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It’s hard to nail down exactly what it means to “have your shit together,” but you always know when you meet someone who does.
These people are functional and competent, but never pretentious or elitist. They make their beds and do their jobs and always seem to be level-headed about all the nonsense the rest of us conflate into huge crises.
No matter what your personal goals are, at the root of them all, you just want to have your shit together too.
But, while this might be hard to believe, the truth is that nobody really has it all together—not entirely, not all the time. But aspiring to function well in your life, own personal responsibility, have real diplomacy and social grace, a healthy temperament, and other similar traits is definitely noble, if not crucial, to being well-received by the world.
Therefore, here is your official cheat sheet to getting your shit together… or at the very least, convincing everyone else you do.
1. Have a Uniform Style
Decide what you love and then wear it often. Either have a signature scent, accessory, or color scheme that sets you apart. When people see you, your appearance should align with who you say you are and what you say you care about. Your style should match your personality, and it should stay as consistent as possible. Think of CEOs who wear the same thing every day or cartoon characters who stay in the same clothes. People respond well to consistency.
2. Don’t Flaunt Weaknesses
If you don’t want people thinking your life is a hot mess, then stop talking about it being a hot mess on every platform every chance you can. There’s a huge, enormous, world-altering difference between being authentic and capitalizing on your struggles to earn sympathy or whatever else some dark corner of your mind thinks you’re achieving by complaining every hour of the day. You can keep it real without overemphasizing what you’re not that great at. What you share is what builds other people’s image of you.
3. Stop Oversharing
On the same note, realize that the 2012-2014 era of confessional essays is over. Not every single person online and in your personal life needs to know every single detail about your life. Not only that, but they don’t even want to know. If you feel truly moved to share your struggle in some part of your life hoping it will be therapeutic and help another person going through it—amazing, please do that. But if you are just constantly telling people way more information than is appropriate to share, it might seem as though you don’t understand healthy boundaries.
4. Keep Things Clean
This might seem really obvious, but it’s totally overlooked: People who have their shit together have one really simple thing in common—they are always clean. They clean themselves, their spaces, and their belongings. They take care of themselves, their spaces, and their belongings. This doesn’t require much money and really only minimal effort. Keeping your life a little more tidy and organized will go a really long way.
5. Assume What You Say in Private Is Actually Public
I’m not saying nobody is trustworthy, but we are all dealing with what I’m going to call the “one person” phenomenon. Every single time you tell a secret or important information to someone, if it’s interesting enough, they will tell their one person. Then that person will their one person. Ultimately, what you tell one person is what you tell everyone at the end of the day—so don’t say anything in private you do not want repeated in public.
6. Minimize Drama
Instead of being someone who creates drama and issues, be someone who problem solves and innovates with new ideas. Instead of creating more chaos around a disagreement or issue, create a solution.
7. Talk About Things, Not Other People
Other people and their lives are not topics of conversation. This is a lazy way to forge connection with others if you have nothing more important or interesting to discuss. Ultimately, being a gossip isn’t a good look. It makes you seem vindictive and judgmental. Find things to talk about that aren’t other people’s business. Your relationships will be better for it.
8. Be Clear About Who You Are
For people to respect you, they first have to understand you, and that really begins with your language and approach to explaining yourself, both online and in person. In general, you should have a single sentence explanation that adequately sums up what you do professionally and then another that sums up what you’re interested in personally. If you can’t sum it up easily, you’re assuming your life is too complex and nuanced—but you’re achieving the opposite effect than you desire because you’ll just seem sort of lost.
9. Don’t Act Like an Authority When You’re Not
We do one another a disservice by insisting on answering immediately and impulsively in conversations and arguments. This is not how brains work. This is also not how intelligent people behave. Instead of spewing out whatever first comes to mind when you’re questioned about something, pause, think about what you want to say, and calmly express that you haven’t done enough research or hold enough expertise to speak on it with authority, but you’d like to share your opinion or viewpoint. And what isn’t in your authority? Anything you’re not an actual expert in or don’t have personal, direct experience with. So most things you talk about—but that’s okay. The point is to try to share opinions with one another to generate more conversation, not to convince one other about what’s absolute fact.
10. Keep Your Composure
People who fly off the handle at every little thing do not seem strong and tough, they seem weak and weak-willed. Anger is like gasoline when there’s some kind of friction between people. It raises people’s defenses and pushes a resolution farther away. If nobody else can manage it, be the person in the room who can keep their composure and speak clearly and calmly.
11. Stop Complaining
Complaining isn’t venting. Venting is what you do when you need to get something off your chest. If you have to vent every single time you see one of your friends, there’s something wrong. Otherwise, you’re just in the habit of complaining, and you need to get out of it. It’s ungrateful and, a lot of the time, shortsighted. If you really think about it, you have a lot more to appreciate than you have to stress about, but emphasizing the latter will make your life seem worse than it is, and that’s not what you want.
12. Have Principles
Principles are the rules and guidelines you use to govern and manage your life. If you value relationships, prioritize them by principle. If you want to improve your self-care, do it regularly by principle. No, you will not always want to wash your face, put on moisturizer, or drink another glass of water when you need to. But if you succumb to your impulses all the time, you’ll end up a shell of the person you’re meant to be—all because you don’t have principles.
13. Receive Help When You Need Help
Behaving as though you can do absolutely everything yourself limits you. When you need help, you need help. Ask for it, receive it, and understand that it does not make you less dignified.
14. But Remember You’re Responsible for You
You are ultimately responsible for whatever experience of life you want to have. You are responsible for your electric bill, for how well you keep up with current events, for how you interact with others, for how well you do at work, and for how much you sleep. You have to take an active role in your life, not a passive one. Don’t think and act like life is just happening to you and you have to accept it. Start taking creative control.
15. Compliment Others
Your willingness to uplift others is a sign of real confidence. People who are not happy with themselves cannot be happy with others. And there’s even more benefit to you because the more you are willing to affirm and love others, the more you are going to see yourself with more love and appreciation. Remember, your relationships with others are reflections of your greatest relationship—which is the one you have with yourself.
16. Organize Your Paperwork, Clean Your Linens, and Know How to Cook At Least One Meal
Absolutely no adult is beyond this.
17. Be Aware of Your Finances
If you don’t want to be the person who questions whether their card will be declined somewhere, make sure you’re checking on your accounts before you actually go out and spend money. You should know your debts, your incomes, and your goals. You shouldn’t be in the dark about your financial health.
18. Know Your Limits
Feed yourself when you’re hungry; rest when you’re tired; know how to gracefully bow out of a social situation, relationship, house party or job when you need to. If you wait until you’ve passed your limits, you’re going to burn out and burn bridges at the same time.
19. Stop Thinking Everyone’s Thinking About You—They’re Not
In the age of social media, so it’s easy to become victim to the spotlight complex, which is the idea that everyone is thinking about you and evaluating your life decisions frequently. They aren’t. Everyone is thinking about themselves all the time, in the same way that you are thinking about yourself all the time. Those coincidences you’re so sure mean everyone deeply cares about the intricacies of your life? It’s probably confirmation bias, your brain’s way of filtering information to affirm what it already believes. The first step to being self-aware is recognizing that other people’s thoughts do not revolve around you.
20. Keep It Simple
People who are able to simplify their lives come across as sophisticated. People who complicate their lives do not. People who have their shit together are able to live simply, to enjoy simple things, to show up as they are, and to sort through issues with clarity.
Most importantly, remember that the point of getting your shit together is to make your life easier and more enjoyable—not to impress anyone else. But like most anything else, getting your shit together is a matter of faking it until you make it, and this is the best place to start.