I want to be the kind of person who shows up.
But there are a lot of reasons why I don’t.
So as I sit here and think about how I go about being the kind of person who shows up, I can think of two main reasons why I bring less-than-my-whole-self into so many situations.
The first problem is that I don’t always know how to show up.
I like the idea of showing up. I like the idea of bringing my whole, real, and vulnerable self, of being fully present, of engaging unreservedly, and of fighting fiercely for my convictions.
But I don’t always know how to do those things. Or I don’t know what it looks like to be fully present in certain situations. I can think of a small handful of people I know who do this consistently well, and anytime I’m around those people it is a breath of fresh air.
Two of the authors I’ve been reading lately who inspire me in this area are Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist. If you haven’t heard of them, you really should look them up on Amazon and order one of their books (I’d recommend starting with The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist). Brene Brown is going to give you more of a researched, thought-out approach of what it looks like to bring your whole self into situations, but she does so in a way that is engaging with great stories and illustrations from her own journey of how she has grown in this process. Shauna is a great storyteller who invites you into her life and has this engaging, charming, honest way of writing about the simple moments in life that makes me want to learn how to engage with life and the people around me the way that she does.
I see someone show up when our group of friends is sitting around in my living room, or around the dinner table, and someone takes that first risk of inviting us in to something really hard she is walking through and she invites us to be present with her in the journey.
I see someone show up when I’m in staff meetings and rather than keep with the status quo, someone takes a risk to share an idea, to question the way things have always been done, to put their heart and their passion out on the table and see what others have to say about it.
I think I showed up a few weeks ago when I was having dinner with my dad. He had come down to visit, and we went up to the mountain lake of Big Bear for some father-daughter time—the first time we’ve ever spent that much one-on-one time together. We found ourselves at a great little restaurant called the Peppercorn Grille, and as we talked I started opening up to my dad about some things in my life I’d never really shared openly with him. I still remember that moment when I knew I could either steer the conversation away, or I could press in and take the risk of inviting my dad into some places in my heart I usually kept tucked away. And I remember feeling incredibly vulnerable and afraid of not being well received as I thought about which direction to go, but thought it was time to take a risk and open up. And I encountered understanding and love, and had the privilege of having my dad speak some words into my life that I desperately needed to hear.
As I try to think more about what it means and what it looks like to show up, though, I don’t think it is as simple as just being willing to share openly. I think there are plenty of people in the world who are looking for anyone and everyone to emotionally vomit on, and they’ll talk to anyone who will listen.
I was walking up to my office one day when I passed a woman on the sidewalk. I politely asked her how her day was going, expecting a quick passing conversation. Instead, this perfect stranger started telling me all about her litany of medical problems she was having and how she was feeling about all of them. PERFECT STRANGER. As I was hearing all about her ear infection and overproduction of ear wax, among other things, I slowly started to back away and probably made a not so gracious exit with an excuse of needing to get to my next appointment.
Just because this woman was willing to share openly about what was going on in her life, does that mean she was showing up? Was that true vulnerability, bringing her authentic self to the situation, or was that something else?
As I said, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it means or looks like to show up. But as I navigate learning how to do this in my own life, I’m starting to think showing up might be more about offering yourself to others, not needing something from others. It’s knowing that there is strength in vulnerability, and that when you show up you are bringing your best self, your whole self, to the table and you know that you have something to offer. I don’t think showing up is about needing or demanding from others. I don’t think showing up is about over-sharing and emotionally vomiting all over other people. I think showing up feels like discernment and wisdom, strength and authenticity, but also risk and vulnerability.
People can be vocal without showing up. People who act out of their insecurities, or ask others to take care of their problems, or talk about everything wrong that has happened to them doesn’t feel like showing up. People who invite others to see their brokenness and don’t ask others to fix them or carry their burdens, but rather just be present with them—because that’s what you do with the people you love—that feels more like showing up. People who share their authentic, messy, broken, yet real, passionate, and beautiful self because they know that might be just what is needed to open up a situation and bring true connection—that feels more like showing up.
People who show up have convictions and are willing to fight for them.
People who show up don’t let fear guide their decisions or actions.
People who show up don’t worry about how others will receive them.
People who show up know they have something to offer.
People who show up choose to risk vulnerability.
I’m pretty sure the feeling that comes right before showing up is fear and a crazy sense of vulnerability, and the showing up happens when we decide to not care and say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done anyway.
This brings up the second reason I don’t show up.
Showing up is hard. Risking vulnerability is hard. Putting my real and vulnerable self out there is hard.
If I fail, I can’t say it’s because I didn’t really try. I did try. I gave it everything I had. Too often I’ll hold back because then I can tell myself that my failure doesn’t really reflect on my ability, and I can convince myself that if I really wanted to I could have done it.
Showing up risks failure on a much deeper level, a level with no excuses left other than realizing I wasn’t enough. I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid that very situation.
Showing up comes with a cost, and I think that’s where wisdom and discernment come into play for knowing if the risk is worth it. I don’t think we are always supposed to show up. Bringing our whole selves into every situation of every day would be exhausting and probably feel a little bit like trying too hard.
But not showing up at all, that, I think, has to do with letting our lives be ruled by fear.
What helps me more than anything to step into this area of my life is to realize that I’m not going down this road alone.
I am deeply grateful for the community I live in that is learning how to do this with me, and for the people who are giving me so much grace for the bumps and awkward moments I’m hitting along the way.
But even more than that, I’m thankful for a God who shows up.
The root meaning of the word confidence is “with faith” (con is with and fid is faith). With faith. Someone with confidence is someone with faith. And I think an essential component I’ve found to be able to show up is the confidence to step into those moments knowing that I am not alone.
I believe in a God who shows up. I believe Jesus Christ is one of the best examples you will ever find of someone who unreservedly put himself on display and offered himself up to the world, knowing that many would reject him.
And I believe God continues to show up today. I believe God is with us, every second of every day, and that He will never leave or abandon us. So that fear of being left alone out in the cold, or showing up and being rejected, isn’t as scary anymore when I realize I’ll never really be alone.
And as I think about the excitement of serving alongside a God who is at work in this world, whose Spirit is doing incredible things, bringing hope and freedom and light to the dark and broken places in our world and also in the hearts of people, I want to show up too. I want to join in with God in the work of bringing hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness in our world. I know that my half-hearted effort will have little to no impact, but I think that if God is at work and he invites us to show up with him, bringing our whole selves and our whole effort to bear on the situation in front of us, then I think we get to start seeing real change happen in the world and in the lives of people around us.
It doesn’t mean I’m still not afraid. It doesn’t make showing up any easier to do. But it does help me find the strength, the confidence, the faith, to press forward and move into those uncomfortable situations rather than running for safety.
Today, I have faith that my God will show up. So today I will show up too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What does showing up look like for you? What are stories of when you have seen other people show up? Let me know below!