The Fear of Showing Up as We Really Are
"I will wait until I am perfect, and then I will meet you for lunch."
Posted December 1, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- Showing up in the world exactly as we are is often a hard thing to do.
- We often allow negative self-talk to prevent us from taking positive action.
- Tuning out this nonsense and staying present can lead to happier and healthier outcomes.
Over 20 years ago, I had a firm belief that I should weigh 180 pounds before I went to the gym. At the time, I weighed around 240. I am a sturdy, tall sort of human, and 180 pounds is actually quite lean for me.
In summary: If I lose weight, then I can go to the gym.
This "logic" isn't logical at all. I see it now. You probably see it: "Why would someone wait to lose weight before going to the gym? Also, why are you just going to the gym to lose weight? Can't you just work out and be healthy?"
Twenty years ago, the logic (societally) made more sense than today, perhaps. Body positivity was not a real thing. Gyms were extremely unwelcoming to the non-athletic, less-than-fit types. The world was different. We were different, too.
As much as our culture and society have made strides towards body acceptance, I am not so sure that, internally, we are doing so great at the moment.
Perhaps data exist to show I am wrong. Of course, ad nauseam, social media influencers attempt to prove that we have evolved, that we love ourselves, that we have abandoned the patriarchy and social body norms. Sure, maybe there is progress.
Sometimes, though, I feel that social media influencers are simply trying to convince themselves. I think they write to drown out their own nasty, noisy voices and help us all move toward a place of hope. If I post this picture of me loving my belly, maybe it will someday be true.
I feel this way because I have done this same thing. The self-love thing? Well, it ebbs and flows. It's a process. I am not sure where I land on it most of the time.
As a mother of two teenagers, I definitely appreciate the social moves toward body love and acceptance. I think my daughter has a far superior body image than I did at her age. But sometimes, I am not sure. Why? Well, I don't live inside her head. I cannot know. I also don't live inside your head. I don't know how you really feel about yourself or your body either. We are all speculating.
I do live inside my head.
On my journey from my highest weight of 280 and lowest rock-bottoms of addiction to completing four Ironman triathlons, after writing a book helping others learn to do triathlons, after quitting drinking and moving on from things that no longer serve me (which I call "Nonsense"), I still have the most ridiculous thoughts about myself and my body.
This morning, I tried to cull it down into a simple formula: "When I ___, then I will ____."
- When I reach my goal weight, I will go to the beach in a swimsuit.
- When I have a better job, I will go to my high school reunion.
- When I clean my house and stop being Ms. McSloppy Slobby Slob, then I will start to work on my next book.
Or this version, which isn't a perfect fit for the formula but has the same type of logic.
- I am sorry I have to cancel lunch today. I am sick (...of the size of my rear end, and therefore I cannot come to spend time with you because you must really care about the size of my butt more than who I am as a human, and that's how I feel, so I'll see you next year or never. K. Thanks.).
I believed I had grown up from this type of thinking. But last week, I was hit over the head by my own thoughts.
I present you with my most recent logic: I was asked to do a special kind of speaking engagement—one that I have wanted and pursued for many years. My very first thought about this invitation was, "I am nowhere near fit enough to give a talk that will live on the internet forever. I will have to pass."
As a refresher, I wrote a book called The Year of No Nonsense, and I write this column called "The Doctor of Nonsense"—both of which aim to help people get rid of their own specific brands of self-inflicted nonsense.
Whoops. This latest thinking is perhaps the biggest nonsense, and now I am officially full of it.
The truth is that we are all full of this type of nonsense.
We are full of ridiculous, formula-based thinking that keeps us hidden from the world, hidden from ourselves, and devoid of opportunities to show up for the challenges of life—big and small. We stay small and stuck because of our own nonsense. We keep the wheel of nonsense turning with each additional feeder thought. And on and on...
My challenge for you (and myself) is to notice when we are using this illogical formula. To notice where we use the self-hatred towards our bodies, jobs, or status to keep ourselves stuck, to keep ourselves sad, and to allow ourselves to give up on our dreams (or not have any in the first place).
The fear of showing up to the world as ourselves is real. Why? Historical data may tell us that people like us are not enough. Whether it's body size, race, gender identity, socioeconomic status—there have been real factors that say, "Hey, you are not safe to show up as you are. Remember that time...?" [Note: I know that I am in a place of skin color, socioeconomic, and gender identity privilege, and this idea of showing up has a different meaning, implications, and risk for different people. I have written and podcasted about this a lot, and while addressing privilege is not the aim of this post, I wanted to note it. This post is about showing up as ourselves, for ourselves, as our whole selves—and all that entails.]
The fear of showing up, just as we are right this second, is real. But if we could begin to show up in small ways—to our dreams or, heck, just to lunch with a dear friend—just as we are right now, then we can begin to make the most of this life.
Years ago, I overcame my desire to starve before going to the gym. Instead, I decided to just tackle the sport of triathlon in the body I had. Today, I still don't weigh 180 pounds. I am, actually, quite substantially more than 180 pounds—and I may always be. If I had waited to "show up" when I reached my goal weight, I would, simply put, have missed out on my current life. I would have not only missed out on accomplishments, but I would have missed the fun, enjoying learning to move my body, meeting new people, and a lot of laughter. Because of a number on the scale. A number that I made up as worthy. A number that has no bearing on anything. Nonsense.
To show up just as we are right now, in the body, life, job, or car we have—is the beginning of our real lives: Truly living. In the present. Right now.
Ask yourself where you are using the "If I ___, then I will _____" formula, and give yourself a chance without that nonsense. See what happens. I will be over in my world doing the same experiment—and seeing where it continues to lead me.