At one point in my late 20s, I was part of a group of young professionals being recognized by a local lifestyle magazine. As part of the recognition, there was a social get together for all of the honorees, their friends, family, and colleagues. I was honored that several of the members of the executive team from our company attended the event, including the company CEO. While I consider him one of my mentors, he was also a pretty prominent member of the business community and a fairly high-demand guy. It meant so much to me that he would even attend my little event. I left that night feeling truly appreciated. It wasn’t until weeks later, when I was visiting with a friend who was also honored at the event, that I was able to fully soak in the power of someone showing up. My friend (who I admired and thought had a much more important job), told me something that really stuck with me. She noted that I had more executives show up from my company than any of the other honorees. But, most importantly, she asked me if I’d noticed my CEO. I hadn’t. “Well,” she said, “he was so cute, I saw him take a few pictures on his phone; he was really proud of you.” I used to retell this story as in illustration a training I conducted. Often, my eyes would start to fill with tears as I absorbed the sense of love I felt from such a simple gesture: the gesture of someone showing up for you and being fully present in the moment.
I was reflecting back on this and thinking about how it’s often hard to show up for others. We get busy, stressed, pulled in many directions. We over-commit, under-plan, and over-stimulate ourselves to the point that it’s often difficult to not only physically show up for others, but to mentally be present when we are there.
The simple act of showing up is so important, but I believe we undervalue how important our total presence is to others. Not just the simple act of physically showing up, but being mentally present. This, on its own is a powerful act of recognition and expression of love. Showing up isn’t just one big gesture, it’s a million small opportunities we have every day:
- It’s putting down the phone when it’s time to be present.
- It’s picking up the phone when a friend needs to talk.
- It’s listening to understand instead of listening to respond.
- It’s committing to a coworker that you’ll give tough feedback, even though it’s uncomfortable.
- It’s having a difficult conversation with a friend or romantic partner in person, rather than on text.
- It’s momentarily setting aside your thoughts and empathizing with a friend who’s going through something tough.
- It’s making eye contact and asking thoughtful questions.
- It’s all these things and more.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get out of our own headspace, to get off of our phones, to center ourselves, to release our thoughts and just be fully present with someone else. I challenge you, in this next week, take an opportunity to be fully present and engaged; to be kind, to be thoughtful, to be vulnerable - to fully show up for someone. It’s an artform that many of us have forgotten the value of, but one that we can regain in a simple instant.