Showing Up is one of those expressions that seems to be used more now than ever before. Frankly, I’m not a fan. When I ask people what they mean when they say they want to “show up” they usually can’t really explain it. Labels and expressions such as this one seem to interfere with self expression and communication. Since most people I talk with can’t describe showing up I decided to dig into it a little bit more.
What does it mean to show up? At the most obvious level it means being in a specific place. Woody Allen is famously noted to say that 80-90% of life was just showing up. I don’t know for sure, but I think he was talking about this level of showing up. According to thesaurus.com synonyms for showing up include arrival, presence, manifestation, actualization, and emergence. Antonyms include departure, absence, leaving, and end. Melmagazine.com writes that showing up means doing what you say you will do and not flaking. OK. That wasn’t helpful. www.mindful.org may get a bit closer. They say that showing up means being intentional, open, and acting skillfully.
Team Tony (Tony Robbins) says that showing up is about participation. This includes being fully present and really being focused on the other person (in a relationship) instead of focusing on the past. I think we are getting even closer. Kaitlin Kindman LCSW, describes “showingupness” as reliability, empathy, care, intentionality, thoughtfulness, and embodiment of “just being there” that someone demonstrates.
So why are so many people using this expression? I suspect there are many different answers. One is that it is thrown around a lot on social media platforms and has just seeped into common discourse. Also, people are genuinely yearning for deeper connections with others as our lives become more distant and fragmented. If you are going to be in the same place at the same time and for a limited amount of time, you want it to really matter.
I think showing up could just as accurately, and possibly more accurately, be expressed with the words mindful and intentional. Instead of saying I want to show up, I could express that I want to engage with you fully and intentionally. I don’t let my mind wander to things from the past or skipping forward to concerns of the future. I want to be in the here and now and feel whatever is going on NOW.
One of the activities I use when working with therapy clients is the Personal Mission Statement. Clients frequently use this expression when writing their Mission Statements. In the personal mission statement exercise they often use showing up to mean not dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. People instinctively know that either of those is not the pathway to joy or contentment. Their answer lies in remaining fully present in the here and now. Although this can be difficult, the effort can be worth it.