The Real Meaning of Freedom in the Past Year of My Messy Brilliance

It’s my one-year anniversary! A year ago, my first book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman, was published. Of course, given the time I’ve spent cultivating inspiration, stories from the amazing women around me, and the courage to fully, unabashedly express myself without any filters, it feels like it’s been years in the making.

Anniversaries help me reflect on the many lessons, gifts, epiphanies, and mini-deaths that mark my life. Whether I’m celebrating a birth, a marriage, a creative milestone, a loved one’s sobriety, or anything else that holds meaning for me, anniversaries allow me to behold the complexity and beauty (and yes, the messiness!) of my life.

For me, the birthday of my book is no different.

In my personal and professional life, as well as my sense of the larger collective and the lessons we’re cycling through, I absolutely know that I was meant to write my book. While it’s not expressly political or a meditation on the state of the world, Your Messy Brilliance was conceived and written as a heartbeat of the era we live in: a time of changes, challenges, choices. Of women stepping up to claim their stories, and of the world responding in kind.

Yes, there is chaos and turmoil, but there is also transformation. And while much of what we are experiencing is just one version of a story that’s been told for centuries, our understanding of what’s going on is shifting dramatically.

Over the last year I’ve spoken, taught, and listened to the stories of women from all over the world, my pain over the suffering I see in the world today has given way to hopefulness and a recognition of the beauty and potential that lives inside every single woman.

I wrote my book as a testament to the power of women claiming their voices and their stories—which is also a guiding principle of my organization, Women For One. For me, this is the most empowering vision of freedom I can think of: a world in which women are freely expressing all that’s inside them, and in doing so, triggering the transformation of everything around them.

Now more than ever, women’s freedom matters. The road to that freedom is sisterhood: supporting each other and claiming our unique truths and our shared stories alike.

Our stories are truly gateways to freedom—but in order to recognize their beauty and their capacity to change our lives for the better, we must be willing to wade through the mess.

The politics. The disappointments. The rock bottoms. The “I just can’t figure it out.” And ultimately, the awareness that while we might not be able to wave a magic wand and change or save the world, our choices and actions have real, long-term ripple effects.

Sister, I’m not gonna lie: It takes a lot of wading through the mess. Being in the mess. Sitting in the mess. Not trying to fix or change it…but simply, discovering our brilliance in our lives and our experiences and our histories and our circumstances and all our shit, exactly as they are.

For me, this is ultimate freedom.

Our messiness is not the enemy, as so many of us have been trained to believe. It is our willful blindness to what is happening that is our enemy. It is the fear that has us in its chokehold that is our enemy. It is the fake smile of perfection plastered on our faces, even though we are screaming inside, that is the enemy. Most of all, it is the myth of separation and the idea that we have to go it alone, which keeps us stuck in a rut of powerlessness, that is the enemy.

As women, we must understand that there is power in numbers. We absolutely require connection and compassion in order to recognize that we are not alone in our struggles, and that we need not hide our messiness beneath layers of denial or shame.

When we honor and acknowledge our messiness and complexity, shame no longer controls us—even when it’s peering at us from the highest offices in the land or the most socially acceptable vantage points. When we claim our messiness, we change the way things have always been done. We upend business as usual. We transform our world.

Historically, women have been the ones who’ve paid the price for collective shame, but shame–and the silence that is its bedfellow—is a lie that needs to put to rest once and for all. We have the power to do that: one story, one voice, one courageous action at a time.

Becoming free is never about doing it alone, but together. Hand in hand, hearts open, voices loud and proud. Because together, we can support each other to speak up, speak out, and shine—even when there are many who still refuse to listen. We can encourage each other to express our messiness. We can finally know the exhilarating taste of true freedom and the incomparable experience of having lived full out—and recognize that nobody can ever take this away from us.

Happy anniversary. Here’s to you and all women, past and present. Most of all, here’s to our messy brilliance.

Life is messy, but women everywhere—in politics, entertainment, government, the corporate world—are stepping up, speaking out, and responding to the mess by sharing the beautiful, devastating, powerful reality of who we are and what we’ve been through. In the midst of these enormous shifts, my bestselling book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman, offers you a powerful way to boldly own your life story and move from victimhood to empowerment, while gaining all the support you need in the process. Join me on November 1, 12 noon PST/3 p.m. EST, for “Unlock Your Messy Brilliance,” an important webinar in which you’ll walk away with an actionable set of tools that can help you navigate these changing times and move even closer to the true you: the woman who’s ready and willing to face whatever’s next. If you’re a woman who isn’t afraid to get messy—especially if that means changing your life and the world once and for all—you won’t want to miss this webinar. 


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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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