How To Feel Put Together, From Someone Who Is Not Put Together

What Is A “Put Together” Person, Anyway?

I’ve never been the picturesque vision of “put-together”: calm under pressure, firm in my direction, perfectly accessorized. The past couple of years found me reaching for this put-togetherness more than ever. I felt like a chaotic 17-year-old, instead of nearly 30, and my insides felt like old scrambled eggs.

I wanted what I thought was the picture of perfection, and I kept missing the mark—no amount of bold red lipstick or French tucks could make me feel pulled together.

I was living the “pile lifestyle,” where staying organized meant various mounds of clothing and paperwork on my bedroom floor. I struggled to place myself into outfits that Pinterest told me looked polished, to remain quiet instead of making a self-deprecating joke, to keep my dusty Los Angeles apartment perfectly clean. I wanted what I thought was the picture of perfection, and I kept missing the mark—no amount of bold red lipstick or French tucks could make me feel pulled together.

Eventually, I found myself logging in to a call with an online therapist. I expressed my chaotic feelings and failings, and the therapist asked me one simple question: What if you stopped assigning a judgment of good or bad to yourself and what you do? I realized, right then, that labeling myself as “bad” wasn’t helping anyone. That feeling of not being “put-together” wasn’t stemming from true inadequacy; it was coming from me not accepting myself.

So I started small. In the weeks that followed that first therapy session, I swapped what was outwardly impressive for things that felt true to me. I realized wine is not my drink, despite how put-together it makes me look, and started opting for beer or soda water instead. I acknowledged my cluttered closet and invested in a freestanding clothing rack, instead of trying to hide my garments (or leave them on the floor). I put a yoga membership on hold and opted for regular walks, rather than beating myself up for not going to the yoga studio every single day.

The more I began to examine and accept myself, including all the flustered parts, the more put-together I felt. 

The more I really began to examine and accept myself, including all the flustered parts, the more put-together I felt. 

Once I felt like I had a handle on the small stuff, I extended the acceptance to my self-talk. Instead of reaching for self-deprecation, I began to offer myself a single moment of pause before reacting so that I could engage honestly. Oversharing, self-centering, and gossip were tools I'd used more frequently out of a need for validation, but in realizing they never served me, I let them go. By restoring my playful side, discovering new ways to build up myself and others, and taking myself just a hair less seriously, I found myself reconnecting with the joys in my life.

Today, piles are still my default organization method, and red lipstick inevitably ends up on my coffee-stained teeth. I wouldn't necessarily look at the picture of my life and say, "this is the life of a pulled-together person." But I'm feeling more put together each day.

And there's a monumental difference between looking put-together and feeling put-together. I had imagined the road to feeling better looking picture-perfect: warm mugs of tea during productive virtual therapy, deep journaling, and rising each morning full of vim and vigor. The process, instead, looks more like my sourdough starter: it takes a while, it rises and falls, it smells a little funky. Some days I'm more bubbly and full of life than others. But I'm in the process of making something good.

It's not linear; if I drew a line of my progress, it'd be quite the squiggle. Some days I French tuck like a pro and my lipstick never runs—and other days, I'm shuffling through a pile of clean clothes on the floor to find a bra. But each morning when I wake up, the invitation stands: to swap the optics for authenticity, to accept where I'm at, and to acknowledge my points for growth without judgment.

To feel, even slightly, just a little more put together. And to be okay if I don't.


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Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.