Learning to Trust My Messiness

How connected are you to your messiness? How much of it do you embrace, and how much of it do you hide in the hopes that no one else will see? What has it taken to get yourself aligned with who you really are, using life’s challenges and obstacles not as excuses to back down, but as fuel to keep going?

Throughout my life, I’ve written about my journey into and out of my messiness numerous times. In my new book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman, I offer a vulnerable account of the experiences that led me to be a champion of women’s voices and truths. What all these experiences have in common is that they led me to a deep awareness of why expressing and embracing my messiness is the key to my deepest joy, and my purpose for being here.

Growing and finding myself through experiences of incest, a broken family, divorce, and my personal struggles with my body has been huge, but I prefer to begin in the present, not the past.

Although the creative process of writing the book was exhilarating, Your Messy Brilliance expanded my edges and took me deep into the mess of my own life in the process.

You’ve probably heard that old cliche, “Art imitates life.” In my case, it’s been the opposite, and with my life mirroring my creative process in unexpected ways. The journey of bringing this book to fruition was no exception.

After writing a full draft of the book, I was fortunate enough to land a publisher who seemed perfect. However, several months into our partnership, they told me that the manuscript wasn’t clear enough. They asked me if I’d be open to cutting down the content and sending them a new draft. I was devastated, but a glimmer of opportunity was on the horizon. I now had the opportunity to go through the book and update it so it was truer to the woman I was in the present moment—who was so different from the woman who’d set out to write the book a year prior to all this. It was a blessing in disguise, as I recognized that the creative process cannot be rushed. A book has a spirit and life of its own, and it was my job to channel that accordingly.

The second draft of my book was the one I fell in love with. It was true to the voice I wanted to share with the world and infused with many of the insights I’d picked up in the last year about owning my voice unabashedly—even though it was a little edgy. When my publisher expressed that they weren’t happy with the new draft, I realized I had a choice: Would I start from scratch and deliver something that was more palatable to their audience, or would I go with my gut and honor this gorgeous, messy book I had written from my very soul and my personal integrity…even though I had no guarantee that it would be published?

One of the tools I count on in my life is my intuition, and you can bet this experience was an opportunity for me to put my own into action. I realized that I’d been ignoring my gut too long; something had told me that, as much as I appreciated my publisher and the work they’d done, theirs wasn’t the right path for my book. What wanted to be birthed through me was something that had a life and a reason of its own; it could only thrive when I was willing to embrace my full self and my wild messiness. I could almost hear it whispering to me: “Kelly, be patient. It’s going to happen. You just have to trust.”

This directive to trust made me think of all the situations I’d recently been in, whether it was a group I was invited to be a part of or a talk I’d been invited to give, where I wasn’t 100% on board but doubted myself and the voice of my messiness—which “clearly didn’t know what she was doing”!

All the voices of judgment came up, but I didn’t succumb to them. Instead, I returned to my messiness, which has never led me astray. I decided that operating from “logic” was overrated, and that I needed to trust my gut.

So, my publisher and I amicably parted ways. In the same period, as I was more deeply settling into my loud, exuberant messiness, other professional relationships fell apart. It was challenging, as I didn’t know what I was going to do and where I was going to go from there…but I remembered that I needed to practice what I had preached in my book, which was teaching me to trust on much deeper levels. After all, life is messy and unpredictable, and part of navigating the messiness is having the patience and willingness to be in it for the long haul.

Amazingly, I found Enrealment Press almost immediately after the relationship with my original publisher dissolved. Jeff Brown, the company’s founder and one of my good friends and mentors, has been a consistent voice of support since the moment we joined forces. He trusts my voice, and he lets me be as messy as I need to be—which is exactly what my book needed! Not only that—I also discovered my true voice and power through my messiness, which I was quickly learning to integrate into everything I did.

In fact, at this point, other things in my life seemed to magically fall together. The right people, connections, and opportunities were presenting themselves. The challenge to trust my gut was hard, but it was necessary. I was weeding out all the things in my life that did not align with me. As amazing as my first publisher was, they didn’t really “get” me, or my messiness. Where they might have seen me as unwilling to fit into a specific model of what a book and its writer should be, I was being tested to be more of who I already was.

Speaking of which, the process of sharing the book with the people in my life and revealing all my messiness opened up another can of worms. I recognized that writing about your secrets with full transparency can trigger a lot of people. I discovered who my supporters were; and accordingly, who my detractors were. The ones who chose to walk away from me are not bad people; I simply realized that in choosing my messiness, I was lighting up their own messiness as well as the secrets they might have been keeping…from both themselves and others.

The choice to walk in my messiness isn’t easy, and I’m still learning. I am learning to trust my gut when everything around me might be telling me otherwise. I am learning to honor it, even when it causes others to attack me or end our relationships. I am also more patient with myself and my process, because messiness is kind of like a fine wine; it needs time to really come into itself and to reveal its true brilliance and flavor in its own time.

Not only is the journey never over—it is constantly diverging in different directions. The lessons we have to learn are not closed books with conclusive endings. Embracing my messiness has proven to be the lesson of a lifetime, and that was nowhere more evident than in the writing of my book.

Getting Your Messy Brilliance out into the world entailed a lot of trials, tribulations, and turning points—but also some major blessings, including the most unexpected ones. They say that how you do anything is how you do everything. In that case, I’m content to know that my messiness is its own intelligent operating system: It knows exactly where it needs to go, and I’m just here to follow its lead.

If you’re ready to dive into your messy brilliance, order my book today.

And be sure to sign up for my email newsletter, Notes to My Messy Self, for a daily reminder of the powerhouse that you are. Sign up here.

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About the Author | Kelly McNelis

Kelly McNelis is the founder of global community, Women for One, a speaker, coach, facilitator, and bestselling author of Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman. With more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit and small-business consultant, Kelly empowers generations of women around the world to build the relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. She finds daily inspiration in spending time with her husband and children in her home outside of Seattle.

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