authenticity, confidence, growth, self-esteem

Are You a Hot Mess? The New Archetype in Town and Why She’s Dangerous

hot mess – noun – informal: a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered. (Google dictionary)

Jenna is a client of mine who seems to travel with a tornado whirling around her. There are usually papers flying around her, she’s chronically late and she has a tendency to forget important dates, even when they’re in her calendar that is synced to every device she owns. She’s brilliant, beautiful and like most of us, has unlimited potential. She has dreams she has yet to take the slightest step toward. “I’m such a hot mess!” She laughs, exasperating herself, and those around her.

Sandra, a longtime friend of mine dreams of being a published author, has enough insight in her to fill a shelf of books, talks about writing all the time, but does not write. She’s even signed up for writing courses and events and has canceled at the last minute. “I’m just a hot mess.” She’ll shake her head.

You’ve heard of the Queen archetype, and the Femme Fatale archetype, and the Priestess archetype.

There’s a new archetype in town, and it’s helping us women stay small, across the world. It’s the Hot Mess archetype. And it can be very dangerous.

When I first heard this phrase a few years ago, I liked its sunny, somewhat sexy charm. Yes! I can be my messy self and it’s cute, even affable, I thought.

I’ve noticed it making its way into our day-to-day lexicon, and primarily, when its used, it’s a woman describing herself.

“I’m such a hot mess.”

Do I think that all use and identification with this phrase is harmful? No.

Do I think that words are powerful and we should choose them carefully, especially when describing ourselves? Most definitely.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase and the women who use it, and here’s what my theory is. There are primarily two reasons women use Hot Mess to describe themselves…

  1. To stay small.
  2. To play small.

Think about it. If I am continuously shaking my head at myself, and enlisting others to join me, I never have to rise and shine. I never have to fully claim my power, my potential for greatness. It’s like written permission to stay stuck in a smaller gig, when really I am meant for bigger, better things. Being a Hot Mess, if you think about it, is actually pretty “safe.” No one expects much from the Hot Mess. And she doesn’t have to expect much from herself.

I also hear women using this phrase who are successful, shining, empowered, self-actualized women. These women are creating businesses, running corporations, raising families, making art, doing life, juggling a dozen balls at once, they’re doing it.

Yet, when they get the opportunity to refer to themselves as a hot mess (for example, forgetting an appointment, making a mistake, spilling their coffee) they jump on it.

And it’s my belief that they do this to shrink themselves a little bit, lest the world think they have it all together. To diminish their own glorious light, to shine a little less brightly, lest the world think they are better than them.

What they might be really saying is… “See, I’m human, just like you…” “How can you hate me when I’m a hot mess?”  “I promise not to outshine you, because I’m a hot mess.” “Don’t be jealous of me. I’m a hot mess too, just like you!”

We ALL have the Hot Mess archetype in us. If Carl Jung was alive today, he might call the Hot Mess archetype part Saboteur, part Victim part Fool.

This potential, these fallible, flawed, chaotic tendencies are in ALL of us. So since it’s universal, do we have to keep pointing it out?  We’re all human.

The danger of identifying as a Hot Mess is you being a smaller you. And you are here to play big, to shine brightly.

Yes, we are human, we screw up, we forget things, we all play small sometimes. No one is immune from the Hot Mess tendency.

But be careful how you label yourself, even if doing so tongue-in-cheek or lightheartedly, or you might find yourself stuck in a box of your own design, the Hot Mess Box. And that box, sister, is a trap.

How you refer to yourself matters. The words you use matter.

Next time you find yourself using the term to identify yourself, check in. Ask “How am I staying small or playing small in this moment?” And more importantly, “Why?”

Chances are, with one brave step at a time, you can move out of the Hot Mess box, into a greater, bigger, braver and more badass version of yourself. Ditching the Hot Mess archetype means stepping up, shining brighter, “adulting”, evolving into more magnificence. And it’s yours, if you’re ready.

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