What we miss by “holding it together”

I’m the oldest of seven, the product of overachievers, a hyper-competent “woman who always has the answers and knows where she’s going.” My friends and family see me as the go-to girl who always seems to have it together.

But over the past few years, I’ve been questioning how this affects me. What is the price I pay for adopting this personae? Yes, I’ve come a long way. I’ve let a lot of perfectionist tendencies drop, am less controlling than before and am a big advocate for practicing “good is good enough.” But what would it look like for me to be MORE vulnerable? To be less prepared, less polished and more messy and human than I’ve ever been before?

living intentionally

Do you think you always have to hold it together and have all the answers? Or can you let go and show up 100% YOU-warts and all?

It takes a lot of energy to hold it together. My yoga teacher Jenn shared a story about a visual artist who photographed Salvador Dali over a stretch of five minutes (with time-lapsed breaks in between). Seeing Dali go back and forth between “DALI!” and a tired, slightly slumped over normal guy in a chair, was fascinating. It showed how much it took for the artist to be on stage, in personae–to “hold it together.”

Right now, two of my close friends are going through hard times (one may lose her house, the other is navigating a rocky divorce). We’ve been talking about how essential it is for them–for all of us– to allow ourselves to come undone, feel our feelings, turn into puddles, ask for help and be vulnerable–in order to transform into who we’re meant to be … next.

Author Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) says, “What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it’s because we admire perfection, but that’s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are ‘real’ – we’re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance.”

We are not self-improvement projects. We’re messy, complex, beautiful, wild, always-evolving humans.

I am much more interested in the second half of life in who I want to BE, than what I want to DO–and in showing up 100% ME. What most calls to me in the decades to come is to be even more vulnerable, to make more mistakes, to put myself out there as unfinished, a work in progress, maybe even clueless. And to hopefully inspire others to consider doing the same.


living intentionally

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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum.  She is the author of three books on life balance and living intentionally including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 16-year-old son. More on her background here.



  1. Christy Wylie says

    I love this, Renee!