90 Transcript: Embrace Your Messiness and Imperfection (Kelly McNelis)

Click here to download the PDF version of the transcript.

J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 90.

Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.

J: Hey there, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women. I'm Jen Riday and I am here to help you live simpler, feel balanced, and love more; that's my mission. I'm so glad you're here. Welcome to today's show. And let me recap. Last week, I spoke with Heather Chauvin all about sustainable motherhood and managing your energy through strong, clear boundaries. And in the end, it all comes down to knowing how you want to feel and how you want to show up as a mom and then structuring your life to match; such a great episode, a must listen if you're a mom. You can find that at jenriday.com/89. Today, I'll be talking with Kelly McNelis all about perfectionism and embracing her messiness and our flaws and our mistakes instead of beating herself up about it. This is a great episode if you feel like you're not good enough and you want to step into a place of living more vulnerably and authentically. So let's go ahead and dive right in to that episode.

I'm talking to Seattle entrepreneur, Kelly McNellis today and she founded the Women for One global platform to help women understand how ending the chase for perfection and owning our mistakes can help us find our voice, become clear in our beliefs, and live unapologetically; which probably feels amazing. And after 20 years as a non-profit and small business consultant, Kelly now travels the world empowering women. Kelly has interviewed powerful women leaders such as Dr. Maya Angelou, Arianna Huffington, and just released her first book, ‘Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman’. I love this. I am so excited to talk to you today, Kelly, because perfectionism causes a lot of unhappiness so this is going to be fantastic.

K: Well, thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk to you as well.

J: Let's have a quote and then dive in to, you know, the things you help women with.

K: Well, I love to tell women to embrace their messiness and especially, “Embrace their messy brilliance,” which we can talk about, “in all its glorious imperfections.” So that's my favorite quote these days.

J: Okay. So when you say, “Embrace your messiness,” what kind of things do women think of when you say that word ‘messiness’? Because my mind immediately started going to my body size a little bit or some flabby flabs, you know what I mean?


J: Or I never make my bed and there's this pile of clothes, you know, what do people think of when you say that?

K: It's funny you ask that because I do a lot of workshops with women and it's the first thing I start with, is to ask them what the visual is for them on it.

J: Yeah.

K: And a lot of women talk about messy hair, a messy purse, messy thoughts, right, and their body image. And it just really is telling, “When you think of the word messy, what does it bring up for you?” I've always been told my whole life that I'm kind of a messy thinker. My husband calls me hyperlink because I've got ADD.

J: (Laughs)

K: So I… I go from one space to another to another. And I really started discovering that, “That is part of my genius.” And what I want women to do is to discover their own genius through the messiness of their lives, whether it be through experiences and stories that they told themselves about who they are; instead of avoiding those issues, really diving in…

J: Ooh.

K: … to figure out what your messy brilliance is to be able to make life happen on your own terms.

J: Okay, so messy goes from being negative, bad, to something really cool and powerful. So how does that work?

K: Well, so you look at messiness, right? Messiness can be negative and bad, you know, I've had a lot of messiness. Look at our world right now; our world is messy.

J: Mmm, yeah.

K: And I'm not saying for people to just shift it into good, but what I’m saying is for them to not avoid the messiness of their life, not to pretend that everything's okay. When someone asks you as a woman, “How are you?” our initial instinct, because we're caretakers, is to say, “I'm good, you know, everything is fine. I need to be grateful or…” you know, which is all good to be grateful for your life.

J: Yeah.

K: But how about we get real with ourselves and one another and realize that a lot of times, we're not okay, and start asking ourselves questions around what that messiness has taught us so that we can discover that brilliant gem inside of us of truth and congruence of being real.

J: So messiness becomes a teacher.

K: Yes.

J: If we're willing to sit with it. Ooh, okay.

K: Mm-hmm, yes.

J: So in your workshops after women discover what messiness means to them, my brain isn't even able to comprehend this, where do you go to let messiness teach you? How do you can begin to open your mind to that idea?


K: Well, you know, the tools in the book that I offer really talk about how to do that; whether it be a small situation in your life like you have an issue with a friend that you can't speak about, you know, you're nervous about having a hard conversation, to the greater like, “Why am I here?” question or, “How can I find joy in my life?” And the first thing I tell women to do is to start asking themselves the right questions; really dive in and be open to new possibilities and new answers. And then also to get an awareness of their story and what the unconscious stories they're telling themselves about the experiences our life and what has happened to them means to them. So that's just the beginning tools; the curiosity and the awareness. And then I have another 5 tools that I have women go through in the book.

J: Okay. So you offer women a roadmap to help them find clarity into what's important and do you want to share those tools with us?

K: Sure. So I talked about curiosity and awareness first, then you really need to move into kind of an acceptance of where you are in life, you know? For example, you can't just pretend everything's fine when, you know, you're lying on the bathroom floor having one of those moments of, “I'm desperately unhappy.” So really accepting where you are, I think, is very important. And then, once you do that in your life, you can move into this space of embracing your power and listening to your gut and your intuition. Because I think it's really important that women listen to that intuitive voice that we all have and trust that place so they can move forward. And then the fifth tool, which is my favorite, is choice. and so until we hear that little voice and get an acceptance and awareness of where we are our lives, we can't really move into choice being a powerful tool because we're kind of stuck over in the other space. So I love the tool of choice because it's really the differentiator in a person that has taken self responsibility for their lives and moved out of their victimhood and moved into a conscious place of choosing where they want to go. So then the next 2 are embodying limitless possibility. And when I talk about embodying, I was going to call it embracing, but really it's about really knowing that anything truly is possible in your life. And I'm not talking about the secret here and all that, you know, it's really not just envisioning what you want, but starting to walk that talk and embody what you want. And then the last tool is really making life happen and taking action in your life and creating that plan to move forward. So just so you know, the tools I'm offering, you know, they're not brain surgery, they just worked for me in my life and I think they've worked for a lot of people in their lives, and I'm just kind of offering this roadmap that each of us can customize. Because I believe that each of us has those answers inside ourselves. I'm not here giving any information that we don't already know.

J: Yeah. And I'd love that you mentioned intuition in that process; that's helpful, you know, to go through that.

K: Mm-hmm.

J: But you talked about victimhood and, in your book, you also talked about being an incest survivor. So the Me Too campaign just happens, can you talk a little bit about that and your experience and how you got past the victim thinking?

K: Well, I'm still working it. I think we all need to. I actually just wrote a blog this morning on this (since it’s perfect timing) about the media campaign. I was ready to write and I've been on several shows locally about it. I'm really encouraged. Some people are naysayers about, “Oh, here we go again,” you know? It's interesting to hear everybody's criticizing this campaign when women are finally having the courage to come together in community and support one another in speaking truth. Because the truth is out now and we can't go back, and I think it's something that we all need to address in a way of realizing that, this sexual abuse and victimization is about power and fear, not about sex; kind of like rape is, it's the same thing. And I really hope that we can all, as women and men, take a look at this in our society and move forward and not allow it anymore; because it's just not okay.

J: So tell us more about your own story that you mentioned in the book and how you were able to kind of apply these for yourself.

K: Well, when… I think about 15 years ago, I was desperately unhappy in a marriage. I had three little children and I came from, you know, a dysfunctional (kind of like we all do on some level) family where I moved around a lot I had an alcoholic father who sexually abused me, and he passed; he died when I was 17. And I was determined not to be that person that my mom had gotten divorced and had married a pedophile and, you know, I was going to have this quote ‘perfect life’. And I'm laughing because, you know, 15, 10… no, 12 years later, I'm laying on a bathroom floor desperately unhappy, not understanding why I had these 3 beautiful children, where I'm not grateful for my life. And it's because I was trying to fit this mold that society and my family and the world had sold me about what brings happiness, which just isn't true. It's not true to be stay-at-home-mom, Leave It to Beaver, you know, be the perfect housewife and have this perfect little life, it's about getting clear about what you want in life and moving forward to ask the questions on how you can find joy, how you can be more authentic with yourself. And so that bathroom floor moment led to a divorce, then I experienced a death of one of my dearest friends; I was with her when she passed, and it helped me understand that I really want to live each day like it's my last. And I know that's so cliché, but it's true; it really did happen to me. And after being a single mom for 5 years, I blended a family of six children; which I know you have six, I heard you heard…

J: Ooh, yeah.

K: … you said that on a previous podcast.


K: And so that's a messy situation as well. It's been beautiful and I have this incredible partner, but, you know, I'm just rolling with the punches and I created Women for One after we blended the family. So it's been a fun life.

J: Tell us more about Women for One, what that is. And then how do you get through those moments where you start that inner dialogue that's a bit negative, you want to beat yourself up for the mistakes or the things that aren't going right? How do you pull out of that and embrace that imperfection, you know?

K: Mm-hmm. Well, first of all, Women for One’s a great vehicle to do that. I started it because I thought I just wanted to write and it was just this little soul project after I've been through a lot in my life to do my own healing. And they say you create what you need. So I needed a tribe and a community of like-minded women that wanted to share their experiences. And I created this in 6 and a half years ago with Women for One. And it's been an incredible ride because, when I started, it was just a small little blog where I’d, you know, courageously put my thoughts out there, but I was terrified at first, like a lot of people are for criticism and trying to get it right, because I still was in that mode, and not there anymore as much. But… and then after several years, we've created this community of over 500, what I call, truth tellers of women and some great men from over 50 countries, sharing their experiences and their stories around anything from grief to entrepreneurship to body image to self-esteem; I mean, everything under the Sun on my site. And my whole point was not to create another blog, but to create a community where all stories were welcomed, not for writers, but for women that wanted to release their story, learn from it, feel more connected to others and less alone. And I think that's a good way to start pulling out of that victimhood, is to take some self responsibility for your life and, you know, even if something horrific has been done to you and you are a clear victim, we always have a choice on how to move forward and learn from that and decide what we're going to do with that experience in our future.

J: Mm-hmm. Yes, you always have a choice; I love that. It's just so much more empowering than thinking all is lost.

K: Right, right.

J: Well, this book is a testament to women trusting themselves rather than some self-help guru, and how do we do that?

K: You know, I love that you brought that up because it's really important to me. I lived with the Guru for several years. And I…

J: Oh!

K: I've been a seeker for my whole life about why we're here and really trying to understand the meaning of life, you know, ever since I was little. That's why I love the first tool in my book is curiosity, because I find it's one of my greatest skills is to ask questions; and I think we all need to be open to that. But, you know, in moving forward, I think we all can benefit from learning from our own wisdom and not just looking at women on a stage, men on a stage, talking down to us, saying, “I've got the solution! I've got the magic pill!” because nobody does. And I say that on the cover of my book, “There's no magic pill.” And as soon as I started to embrace that and realize that in my life and trust that I had my own answers, no, I'm not always going to get it right, but that's the journey of life and that's the fun of life in a lot of ways. I think we all need to be in that space a little bit more and have mentors, but not idolize those mentors because they're going to fall off the pedestal.

J: So how do you tap into your own wisdom? What does that look like, feel like for you?

K: I tap into my own wisdom by taking a lot of deep breaths and tuning into the radio signal that I call my intuition and getting quiet and taking a power pause, especially when I'm feeling confused. Because I actually like confusion; I think it's kind of a cool thing when I'm confused about something because I know my… my brain is scrambled and it's open to new possibilities.

J: Ah!

K: Yeah. So when I get confused in my life about anything or like not sure about what to do or very unsure, I go, “Oh, wait, this is one of those moments, let's take some deep breaths, tap into the wisdom, get really still, take a power pause,” whether it be 3 minutes 20 minutes (sometimes we as women don't have 20 to 30 minutes just to stop and do that), “and just check in and ask myself what this is about and… and listen and be open to different answers.

J: Yes. And so can you share an example recently of how you listened to your intuition and what happened after doing that?

K: Yeah (Laughs). I have so many. I was like, “Ooh!” I had 7 come to my mind when you said that.

J: (Laughs). Good for you! That's awesome!

K: I never talked about this before, but I've had some staff changes recently and I had this incredible team member, very well intentionally give me 3 months notice to leave. nd it was really interesting because she's one of my favorite employees I've ever had, she's an incredible worker, but I'm heading into this book launch and I just kept seeing the words, “No,” and hearing it every time I sit down. I feel like I can differentiate now the difference between when I am coming from that ego place, you know, as I practice this gut feeling…

J: Mm-hmm.

K: … and when it's like a clear ‘no’. And it was a clear ‘no’ that she needed to stay around for 3 more months. I needed someone that's walking my talk and is aligned with me through the biggest event of my life, and it felt really good to trust my gut. And, you know, I'm proud of myself for following my intuition, and there were benefits and drawbacks to it, you know? I didn't have her around creating this machine of Women for One that I needed, but it also felt really clean that I chose to follow that gut and that intuition. And we ended up being friends and it's been great.

J: Oh, good for you; that's great, really great. And so everything's worked out so far; feeling good?

K: Yes, let’s hope.

J: Crossing fingers.


K: Yes.

J: Well, let's take a quick break for our sponsor and then we'll come back and talk about some of your favorite things.

(Advertisement) [16:04]
(Interview resumes) [18:50]

J: Okay, Kelly, let's talk about your morning routine first as we talked about some of your favorite things. What do you like to do in the morning?

K: What I really like to do is take some deep breaths and go into gratitude just for 5 minutes about the day. And sometimes I forget to do it because life's messy, right, and then I do it when I can. So when I wake up, I go up, I want to jump up or I want to check my phone, but I've learned very quickly from Arianna Huffington in her book not to do that. So I'm getting better at not checking my phone in the morning right away, like a lot of us do that are really connected to our computers will work, and just take some deep breaths and just go into like 3 to 5 things I'm grateful for; that's one of my favorite things. And I definitely need my coffee before I talk to anybody.


K: So that’s my morning routine.

J: And what's your favorite easy meal?

K: My favorite easy meal is… because I'm messy (my husband just laughs at me in the kitchen) is to take every single thing in my fridge and toss it into a stir fry pan. (Laughs)

J: Ah!

K: Just like vegetables and… yeah. And then a lot of times when I grill vegetables, my other favorite easy meal is, the next morning I get up and I make this big frittata and then I have it for the whole week and a half a slice each day. I'm really loving to cook these days, that's my new thing is, I think I want to be a chef next. So that’s…

J: (Gasps) Ooh! I kind of want to do that too; I’ll join you. Where are we going to study? How about Italy? (Laughs)

K: I love… that would be…

J: We'll leave our 6 kids; both always leave 12 kids behind and go to Italy. Okay.

K: Yeah, please, let’s go.


J: And what's your favorite way to relax?

K: I love to go across the street from my neighborhood with my 2 chocolate labs that are very hyper and very intense and hike this one mountain that takes me about an hour and 40 minutes in the middle of the trees, because it just… sometimes I even envisioned dumping all my stress into it before I leave. And it just totally chills me out and I always do that when I'm stressed about something, I'll go for half the time if I only have a half an hour, but that's like my go-to.

J: And your favorite way to boost your mood; maybe you go on the walk. (Laughs)

K: To boost my mood, I call my best friend. (Laughs)

J: Ooh!

K: Yes. I call my best friend in North Carolina and we talk for 3 minutes or an hour. And every single time, I can't even tell you what she's done for me over 30 years; she's like my sister.

J: Oh, that's so great. And your favorite book?

K: Oh, that's so hard! (Laughs). I have so many favorite books. And my publisher is so funny, he is not a fan of this man, but Paulo Coelho is my favorite author bar none. Every single thing I've ever read by him, I've been inspired by. And actually, his famous book, ‘The Alchemist’, is my least favorite of all his books.

J: Really?

K: Yeah. There's just something about all of his books, like when it comes out… and I'm not like an avid reader all the time, I mean, I have become one more because all my friends are writing books and I'm reading them and endorsing them, but I've just never been like this huge reader. But when I hear Paulo is coming out with a new book, it's like the most exciting thing to me; I can't wait to get my hands on it.

J: Hmm. I have only read The Alchemist, so now you have to be wondering what I'm missing, okay.

K: (Laughs). Yeah, he's amazing.

J: And the best advice you've ever received.

K: Ooh, that's a big one. I would say, best advice that I've ever received in my life is to trust myself. It actually brings me to tears. It's so simple, but every time I trust my gut, it’s always right; I just got to get clear enough to hear it.

J: Trust yourself. Well, I'll remind our listeners that there are links on our show notes page to everything you've talked about, including your book, ‘Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman’, along with everything else we've been talking about, jenriday.com/90. Kelly, let's have the big question, the one I love, what does it mean for you to be a vibrant happy woman?

K: Oh, you know what it means for me, it means to not beat myself up for my mistakes, to embrace that messy, dark, crazy place in myself, forgive myself, and to dive into what brings me joy and passion in life every single day.

J: Love it. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. Everyone, be sure to grab Kelly's book, ‘Your Messy Brilliance’; it's so good. And do what she says, you know, embrace that messy, dark, and crazy place as part of our shared humanity. So thank you so much Kelly.

K: Thank you, Jen, great to talk to you.

J: Thank you so much for joining us today. And please do me a favor, if you received any value from this episode, share it with your friends tell, them how to find the podcast app on their phone, and even better, leave a review. We have instructions on how to do that on our show notes page at jenriday.com/90. Next week, I'll be talking with Jill Payne, the spiritual athlete; and what does that mean? She found as a fitness instructor that she couldn't get some people to commit to a fitness program and she wondered why, so she started diving into the work of energy; understanding how to increase energy, and she has figured it out. She has this phrase called ‘Be a freaking dime’, and that stands for BFD; body, focus, and dialogue. She has some amazing tools that will help you shift your energy from maybe a 2 or 3, all the way up that ladder to a 10. Be sure to come back next week when I talk with her. Alright, my friends, thank you so much for listening. I love all of you and I hope you have a phenomenal week. Take care.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.