I have always found security in appearing put together.
Most of my friends would be able to tell you that I have a compulsion with brushing my hair, making sure my bangs are in place, and keeping my face oil-free. I’m not obsessed with accessories, but I rarely leave the house without pearl earrings and a simple necklace.
During the periods in my life when I was heavier than is healthy for me, I took comfort in knowing that if I could look polished, presentable, and perfect, people wouldn’t notice the extra weight. Pregnancy has certainly tested me in this area again and again as my body changes and stretches and spreads out in ways I didn’t see coming, at a pace I didn’t expect.
Packing for our trip to Colorado stressed me out for weeks beforehand. Would I have enough maternity clothes? Would I have the right maternity clothes—for lounging, hiking, going out to dinner, and everything in between? Would my carry-on suitcase have enough space to pack all the clothes and beauty products I wanted to bring?
I did overpack for Colorado, and it did all fit in my carry-on (except for a few things I shoved into Dan’s bag!). And as you may have guessed, I used less than half of what I brought.
Instead of sharing a practical look at what I should have brought to Colorado or how to pack everything into a carry-on, I want to share with you a little more about the emotional side of overpacking and what Colorado taught me about letting go of my need to appear perfect.
In advance of the trip, my friend Rachel (who lives in Denver) told me over and over “We’re not fancy here in Colorado. You’ll be fine in whatever you bring. Just bring walking shoes and layers—nothing else really matters!”
Well, that’s nice and all, but I have absolutely beautiful, thin, put-together friends, and to be honest, I was feeling like a pregnant walrus. I wanted to impress the very women whom I don’t need to impress. I forgot that along with being beautiful, my friends are real, authentic, nonjudgmental people who love me and don’t care even a little bit that I’ve gained weight. They wouldn’t care even a little bit if I wore my pajamas and no makeup all day. They wouldn’t care even a little bit if I (gasp) let my hair air dry.
It took exactly one day of trying to look perfect in Colorado for me to give up. You see, Colorado is no makeup, messy hair, yoga pants kind of place. And it turns out, my friends are no makeup, messy hair, yoga pants kind of people, a fact I’d forgotten given the fact that many of our updates come through social media. And if I’m being truthful, when I’m at home and no one else can see me, I’m a no makeup, messy hair, yoga pants kind of person.
When I finally gave up on the makeup-wearing and the outfit-matching during our trip, I realized how much more free I was, mentally and with my time. I had a half hour back in my day to lounge around and drink coffee with my friends instead of blowing out my hair. I didn’t need to run to the bathroom to reapply face powder, because I wasn’t wearing any.
Granted, I know I can’t live my life without makeup, with messy hair, and in yoga pants all the time. (Though I can spend my maternity leave this way, and I fully intend to enjoy every minute of it.) It’s healthy to put ourselves together for work, for date nights, for fun. It’s a good idea to polish ourselves up if we want to stay employed.
But I’m trying to keep this lesson from Colorado in the middle of my mind—not at the forefront, but not on the back burner. I’m looking for places in my everyday life where I can wriggle free from the grip of perfectionism. A messy ponytail on a hot summer day (not one I styled to look messy, but an actual messy one). No eyeshadow or mascara when I don’t have meetings and need the extra few minutes of sleep. Wearing the same maternity dress three days in a row because it’s the most comfortable thing I own and I feel gorgeous in it and it’s 90 degrees out for the 15th consecutive day.
The voice in my head tries to tell me, You’re letting yourself go.
The reality I tell myself is, You’re letting yourself off the hook.
What do you need to let yourself off the hook for? Where do you need a little less perfect and a little more mess in your life?
Maybe it’s in the cleanliness of your bathroom. Maybe it’s in the home-cooked dinner party that needs to become takeout. Maybe it’s in the workout that needs to be skipped because you’re exhausted, and sleep would be a better way to care for yourself. Maybe it’s in the letting your baby sleep with you because it’s the only thing that will make him stop crying, and you could use the baby snuggles anyway.
You have my permission to let yourself go, to let yourself off the hook, and to let your hair down for a while.