Culture

Don't Believe The Myth Of “Having It All Together"—A Great Life Is Put Together Over Time

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner
·  6 min read
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I’m incredibly organized. I always make deadlines, never run out of ideas, and push myself to be an active part of my family and community. No this isn’t a job resume, though it is what I look like on paper, but between these lines is heartache, frustration, and serious struggles.

Everyone seems to buy into this idea that some people just “have it all together.” I was arguing with my husband about this recently. He’s disorganized, has a bad memory, and spent so much of his life working as an artist that he seems to think that some people, unlike him, just don’t need any help being organized and taking on responsibilities. 

That myth has been perpetuated all over our media and throughout society, and it’s part of the reason why we have a mental health crisis. Our unrealistic expectations mingled with excusing destructive behavior have led to a world of arrested development.

Everyone “Falls Apart” Sometimes

No matter how organized or level-headed someone seems, everyone has internal and external struggles. We all have to worry about making ends meet. Every single person on the planet has a body to listen to and take care of. No matter how far someone has gotten, the struggles that led to successes or failures stick with them.

That last aspect is especially true. When I was a kid, I used to hide in my bedroom closet to avoid getting beaten by my father. If he came after me in a rage, he couldn’t fit in my little apartment bedroom closet, and so it protected me and he would storm off. 

This became a habit that I kept up with long after he was out of my life. It took a long time to literally stop running off to hide when things got emotionally scary. I had no trouble defending myself physically for some reason, but when arguing or facing emotional stress I just shut down. In order to break that cycle, I had to make small progress over time. 

No matter how organized or level-headed someone seems, everyone has internal and external struggles.

Most people don’t just “rip off band-aids” when it comes to life. That’s too drastic – it sets us up for failure. But slow progress sticks. It has a better hold because we can accept changes easier when we implement them little by little. 

I used to have trouble committing in relationships as well. As soon as I got too comfortable after a couple of months, I would dump the guy and run away. I was terrified of getting hurt, but eventually, over time, I gave my boyfriends longer chances. Two months turned into six, then six months turned into years. I’m now happily married and done with running. 

Because our past is like a shadow that follows us, but doesn’t represent who we are now, I still have moments of fear. There are times when I wish I could just climb into a closet and hide next to some pretty shoes and let my dresses drape over my head, but I know that won’t solve anything. I have to make a conscious effort to still combat that urge, and thankfully I don’t experience it very often anymore. 

The Difference Between a “Strong” Person and a Flake

It’s incredibly annoying that people act as if “strength” or “being put together” is a personality trait. These characteristics (mental or physical) are built through testing your abilities with challenges over time. I’ve heard so many people discuss how they envy “strong” people. I’ve been on the receiving end of this compliment, and I appreciate the intent, but in truth, it’s frustrating and isolating when others act as if you’re the only one who has the guts to do something or speak up when things need changing. It’s incredibly lonely. 

Sure, a strong person learns how to handle their sh*t. They make a choice to do what needs to be done because they grow and mature, but that’s a decision anyone can make.

A strong person makes a choice to do what needs to be done, and that’s a decision anyone can make.

It’s the flakes, who blame everyone else and refuse to take on responsibilities that challenge them, who perpetuate this myth that “having it all together” or “being strong” is some birthright. In actuality, they’re just allowing this to serve as an excuse to continue acting like a child, or remain in an unhappy situation, or any number of challenges they refuse to address.  

Finding That Balance

Sure, no one can just say “I’m going to do this” and assume that they’re a changed woman. Maturity and ability don’t work like that. You have to actually put in the effort, the work – even when you don’t feel like it – in order to truly progress.

Honestly, this drive, this will to move forward is usually driven by a defining moment. Whether it’s getting evicted, being stuck somewhere because you don’t have a car and your bus didn’t show up, getting pregnant, or losing the one you love, those serious life-altering problems are the time to rise to the occasion. Instead of flaking out and just acting as if nothing matters, anyone can decide to face their situation and take it on with a new approach. 

Even without some big defining moment, people can make small changes in their everyday lives, a little at a time, to address the habits or situations that are making them unhappy or preventing them from meeting their goals. Wake up a little earlier each day. Learn to cook a complicated dish. Take on the extra project at work. Say yes to the date. Apply for a job that offers more benefits than an annual free slice of pizza.

The people who “have it all together” allowed themselves to grow up.

The people who “have it all together” allowed themselves to grow up. They didn’t settle for whatever. They weren’t born more organized or better than anyone else. They found a balance between change and knowing who they are by learning as they go and being open to the life lessons that come with facing our fears. 

Closing Thoughts

The willingness to grow and work and progress is what paves the road for success – in your character, in your job, in your relationships, in owning a car or a home. You acquire these things over time through prolonged efforts. You don’t just wake up one morning with the dream job, the trophy husband, and the keys to a mansion.  

The point is, a great life is put together over time. It’s a constant balance that requires everyday upkeep. Once a person sets themselves on the right path, the possibilities are endless. 

No matter what we look like, what we’ve been through, or where our dreams lead, everything we experience is linked to our actions and our reactions. Those speak for themselves as we build our own unique lives over time. 

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