“Your life is messy. Do you feel like you’re oversharing?” a long time friend asked after reading a recent post. “Yes,” I shouted, “without a doubt!” “Then why are you sharing the messy parts?” she asked.
I’ve been pondering this question for a while. Over the years, I’ve written about infertility, chronic illness, a failed business, marital problems, and an anxiety-inducing mammogram. Recently I wrote an entire post about arguing with my husband.
Does it feel strange to click the publish button and share my innermost thoughts? Do I hover my finger above the mouse, wondering if I should click submit?
Life is messy, but do I need to share those messes here on this blog?
Sharing My Messy Life
We overshare when we provide too much personal information. Have you ever had a friend who provides too many nitty-gritty descriptions about her sex life or a manager who tells you too many intimate details about your coworkers?
These days it feels effortless to overshare. With a few clicks of the keyboard, we can dump our thoughts into the void of the Internet. Have you ever muted a friend or acquaintance for documenting too many personal moments on social media?
I don’t use social media for those purposes, but lately, I’ve wondered if I share too much about my messy life. How do I measure oversharing? Am I sharing too many negative thoughts? Is this blog becoming too heavy and gloomy?
I find it challenging to balance success with failure. Some people like to boast, but I find it much easier to talk about my shortcomings than my strengths.
Is there value in providing a highlight reel that only contains the best moments in my life? Isn’t it more valuable to show the less-than-perfect parts too?
Life is Messy
I’ll be honest. I treat this blog as a form of therapy. As the words move from my mind to my keyboard, I can feel the weight of my thoughts lift from my shoulders. When I sit before my computer, I release my deepest worries and anxieties with ease.
It’s the reason I created this blog in the first place. Stuck at home on short-term disability, I began writing to clear my mind.
My life is a strange mix of success and failure. I worked in a high paying job as a software engineer for twelve years before being laid off. I struggled to conceive but then went on to become a stay-at-home parent. My husband and I created a successful business that later crumbled.
Sometimes the most significant moments in our lives arrive after the greatest struggles. The opposite can also be true. My terrifying medical ordeal led me to walk away from work. After my husband was physically assaulted in the workplace, he had to reinvent himself. Before COVID struck, I intended to return to work. Now, I don’t want a career.
A messy life feels somewhat inevitable to me. I can balance our checkbooks, straighten our home, become a loving parent to my husband and children, and still feel the messiness of it. Messiness is like death. It comes whether I like it or not.
Talking About the Messy Parts of Life
The Internet is full of websites that provide me with perfectly rosy pictures, but I’m naturally drawn to stories written from an authentic and often messy perspective.
Get Rich Slowly, The $76K Project, Bitches Get Riches, and Accidental Fire often talk about the mistakes and bumps in their lives. As a result, they feel much more relatable to me.
Any robot can sit behind a screen typing financial facts for me to read. Some people prefer those bland details, but I’d much prefer an open and honest personal narrative.
Can you imagine watching a movie where the main character never makes a mistake, and nothing ever goes wrong? How boring would that story be?
I enjoy reading about the best moments in a blogger’s life. I celebrate their accomplishments, but sometimes I crave the messiness of life. Deep down, I want to see that others can overcome struggles too.
Penny recently wrote about this. She said, “What I need from you is proof that you struggled, too. I need to see that the challenges that I face don’t set me apart from you. Instead, that’s what we have in common.”
Have you ever stumbled upon something that felt inauthentic? That usually happens because it feels too neat and tidy. As soon as someone starts talking about everything they’ve done right, I lose interest and focus. It only sounds too good to be true.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It suggests that a picture-perfect life is less exciting and less relatable.
My Life is Messy
Before I publish a post, I weigh the honest details against the good they could provide. Will my words help someone else struggling with the same situations or thoughts? Should I share the ugly parts of my life or keep them to myself?
After fourteen years of telling my stories, I feel a whole lot better when I write them down. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that others stumble across these posts and feel better too.
Every week I receive comments and emails from distraught siblings, disheartened wives, and frightened women. Perfect strangers reach out across the Internet to tell me their stories. They have nowhere else to turn and no one else to talk to about their thoughts, fears, and concerns.
They reach out because of my messy stories and because their lives feel particularly messy too.
I’m not a therapist, and I don’t claim to be one. I encourage these readers to find someone in real life to talk with, but I also do my best to listen to their concerns and lend an open ear.
Most of us want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether we are bumping against the challenging aspects of life or reeling from our own mistakes, we want to know that we are not alone.
In this digital age, we search the Internet for that commonality. Readers reach out to thank me for sharing my stories. They email me to say they are experiencing the same situations or facing the same fears.
Those comments and emails often arrive in the wee hours of the morning, long after everyone else has gone to sleep. In the darkness, we search for hope and understanding.
Why Do I Share My Story?
Some people don’t encounter many bumps in the road. That’s amazing and incredible and quite honestly somewhat inconceivable after all I’ve been through.
I sprinkle in the celebrations of my life alongside the not so lovely moments. I write about my mortgage-free life, the best parts of achieving financial freedom, and the option of early retirement, but I document the less pleasant aspects of life too.
Those messy parts are tough to admit, but I feel compelled to share them. I share my story because my life is messy. When I was younger, I thought money would solve all of my problems. I looked up to rich friends and compared myself to them.
A good friend once told me she was jealous of everyone she knew. They all seemed to have their lives in order. Everything was going so smoothly for them, but her life wasn’t going according to plan.
The truth is most of us simply hide the bad parts of our lives. When I was struggling with infertility, I only told one person other than my husband. I didn’t want to complain or burden others. I didn’t want others to pity me.
It’s the reason strangers turn to the Internet instead of talking to those they love. I understand that feeling. I often wonder if we struggle because our lives are messy or because we believe they shouldn’t be.
My husband and I are financially independent, and yet our lives are messy. I don’t have the perfect marriage or the ideal life.
The Internet is full of picture-perfect stories and social media images. Take each with a grain of salt. Remember that a photograph doesn’t document the entire story, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Celebrating the Less Messy Stuff
I don’t want this post to end on a sad note. Knowing that life is messy doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for the positive. It means we should find the right mix of good and bad. We must notice the moments that go right to push through the moments that don’t go according to plan.
When it comes to writing about money, that can be difficult. How do we share our success without gloating? How do we talk about money when others are struggling?
I don’t have an answer for this, but I think we should be open to telling our stories no matter what they may be.
Financial Mechanic recently asked if she should stop sharing her financial information because “her circumstances are not the norm.” By that, she means a highly-paid, female software engineer.
When I read her tweet, I thought about how many times I’ve had that same feeling. I don’t share my numbers, but I often feel conflicted about sharing the good parts of my financial story.
Two-hundred-eighty-one people weighed in on her poll, and 68.7% of them voted a resounding yes. “Please share; it helps!” Of course, she should share her numbers and her success. It’s important to celebrate our victories.
I will continue to write about the good moments in my life alongside the not-so-good ones. Am I oversharing the messy parts? Most definitely, but I don’t have any plans to stop.
4 thoughts on “Life is Messy: How Can We Embrace the Messy Parts?”
Messiness is life. I think we humans tend to think (hope?) we can achieve some level of non-messy lives and the glossy bloggers/Instagrammers/Pinterest boards that are shiny perfection without the cracks of real life suck people into the false notion that that can happen.
I don’t read or follow those accounts since they can’t add value or depth to my life.
I appreciate getting to know people, WHOLE people with real lives and successes and challenges. From that perspective, I don’t ever think you’re oversharing. Oversharing implies, to me, that you’re unloading unwanted information on an unwilling participant. I’m here because I do what to know what’s going on and how you truly are.
While still staying anonymous, I’ve never found that opening up about vulnerabilities was a bad things and in many cases I’ve been surprised to hear that it was actually helpful for people to know they weren’t going through hard things alone. I shouldn’t be surprised, I have that feeling too!
I hadn’t thought about oversharing as “unloading unwanted information on an unwilling participant” although that definition makes perfect sense. Hopefully readers don’t feel like I’m doing that.
I have been completely amazed by the number of people that reach out because they are experiencing a similar issue or problem in their lives. The more I write about the messes the better I feel, not only because it feels like therapy to me, but because I know it helps others too.
Thank you for listening to my ramblings for all of these years and for providing me with the inspiration to return to writing when I had given up. I really did miss it when I was gone.
I don’t think you’re over-sharing. I think you’re being honest and vulnerable and it’s one of the things I like best about your posts. I think the difficult periods in our lives are the ones that shape us into strong, capable people. Easy successes don’t do that for us.
I think life is hard for most people at some point or other. It’s easy to envy someone’s life on social media, because the hard stuff doesn’t show. I think the fact that you write about all of your life- the ups and downs, is important. And it’s interesting, so don’t stop!
Thank you. I do think the greatest moments of strength can come after horrible experiences. At least if I’m lucky enough to get to the other side of them, which so far, thankfully, I always have!
I don’t intend to stop writing about the messy stuff anytime soon. Sometimes I write posts I never publish, but most of the time I eventually hit that button and show my messes to the world!