee and headed out. Got to work just on time (yea, that’s a blatant lie. I was a good 17 minutes late) and was complimented on how I always look so “put together.”

I share this with you as a caution, encouraging you to pause when you find yourself in the trap of comparison. What is on the outside is not always on the inside! OK, so a messy closet isn’t the end of the world. However, on the day I describe here, I felt so chaotic and unorganized, riddled with self-judgment, yet was met with praise by others exclaiming how I appeared to have it all together. No one knew the internal battle I was having since the package I was presenting was wrapped up nicely with a bow on top. The bow in this case being a façade of hair spray and a good red lip.

This same dichotomy exists when you are scrolling social media, strolling through the grocery store, or really doing anything that puts you in a place where you may be comparing your life to others. You know all the good, bad and ugly of your personal experience; others don’t. And vise versa.

Here are some helpful strategies to get unstuck from this comparison trap:

1. Unfollow people on social media whose content does not bring you joy! Straight up Marie Kondo that shit.

2. Ask yourself, “what does this thought do for me?” Is it helpful? If not, reframe! For example, from “She is so much prettier than I am,” to “The presence of her beauty is not the absence of my own.”

3. Practice an attitude of gratitude. This will help refocus your attention from being consumed with what don’t have, to putting energy into recognizing all the wonderful things you do.

4. Reach out to your support system. Challenging unhelpful thoughts that stem from the comparison is hard to do, so don’t think you need to do it alone.

5. Take effective action. What is something you love to do? Go do that thing! Working out, doing art, reading, walking the dog, getting a cup of coffee from your favorite spot… whatever it is, treating yourself well is important as this will enhance your confidence and self-esteem. You are worth it.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Getty Images photo via Koldunov