Balance is a Dirty Word. And Other Truths About Being Human.

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” ~Alain de Botton

I sometimes wonder if I’m too honest about just how imperfect I actually am.

But, ultimately, if the moldy piece of fish in my refrigerator makes even one other person feel a little bit better about all the ways she might feel like she’s failing, then exposing myself for the disgusting human I am is totally worth the potential embarrassment.

Because although I feel like it’s important that we start talking more openly about our flaws and getting real with each other about how hard it is to be a human in this world, I also realize that not everyone is going to be able to talk about their messes and their mistakes on the internet the way I do.

For both professional and personal reasons, I understand that it’s just not possible for many of you to expose yourselves in this way.

Which is also kind of why I feel the obligation to take the reins on this one. Even if it inadvertently makes me the poster child for being a big, giant, disgusting mess of a person.


And this goes beyond dirty kitchens and unwashed laundry.

Because we are all going to feel sometimes like we’re falling short as friends and mothers and daughters and sons. We’re going to feel like we’re failing in our homes and in our careers. We’re going to question everything some of the time, and wonder how we ever thought we could do it all.

We’re going to look at other people and ask, How the hell do they make it look so easy and perfect? And then feel even worse because we are barely holding it together.

Here’s a hint:  Most people feel like they are barely holding it together most of the time.

And here’s another truth:  BALANCE IS A LIE.



But seriously. It’s a myth.

Even though we talk about it like it’s something we should aspire to, something we might actually achieve and maintain, something desirable around which we should shape our goals and our lives.

I call bullshit.

Try this.

Fall in love and then talk about balance.

Have a baby and then talk about balance.

Start a small business or a new job you adore and then talk about balance.

Pursue a new athletic goal or drastically change your diet and then talk about balance.

Make cool art or write beautiful words or adopt a new creative practice in which you are deeply invested and then talk about balance.

It doesn’t work, you guys.

Being a human with dreams and aspirations — and family and friends and obligations — means you will most of the time be somewhat out of balance.


And you will most of the time feel like you are failing in at least one aspect of your life. Sometimes that will be the refrigerator-cleaning part of your life. But other times it will be the being-available-to-friends part or the calling-your-mom-regularly part or the responding-to-emails-in-a-timely-fashion part.

If you ask me, balance only really exists in the in-between moments, the pauses that we are sometimes lucky enough to encounter in this otherwise crazy, overstimulating, fast-paced world.

So can we stop talking about balance, please? And start talking about things that are real and attainable and actually helpful for actual people?

Good. I’m glad we agree.


And if you ever need a reminder that you are not alone in your failure to master perfection, feel free to peruse the archives of my articles over the years. I’m fairly certain I have shared enough embarrassing failures on this site to make you all feel immediately better about your own apparent shortcomings.

You’re welcome.

And P.S. If you ever feel like you’re failing, you’re in good company. 7 out of 10 people feel the same way at least some of the time. And the other 3 are either lying or not paying attention. True story.