Showing up for Yourself

The last few of these thought explosions have been about doing things for the self, things I would consider self care, things other people might call filling up the well. What I’ve realized through my own experience of life is that I am pretty good at doing things for other people.  I have a long journey ahead of me in terms of offering myself the same kindness. I’m about to celebrate another year alive and kicking it. This year, my focus is on cultivating these healing tools in the hopes that I can show up in a greater way for the populations in need of service the most.  And if I can do it - I, a deeply flawed and highly sensitive human- then I believe anyone can. 

In my experience, it’s fifty-eleven times easier to show up for other people than it is to show up for myself. I recieved years of training on how to show up for other people. It’s a large part of my work. It feels like a part of my DNA. Try as I might, I just don’t know how to turn that part of myself off (and maybe that is a fantastic thing). Showing up is more than placing your phsyical body in a space.  The action of showing up is one encased in compassion and empathy. It usually means listening more than talking. Not just listening for the facts of the conversation, but listening to understand how the other person works, how they see the world, who they believe they are. When was the last time you had a conversation with another person without trying to figure out what you would say next? When was the last time you went into a conversation with the goal of making the other person know that whatever they have to say matters because they matter? Let’s delve deeper in to what it means to show up.

There are three main concepts that define showing up:

1. Being There: Sometimes this means physically inhabiting the same space as the other person.  Often times, especially in an increasingly digital age and physically disconnected one, I think we forget the power of something as simple as eye contact or a hug. Being there is not limited to the physical though..  We can physically arrive but mentally be in a completely different space.  It also means mentally and emotionally occupying the same space. Your agenda for how you want things to unfold is less important than the reality of the circumstances you are in. Be only here and now.  Relinquish the control you want to have over the situation and BE. HERE. NOW. This idea of total presence is basis of showing up.

2. Holding Space: This is another concept that gets tossed around in my community a ton, but do we really know what it means? Holding space is creating an environment of safety and trust that allows everyone to feel and think and express freely. It means providing opportunity for all voices to be heard. Holding space is carving out a chunk of time and perhaps even a physical place where others can go and feel like they are seen, like they matter. It means suspending self importance and being the facilitator for others to move through whatever is happening with them. 

3. Standing with Integrity: If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for? Thank you Lin for giving us all these lyrics that perfectly and succinctly describe what it means to have a backbone, what it means to have purpose, what it means to have value and find value in things beyond the material and status. Who are you showing up for and why? Are you showing up because you are trying to gain collateral to later bargain with? One, that is detestable. Two, you won’t find what you are looking for. In the case of showing up for another person or a group of people, standing with integrity means being a champion of the equity of every person.  It means believing in the inherent worth of every human and choosing to act from that place every single time. There needs to be purpose and integrity behind you as a person before you can show up for someone. Once you know what you stand for, you will know immediately if you can show up for others because it is either in alignment with your truth or not.

It is an easier task to see how to do this for other people.  Most of our teachers, healers, mentors, good leaders, do this on a daily basis.  It is what draws us to them. Integrity and authenticity speak for themselves.  Those qualities create an innate trust between people; the people who are in a position of influence or power and keep it long after their time in a particular position is up, act from a place of integrity (ie Barack Obama). You hold space. You continue to be present. You show the people who feel invisible that they matter.  That’s how you show up.  People will forget most of the things you do and say, but they will always remember how you make them feel. Make them feel, more than that make them know, that they matter. 

But how do you do that for yourself?  In others, we see the inherent goodness that they might miss if they were analyzing themselves.  That’s what we’re up against when we show up for ourselves.  We are combating the stories that we’ve been told about how we should remain invisible.  We are combating the people and institutions who, on a daily basis, tell us that our voices don’t matter.  Every time you choose to show up for yourself, you are taking power away from the voices, institutions, and stories that keep you small and redistributing that power to your truth.  

Piece by piece, let’s build up how you can show up for yourself:

1. Being There: On all planes of your existence, be here now for you.  That means stopping running away.  That means stop filling your life so full to the brim that you don’t have time to be still and find center again.  That means engaging your mind and spirit in the moment that you are in.  Running away with your time and with your body is slightly easier to recognize.  We often let our minds and spirits disengage from the present moment because it is vulnerable to be completely invested in a moment. When you notice your mind disengaging from where you are, ask it gently to return to the situation. It will probably be uncomfortable, but you’ll learn a lot about what your heart and mind want to invest in.  

2. Holding Space: In the same way that you create an enviornment of safety for others, can you do that for yourself?  Can you allow yourself to move through and with all of the feelings and thoughts you have?  Can you notice when there is an instinct to shut down feelings and thoughts and instead encourage the opposite. When you have the impulse to silence yourself, recognize what is trying to break through the surface.  That could be by physically speaking the thought and feeling out loud, but it could also mean writing it down or simply acknowledging the thought.  I personally like to get things out of my head and into the physical world by writing or speaking, but I encourage you to follow the impulses that align with who you are. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings and instincts matter because you matter.   

3. Stand with Integrity: Know what you stand for. People will try to tell you otherwise: that you aren’t worth it, that you don’t matter. They will try to make you smaller. They will try to take away your voice. They will try to manipulate and use you. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish every person could act from a place integrity and goodness, but it just isn’t always so. That means you have to stand tall, rooted in your worth and rooted in your values, so that when people inevitably try to make you compromise who you are, you refuse. This is the final and most important part of the showing up for yourself puzzle.  If you allow yourself to compromise your integrity, you can’t truly show up for yourself. 

Commit to showing up for you because you matter. Ultimately, the practice of showing up for yourself, will aid you in showing up for others. Knowing how hard it is to shift mindsets, to turn up the volume on the thoughts and feelings that say you matter, you can more compassionately help people on the same journey.  Showing up is a powerful message of solidarity: no matter what you uncover about who you are, about this mess we’re in, we are here together. Show up.