The Importance of “Showing Up”

As the world has become digitized, the possibility of being recognized as “worth knowing” has challenged many. Masks, however necessary, also prevent one from “being seen,” known, and noticed.

If we hope to move forward, possessing an impactful presence and enough comfort to stand out are personal and professional requirements. Similarly, finding friends and making a living are each difficult without a large personality, a touch of genius, or an appearance striking to the eye.

My repost of an essay on this subject might help you make yourself more of what you want to be: a person who can be distinguished from the crowd.

Dr. Gerald Stein

Woody Allen denies he ever said, “Ninety percent of life is showing up.” Still, someone did.

Regardless of the author, what does it mean?

It refers to taking chances and working hard; if not welcoming challenges, at least not shying away from them. They often come without an announcement for those who listen for their call.

In and out of my clinical practice, I’ve met people who don’t “show up,” sometimes literally. Such individuals fail to put time and effort into therapy or whatever they “claim” is important to them.

How many people say their family is the essential thing in life but allocate their hours as if loved ones were second, third, or even lower on the list?

“Showing up” means stating you value something or someone and striving for consistency between your words and deeds. Of course, when acknowledging a person or thing has worth, you are taking…

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20 thoughts on “The Importance of “Showing Up”

  1. I can say from experience with physical disabilities (chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, or CFS/ME; walking difficulties; fibromyalgia; stress-and-urge incontinence; and embarrassing flatulence issues at times), showing up is easier said than done. I’ve had to cancel many plans because of my physical disabilities. If I knew the person well, I would explain why. There were other times that I’d be anxious or have a panic attack, which also prevented me from showing up. Such is the life of a disabled person.

    “Showing up” and being “dependable” appear to be synonymous with one another. I suppose trust gets built on those things, especially in professional and working relationships. However, given long-covid increasing in both incidence and prevalence, the idea of showing up in person has been challenged by many people who are high-risk or live with a person who is high-risk. It would seem that “showing up” isn’t as equitable or inclusive as people once considered.

    I wonder how many relationships and careers were shattered because being disabled meant frequently not showing up – mostly with warnings, but often on the day of. It’s hard to predict the night before whether CFS’s/ME’s post-exertional malaise (PEM) will cripple someone a day or two after an event. How can we be more inclusive of those who simply can’t show up? Online opportunities, such as Zoom, Facetiming, phone calls, emails, chats, and social media appear to help. But most of the time, able-bodied persons will distance themselves from their relationships with disabled persons.

    Being disabled makes it hard to be virtuous on many levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do not doubt your virtue, Dragon Fly, nor the limits on what is possible for anyone who is disabled. Thanks for adding this.

      I am not sure what society or government can do to even the playing field perfectly. There is an element of chance and misfortune that inhabits our lives, some far more, and less for those of us who have been lucky. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve already exhibited much courage. Your presence and encouragement of others on this blog adds value. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Dr. Stein! 🙂

        For what it’s worth, I spent time with a friend today – in person. She helped me return some things to the store, and I bought her breakfast. We ate outside, and we were both masked in the car and anywhere indoors. I also helped her with planning an event for an Asian-based group (we’re both multi-race Asians, so we have a ton in common). It was a nice outing today, and I was able to show up.

        I was also able to show up twice recently to my therapist’s office in person. I was masked the entire time. I see her online (unmasked, because I’m in my apartment and no one else is here). I missed seeing her in person. I also miss walking. It takes up a lot of my energy, but I’m trying to get out more often now.

        I just get the judgments from people – mostly family – who don’t understand my chronic fatigue and thus need to stay home or near home. I also deal with stress-and-urge incontinence along with possible overactive bladder, which make it even more challenging to be out and about in public. I can use the public restrooms, but sometimes they aren’t easily accessible. I feel like I’m aging faster than I should. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am already convinced by things you have said before, Dragon Fly. Despite your family’s lack of understanding, more insight on their part would reveal that you have led and continue to lead a remarkable life.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this post and the original post, Dr. Stein. I had already commented above, but I forgot to thank you for the post. It got me thinking about all the relationships and opportunities I had lost because I was physically unable to show up. I used to think my fatigue was from anxiety or depression, but I later found out that it went along with fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. And those two diagnoses are still debated today, along with my other controversial dissociative disorder. Nevertheless, the best I can do some days is just communicate my needs, give myself self-care, and rest. Being physically disabled is a very lonely life comprising many losses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An Audience of One

    Such a great post, Dr. Stein! I agree there’s a lot to be said for the person who’s consistent and always “there,” and I also enjoyed the application to a deeper meaning. Ie: “showing up” to do the hard work of becoming better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Audiience of One. As Dragon Fly points out, what is possible has limits, but those of us who are physically able and in decent health overall have possibilities and, I hope, take advantage of them. Best to you and thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Your showing up blog touched a still a little raw nerve. I was delighted to have a new young friend Sophie. She is a person who is struggling with leaving the Catholic church. For her it was more than church on Sunday. She travelled the world working for catholic charities, had an affair with a priest, and worked for nuns when I met her.
    She started making plans with me and cancelling at the last minute. She always used the reason that her anguish had left her physically unable to move. Last summer I planned a get- together at my pool and she didn’t show up. I finally said that friendship required a minimal level of commitment. I have not heard from her since.
    At first I felt I was too hard on her. I wrote her that whenever she felt up to it, I’d love to see her.
    No response. So I left it at that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joan,

      I’m so sorry your friend seemingly ghosted you. That wasn’t fair to you. It would have been nice for her to communicate to you why she canceled last minute, why she may have difficulty making commitments (at least to you, but perhaps in general), and what your relationship means to one another.

      I have friends of all types – some who help me, some whom I help, some who communicate well, some who ghost frequently, and some like the one you had mentioned. I try to be more fluid with my friendships, since I’m now limited to what I can do, where I can go, and how much energy I physically have to hang out or talk. I’ve lost many friends who were used to seeing me frequently in person. We either fell out of touch with one another because they graduated and went on to different schools without leaving their contact information, or we would have contact less frequently – like once every few years. I have close friends like that, even though we don’t speak frequently. Life happens, and there are many people to meet and engage with, especially when you move away. Some friends are closer than others, so we can easily get hurt when that relationship becomes more distant than we’d like.

      There are some people who struggle with canceling last-minute. I am one of them now, though I wasn’t always this way. My disabilities led to my having no choice but to cancel last-minute at times. I almost always explain why though. Others may struggle with social anxiety, being manipulated by a significant other (such as in domestic violence and/or intimate partner violence cases), being manipulated by a religious cult, figuring out how to prioritize family and non-filial relationships, work demands, and financial hardships (some people may have an unexpected emergency or some other financial demand that makes going out financially difficult). Not everyone is willing to discuss the reasons why, even if you are close. How I see it, I would probably have a backup plan when scheduling time with someone who tends to cancel last-minute. I would try to see where our relationship has changed, what my expectations were, and how my expectations differ from what is really going on. I would also evaluate who my friends are, and whether or not I want to expand my friendship circle, invite more than one person out so that at least one will show up to an outing I had planned, etc.

      Today, I do more “showing up” online for many of my appointments, than I do in person. I found that to help me avoid canceling last-minute most of the time, since I have enough energy most of the time to attend online appointments or social gatherings than I do in person. I’ve communicated frequently with my friends and family that way. It’s not the same as in-person, but it’s still maintaining the relationship and (to me) “showing up.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Gerry, for taking the time to flesh out the world of “showing up” in your usual generous manner. There’s a lot to learn from your blog and your comment. What we do with your generous insights is up to each one of us, but expanding the discussion helps.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you for your kindness, Joan. Much appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for you and Sophie. For what it is worth, the name “Sofia” is Greek in origin and means “wisdom.”

      From what you’ve written, this woman sounds avoidant. She might well be anxious, and her history sounds traumatic. She might be unable to do more than she does. Perhaps at some point she will respond in a different way. Good luck in this.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Dr. Stein, thanks for re-posting this earlier post that synchronizes well with Mark Nepo’s reflections on October 30: “The Art of Facing Things.” As I mentioned in the past, I’ve had to face my fears from an early age. I didn’t always show up, but it got easier over time. The thing with fear and anxiety is that they take on different shapes with changing times. The pandemic and the current violent divisiveness have added new dimensions to being seen and standing out in the crowd.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rosaliene, you bring up an interesting point about “the pandemic and the current violent divisiveness….” For some, showing up is a huge risk to their safety and health, especially for minorities in certain at-risk jurisdictions. Given the shootings at malls, parades, and schools, some people may fear showing up in person to any event. I think I met another veteran who is afraid to leave his home other than for simple appointments or essential shopping. As a mixed-race Asian, I am on high alert every time I leave my apartment.

      And then there are the immunocompromised and high-risk elderly and disabled populations that feel outnumbered by the unmasked persons surrounding them. They have to take even more precautions when leaving their homes, and they sometimes cannot afford the risk of added medical expenses and death by showing up at certain events.

      Inclusivity would be appropriate in areas where minorities and disabled persons can feel safe and still connected. Examples of inclusivity include Zoom events, Facetiming, making phone calls, scheduling short-term outings outdoors, scheduling short-term indoor events with all vaccinated and masked individuals, and finding “safe pods” of people who strictly monitor symptoms, test, physically distance, mask, and avoid risky situation. Safe pods can hang out indoors for lengthy periods of time because they limit their exposure to only those within their pod. Many still utilize these precautions – for both health reasons and safety reasons.

      Minorities might feel safest when the community offers increased security, volunteers to walk elderly and vulnerable Asians to and from their destinations, appropriate leadership, and safe communities that have protocols in place when a biased attack occurs. Community policing could also help neighborhoods and minority groups feel safe, especially when there is a presence of peace officers and armed security around.

      I think the idea of showing up may mean different things to different people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Very wise, Rosaliene. What is possible for anyone changes over time and, ideally, with work to enhance our lives and those of our fellow women and men. As you know, we have a mental health crisis with many casualties for the reasons you point out. Fear under these circumstances is often not at all irrational. I know you do your part and more, for yourself and others. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 2 people

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