Embrace the State of Chaos: It Can Be Beautiful

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you live in a state of chaos at home? Do you worry that other people’s lives are perfect and your life isn’t?

In truth, we all are living in a state of chaos, no matter how things appear, and we handle it in one of three ways: Ignore the chaos, battle the chaos, and drown in the chaos. The answer is: embrace the beauty of chaos.

Continue reading to discover how you can stop comparing your life to others and enjoy your state of chaos .

Other People’s Lives Are Not Perfect

Many women are struggling to keep up with the demands of parenthood, home life and work. They feel like they never get a moment’s peace. Other people’s lives look calmer and more organized; this can lead to a sense that you’re failing.

In truth, we all are living in a state of chaos, no matter how things appear, and we handle it in one of three ways:

  • Ignore the chaos. Keep your head down and pretend the chaos of family life isn’t there, and work even harder. The problem with this method is that a state of chaos is stressful, and stress can manifest in physical ways. (Rachel Hollis experienced Bell’s palsy and vertigo.) Insomnia, headaches and hives are some physical manifestations of stress.
  • Battle the chaos. We do everything in our power to maintain a picture-perfect existence, furiously cleaning and trying to keep up. The problem with battling the state of chaos is that we always lose. Life is crazy, stressful and overwhelming, and losing battles against everyday life can make us feel like a failure.
  • Drown in the chaos. When we’re overwhelmed by housework, work, kids, friends and obligations, it can feel insurmountable, so we give up and wallow. The problem with drowning is that we let the state of chaos win and can’t do the things we need to do — raise our kids and pay our bills.

All three of these coping methods — ignoring, battling, drowning — can lead us down the path of substance abuse, using alcohol, food or pills to deal with the stress. The problem with these three methods is that they imply that you are in control of the mess and chaos around you, but much of this is not in our control. While we may be in control of ourselves, we can’t control much of what we’re dealing with — the actions of others, our children’s moods, problems that crop up. Thinking we can control everything is a recipe for anger, frustration and stress because we are not in control of everything.

How Do We Learn to Accept and Embrace the State of Chaos?

The answer is to embrace the chaossee the beauty in the state of chaos. This requires a shift in thinking. Our current situation, however stressful, is temporary.

How do we learn to accept and embrace the chaos?

  • Cut yourself some slack. We all mess up, scream at the kids, forget events. This loss of control is upsetting, but tomorrow is a new day and a chance to try again.
  • Find humor in the situation. Push yourself to laugh at hard situations — the crazier the situation, the more humor you’ll likely find.
    • Hollis shares an anecdote about an interview the family went through while being certified as foster parents. Her son, when asked what made him sad, said, “When Daddy scares me at night.” He meant when his dad had to return him to his bed in the middle of the night, dad was grouchy. This situation was stressful, but ultimately funny.
  • Look for the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Choose the one that most resonates with you in the stressful moment.
  • Take care of yourself. Take a break and take some time out just for you. When you are refreshed, you can better handle all the madness when you come back.
  • Find your tribe. Supportive friends in similar situations can help you see you’re not alone.
  • Ask for help. Don’t try to do it all yourself; accept any and all offers of help you receive — people who want to watch the kids, bring you dinner, fold the laundry — whatever gives you more space and freedom to find your center, just say yes.
    • From a Christian perspective; Understand that God is sending you all kinds of life rafts — get in the boat.
  • Change your perspective. Remember that your state of chaos may be someone else’s dream (family, children, job). This reminds you that your chaos is actually a blessing.
  • View the stress and pain as a path to metamorphosis. Think about a caterpillar’s journey into a butterfly. If it stayed a caterpillar, it would never find the beauty in what it’s capable of becoming. It is scary, hard and overwhelming to change your entire being into something new. But if you don’t allow change to turn you into your true self, you’ll never become all you can be.

Concrete Tips for Living in the Chaos of Life 

Try these strategies to help cope with the inevitable chaos of home, work and family life:

  • Find friends like yourself. Friends who are going through the same thing as you are invaluable — fellow boy moms or girl moms, fellow entrepreneurs or stay-at-home moms, moms with kids the same ages. People who can relate to your day help you feel supported, encouraged and not alone.
  • Set priorities. Decide what’s really important to you. You can’t have a perfect home, run a company, train for a marathon, and work out 7 days a week at the same time. Do first what is truly important to you; if something has to wait, that’s life.
  • Have a happy place. Whether it’s a glass of wine with friends, HGTV, running or baking, find something that feels like a treat or indulgence, giving you a place to reset.
Embrace the State of Chaos: It Can Be Beautiful

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rachel Hollis's "Girl, Wash Your Face" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Wash Your Face summary:

  • Why you should accept that life can be messy
  • How seeing that you're in control of your life can help you live more joyfully
  • The 20 lies you might be telling yourself

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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