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Showing Up: How to Stop Living on Autopilot and Start Owning Your Life

Be messy and complicated and afraid, and show up anyways. ~ Glennon Doyle Melton

I think it’s a fair assumption to make that the act of showing up in life is not the easiest or smoothest path to take. Why is this? Two reasons come to mind.

Choosing to show up in life takes courage and compassion, and involves getting to know, understand and appreciate our whole selves

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Why Do We Struggle To Show Up?

Firstly, the world we live in today makes it exceptionally easy for us to avoid having to show up in full for…well anything. With our warp speed living, modern day conveniences and instant gratification, the number of ways living on auto pilot and relying on new and quick means to reduce feelings of discomfort is skyrocketing.

And secondly, because showing up, being accountable and taking back ownership over our lives, involves the process of having to take a look at ourselves, our whole selves, make solid decisions about what we want, deserve and need, and then dig into the why’s of what is holding us back. This isn’t something that we always feel we are ready or able to do.

Showing up does require of us a sense of honesty, and of being curious about the tough questions that are much easier to pack away in a box and put on the shelf for another time. These are the questions that dig into our fears, feelings of shame and inadequacy, and all the hardened beliefs of the ego that we would much rather keep at bay with a Netflix binge session.

But if we look at the trade off; the capacity to live life to its fullest, to regularly experience real joy, love, compassion, courage, and wholeheartedness, to have a greater ability to recognize and turn away from regret, resentment, boredom and missed opportunities, I’d say it’s worth a try.

And nowhere is it written that anyone knows exactly what they are doing, or that some people are better than others at this self discovery thing. We’re all fumbling through this together, believe me. Which is why it is so important for us to connect with and support one another in our endeavour to figure this stuff out.

Read Also: Healing Your Life Series: Learning to Let Go

The Choice to Show Up

Choosing to show up is more about doing our best each and every day, being compassionate with ourselves when we stumble, and enjoying the process, versus only looking to an outcome. We are meant to cherish the ride of life and all it has to offer us along the way, not race to the finish line. And this ability to cherish includes the “bad” stuff, because if we stay open and present to the experience we will usually gain some valuable nugget that serves us later in life. We simply have to show up and be available and to accept it, instead of avoiding or numbing the discomfort we feel in the moment. It will pass, but only if we stay present and allow it to move through.

At its core, showing up means learning and practicing to be present with our whole selves in the now; this includes  slowing down and taking the time to discover, understand and appreciate how we respond mentally, emotionally and physically to the world and situations around us. And if we find that there is something that does not fit with the person we want to be or the values we want to embody, then we work to grow and change.  There is a fluidity and flexibility to be practiced, which can be tough for many of us because we have become hardened to our routines, habits and beliefs. So it’s important that we examine these and determine whether they are really working in our favour, or creating a barrier that keeps us from being fully present and determining in our lives.

And again, let’s be real. No one makes the decision to take back their life and never stumbles or falls back into old patterns.  I can honestly say that I fall all the time. But with practice I find I’m better able to catch myself before doing a full on face plant. And some days I have moments of, Hey, in the past I totally would have avoided/numbed/people pleased/shut down/etc. in that situation. I did something different. Yay me!

Lessons From Showing Up

The journey of showing up can mean many things.  For me, it has meant the following:

  1. Learning to tolerate and even appreciate the uncomfortable feeling of not having all of the answers, all of the time; of not having complete control or predictability over life in the way that we might like. And at the same time having the trust and faith that what we need to move forward will be given to us as long we continue to show up and do our part. Learning to feel emotion in general is a huge part of showing up. It’s amazing how often we avoid or numb both good and bad feelings. But for us to be fully present we need to be able to lean in to how we  experience the world and the things that occur around us.
  2. Making conscious declarations of what we are taking ownership of. It is both intentional in the choice and in the actions that follow. Make a list based on where you are right now. Are you ready to start showing up in your career, your relationships, your body/physical health? Name it and begin to think about what that would look like. There is nothing too big or too small.
  3. Taking risks. Imperfect risks at that. And not getting down on ourselves when things don’t go as planned, we make a mistake (if you believe in mistakes in the first place), or especially when we fall down.
  4. Having compassion and courage, for both ourselves and others. We truly are in this together, and showing up in our own lives is the first step to connecting with the world around us in deeper, more meaningful ways. It allows us to notice and be more aware of our shared experiences as people.
  5. Having to set boundaries, and constantly being challenged to stay true to what we’ve decided is and is not acceptable in our lives.
  6. Exploring the world, often alone. This does not have to be a grandiose trip around the world (but I certainly will not stop you. In fact, feel free to hide me in your suitcase ;)). This can mean going out to lunch, a movie, an art gallery, or for a simple walk through your neighbourhood. Just open your eyes to what’s possible around you.
  7. Creating and putting these creations out into the world. We each have unique gifts, talents and strengths, even if we aren’t aware of them right this second. Part of showing up is trying new things, tuning in to what we are drawn to and reuniting with past hobbies or activities to reignite inspiration, passion and purpose.
  8. Asking for help, and accepting the help that we need. The standard “I’m good”, “No, I’m just fine, thanks” isn’t going to cut it. In this together, remember.
  9. Getting in touch with our younger selves and having heart to heart healing conversations. This could even include a letter to a younger version of you. We’ve all experienced a great deal in our lives, and we all have a story to tell. Often the first step in owning our lives is owning our story, and that begins with sharing the story with ourselves.
  10. Being bold and specific about what we want in life, and validating that we indeed deserve to have a life that looks and feels like this.
  11. Becoming accountable for our lives and the false stories we may have been telling ourselves that have kept us from showing up. When we choose to be accountable and honest about our thoughts and feelings we can begin to let go of that which no longer serves us. Common themes include blame, anger, self pity and loathing, and resentment towards both others and ourselves.

The One Thing I Would Say…

To the person who would like to start showing up, to begin feeling present in their lives, but isn’t entirely confident about the process…

The timing will never be perfect, and the path will never be freshly paved. But that has nothing to do with you as a person, that’s just the way the journey goes. By choosing to take it you are already collecting evidence that you are resilient and courageous. I’ve often found that the anxiety and guilt I feel leading up to making changes in my life are far worse than when I actually take the leap or make the change. Make a list, decide what you are taking ownership of and then think about and decide what that looks like. Then do that.

And start small. You wouldn’t believe the joy I felt after the first time I decided to negotiate a price at the flea market, instead of taking what was offered. This may seem completely trivial to some, but for a recovering people pleaser like myself, this was a HUGE example of showing up! Start where you are at, and just go with it.

Choosing to show up in life takes courage and compassion, and involves getting to know, understand and appreciate our whole selves

I’d love to hear from you about what showing up means in your life. Leave a comment below or feel free to send me a direct message.


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  • Reply
    July 22, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    I appreciate this post and your perspective. I have a hard time showing up, mostly because I can’t slow down. I spend a lot of time working, or blogging, or running errands, and not enough time living in the moment. I’ve been making progress and have committed myself to hiking once per week. 🙂

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Joscelyn, good for you! All it takes is committing to one thing. I completely agree with you, the reason we all are so apt to go for the modern day conveniences is because we are so incredibly busy, and when we are physically doing one thing our minds are already moving on to the next. It’s a tough cycle to break. Finding one activity and making time once a week to be present is a HUGE step! You’ve got this 🙂

  • Reply
    July 23, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Love every word written in this article. Daily dose of motivation done!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      Love it! Glad to be part of your day, Sahana 🙂

  • Reply
    Prerna Garg
    July 23, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    I think we are so consumed with finding faults with others or just blaming others for whatever is going on with us that we just stop taking responsibility for our own actions. The day we decide to stand up and start owning things, we can seriously gain control of our lives!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      Yes! It is so simple and yet so hard. Once choice, one moment to look at our situations in a different way, can make all the difference. And I would know; I spent way too much time blaming and looking outward for reasons that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and it’s definitely still a work in progress. Thank you so much for your thoughts 🙂

  • Reply
    July 24, 2017 at 4:15 am

    I completely agree about the power of showing up! It’s about having accountability for your own life and actions and deciding to take action, rather than wait for good things to come. Great post!

    Mae |

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Thank you, Mae! Accountability and taking action are so critical to growth and fulfillment in life, and yet fear keeps so many of us stuck. Sometimes we have to hold on to faith and take a leap. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

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