Bless This Mess: Redefine Power and Brilliance in Life's Complications
“Perfection is overrated.”
That is one of the truths Kelly McNelis, founder of Women For One, wants every woman on the planet to know and internalize. You can redefine power in your mess.
The author of the upcoming book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman, is on a mission to allow women around the world to share their stories, embrace their flaws and find power and strength in what is real and what is possible.
At a time in our culture when decluttering is a near religious calling for so many, and when shaming for flaws is such a huge part of what women experience at home and at work, McNelis’ approach can seem a relief and a useful tool to create a meaningful life.
“We can step into our true power,” McNelis says, “when we step out of the idealized images in relationships, as parents, at work and define for ourselves what our power is.”
McNelis writes: “I’m all about messy. I believe that the truth of who we are and what we are capable of lives in our messiness. Messiness has negative connotations in our culture—after all, hot mess is hardly a compliment—but to me, it signifies a person’s wholeness. As women, we beat ourselves up for being too emotional, too chaotic, too much of everything that actually makes us the powerful, creative, brilliant people we are.”
Take The Lead Co-founder and President Gloria Feldt would agree, as she created the Leadership Power Tools and Leadership Power Tool # 5, Carpe The Chaos asserts. “Change creates chaos. Today’s changing gender roles and economic turbulence may feel chaotic and confusing. But chaos also means boundaries become more fluid. That’s when people are open to new ways of thinking, to innovation, and to new roles for women. Carpe the chaos, for in chaos is opportunity.”
Like Feldt, of course McNelis is not advocating creating dysfunction, only steps to understanding the steps necessary to creating the life you intend.
McNelis, who has 20 years experience as an educational nonprofit and small business consultant in the U.S. and Canada, founded Women For One. Her mission is to help others with workshops, trainings and sharing of truths. The start of this path began when she was in her early 30s.
“I had three small children and was in a bad marriage and I said, I do not have to do it this way. Only I have the power to move forward in my life,” McNelis says.
And she has, with a happy second marriage, a blended family and work that is meaningful, McNelis says. Now she is out to share what it takes to get there, though she is quick to decry hers is not “a self-help book.”
She adds, “This is not just sharing a story because women share their stories. You have to say, what did you learn? You have to share a story to make a plan.”
While McNelis shares her own story of sexual abuse early in her life, she says sharing for sharing’s sake is not the goal. “I think it’s important to exercise discernment and to understand when it’s OK to hold boundaries around our personal stories.”
This notion also aligns with Feldt’s Power Leadership Tool # 9. Feldt advises, “Tell Your Story. Your story is your truth. Your truth is your power. Telling your story authentically helps you lead (not follow) your dreams and have an unlimited life.”
In her new book, the seven tools McNelis offers and explains in detail are Curiosity, Awareness, Acceptance, Intuition, Choice, Manifestation and The Infinite Roadmap.
“We are taught to hide and keep ourselves in tact,” says McNelis. “One of those agreements we have is we will not talk about anything bad. But the more we hide, the grander it gets.”
On the Women For One site, women from 50 countries participate and are encouraged to share their stories, and also to read the stories of others. “It helps them feel less alone,” McNelis says. “It helps in finding your tribe.”
As a global organization, McNelis says she has discovered that “storytelling in some cultures is more respected. But all our struggles are very similar.“
With more than 500 regular contributors from around the world on the site, McNelis says for the women who share their stories, “When you find your true voice, it’s a feeling of joy. When I meet a woman who has accepted herself and puts herself out there, it’s true confidence.”
Encompassing the full scope of what life offers is key, McNelis says, along with awareness of the full picture.
“I was with one of my best friends when she died. I wanted to share how I could come out of that,” McNelis says. “This is a process you can apply to big and small situations.”
In the realms of our lives related to work or personal relationships,” McNelis says, “When you dive into the messiness, and we forgive ourselves we can get real about where we are in life.”
The author, speaker, founder, facilitator, mentor, wife, friend and mother adds, “I know what I am and I am a mess. Life is messy. Make your life happen, don’t let it happen to you.”
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About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com