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How do you 'have to' show up?

journal prompt Dec 30, 2023

Visibility stories are the inner stories we tell ourselves which drive the way we show up and speak up.

In my days as a chaotically unhealthy enneagram seven, I had a story that to show up - at work, to a social engagement, for a friend - I had to be 'on'. In other words, I had to be happy, friendly, fun, and a pleasure to be around. If I wasn't, I'd hide away until I felt better and could be happy and friendly again.

Honestly, it was exhausting. For me and the people around me.

Once I took the time to see the story for what it was - an idea I had created around what people needed from me - and was willing to drop it, everything changed.

I was able to show up without pretence. I was able to walk into a room and just be in the space with no need to entertain or make people smile or be the most interesting person in the room. I could stand quietly and observe my environment and when interaction came my way I could listen deeply - to myself and to others.

For sure, there's still a seven-ish flavour to the way I show up in the world. There's a levity to my being and I'm quick to find humour in a situation. Although introverted, I'm also naturally gregarious, and the more at ease I am in myself, the more I'm able to exude warmth and playfulness. So I didn't completely abandon my personality when I cleared out my stories around how I thought I 'should' show up. I simply stopped forcing the point. I came to rest in the enoughness of me.

Even if you've done a journalling exercise like this in the past, it's worth thinking about a range of different settings. Eg; how have I told myself I have to show up in front of my parents, or when I'm on social media, when I'm doing a speaking gig, or when I'm talking to my partner?

Each of us is carrying a variety of stories for differing environments and a great deal of the exhaustion we experience in life is as a result of these stories.

→ Introverts are exhausted by trying to be more extroverted when they go out because that's what socialising is supposed to look like.

→ Mothers are exhausted at the end of the day because they've been told they have to put everyone else's needs before their own.

→ Employees are exhausted by workplaces that require them to park their personalities at the door and behave in ways that feel unnatural to them.

→ Business owners get to the end of a launch and collapse in a heap because they've been taught that they have to show up in certain ways to launch successfully.

The stories we inherit don't come from nowhere. They're learned from family, friends and colleagues, from the media, and from the systems that underpin our communities.

Fortunately though, we are at choice as to whether we buy into, and perpetuate, those stories. Which is where this journalling prompt comes in. First, we need to see the stories, then we can clear them.

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