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Confession: I'm a Mess, and I'm Not Hiding It Anymore

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I have a confession to make. I’m a mess. Not just a little, tiny mess you can straighten up before company comes over. I mean a huge, gloriously cluttered mess.

I have a lot of baggage. I’m very picky about who I let see it. A lot of people think I have my life together because the parts I let them see are pretty tidy, orderly, regimented, scheduled, smile here and laugh there. Never missed a homework assignment, never dropped the ball on a responsibility given to me, never made anything lower than a B+ on any assignment in my life. Ever.

Sound familiar? I’m your stereotypical, type-A personality, perfectionist. On the outside.

On the inside, I’m a jumble of confusing emotions, nasty thoughts, self-depreciating voices and insecurities. I’m broken, confused and terrified out of my mind for about 75 percent of the time. So yeah, I’m a mess.

Sometimes, I worry if I show people just how big my mess is no one will want to help me clean it up. Some days, it just seems too big and too embarrassing to shed light on. I’m ashamed of it, which just adds more clutter to the already hoarder-type situation going on in my mind. Sometimes, it feels like adding one more thing will make my head explode.

Why am I embarrassed by my mess? Doesn’t everyone, to an extent, have some sort of mess going on in their head? Some days it seems like other people’s messes are much smaller than mine, and they’d be grossed out by the prospect of seeing mine. Other days, I worry it’s actually smaller than it seems, and nobody will help me because they’re too busy cleaning up their own, much worse, messes. Either way, they still have some kind of mess. So I shouldn’t be ashamed of mine.

A dear friend of mine once told me we’re all a mess, but some of us are just better at hiding it than others. Ain’t that the truth. So then the question becomes should I clean up my mess or just get better at hiding it? Which is better? Which will make me happier?

The solution I’ve come up with is you gotta get rid of it. A rotting board covered up by a nice rug is still rotten underneath. You just can’t see it, which means someday, someone might step on it and get hurt. Their injury could’ve been avoided all along if they just saw the rotten board and replaced it. I’ve found that analogy to be useful because the one thing I don’t want to do is hurt someone. The last thing I want is for someone to be trapped by all the clutter I carry with me.

So it’s better to get rid of the mess entirely, rather than just cover it up. I wish it were as easy as it sounds, but it’s hard. Every time you think you’ve let something go, you come across something else that reminds you of it. It’s like cleaning out an old closet in your house. You do pretty well until you find an old photo album or your favorite coat. Then two hours later the mess isn’t any better, but now everything is all over the floor for everyone to see.

You have to drag everything out before you can get organized. You have to take it item by item, problem by problem, insecurity by insecurity. It’s going to take longer than a day to clean up my mess, and it may never go away completely. But that’s OK. The important thing is I’m no longer hiding it.

Originally published: July 21, 2016
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