I am a mess of contradictions:

  • I eat a salad every day and bake cookies many weekends.
  • I’m not intimidated by service men who are attempting to shaft me and I cry at Hallmark commercials.
  • When I first meet you, I can remember the details about your dog, your 2nd grade experience, and the story you told me about your mom but I can’t remember what I had for breakfast.
  • I absolutely value healthy, whole family units and I stayed in a destructive marriage.
  • I want to constantly learn more. I get excited about more and better skills and knowledge and I want to bury my head in the sand when it comes to financial investments and technology.
  • I desire for everyone, especially myself, to contribute to the larger community and I love a good shoot ‘em up cowboy movie.

Our contradictions are what make us magnetic — attractive. And they are what make us doubt ourselves. How can these things co-exist? I need to hide this mess of contradictions because I’ll look crazy, inconsistent, untrustworthy.

Look around for a minute, maybe two. What are you attracted to — who are the people you really trust, enjoy, want to be around? If you study them long enough, you’ll likely uncover they are a mess of contradictions and that’s what makes you feel safe with them. The exposure to their real, contradictory self is what makes them attractive, authentic, worth being around.

The woman who runs 8 miles a day and orders dessert when you meet for lunch is adored for her capacity to publicly be both healthy and free. The neighbor who keeps the yard immaculate but who’s car is a trash dump is appreciated for his focus on things that are important to him. The co-workers who put in extra hours, turn in excellent work, contribute greatly to every project and play hard on the weekend, on vacation, and at the holiday party are valued for their capacity to have a foot in both worlds — hard work and full-on playfulness.

It’s our messy contradictions that make us who we are and yet they are the very things we typically hide from the world. Perfectionism, procrastination, people-pleasing, comparison, poor boundaries, and minimizing are behaviors we indulge in to hide our contradictions. Hiding out in these behaviors masks our essence — our very makeup. Perfectionism pushes us to work three times as hard while losing who we really are to projects that aren’t important to us. Procrastination leaves us with sleepless nights and increased anxiety, so that we are incapable of showing up as ourselves. People-pleasing and poor boundaries cause us to agree with others when we really have a different opinion. Comparison has us measuring ourselves against a standard that isn’t designed for us which leaves us doubting ourselves. Minimizing requires us to stay small when really we can fill the room and the room needs us. Owning our contradictions is one step toward showing us our complete selves.

Knowing we are a mess of contradictions is a place to start when we begin to look for ourselves. Acknowledging that our contradictions are what cause people to enjoy us, to know us, and to trust us helps us stop hiding. It releases the behaviors that keep us hidden is a challenging and scary process. The reward: we find ourselves and the world is enriched by knowing us