"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey
Unlearning this harmful utilitarian trope is an ongoing process. I am slowly but surely figuring it out. So much of it has been shifting my perspectives on myself, my relationships, and what showing up means. It's not my job to fix other people, and people are not projects for me to work on. It's dehumanizing and unfair. It's not right that so much of what I how learned to value myself was from accomplishments, achievements, ability, and exceptionalism. I learned that I was amazing because of what I did for other people. I'm still in that mindset. I'm awe-inspiring because of the extraordinary, sometimes simplistically mundane, things I do or say for other people. I'm a wonder because I am wonderful for others. I make change. I move people forward. I pick people up. I give them advice. I help them heal. I listen wholeheartedly. I'm with them when they need or want me. I'm not good at everything but I am good at people, and I simultaneously give thanks for it, and wish I was not. Once people experience it, hear about it, or stumble upon it - it's hard to put that away. I do my best to give people the knowledge for themselves so they no longer "need" me but it's hard to rely on yourself when you have someone so easy to rely on. I don't want to be useful, I want to be normal.
I'm striving to give people grace to try. My biggest wish in life is for me to have a me. I have never said that before, but sitting with it more makes it all undeniably true. It's one thing to be me, and have myself internally, but something different to experience me as an external force. There are ways in which I project that yearn onto others and create this dynamic where I am unfairly disappointed with them not measuring up to an impossible standard they can never meet. Instead of appreciating people for who they are, I want them to be like me, to be me, to show up how I do for them. It's not that I think I'm perfect, it's that I am damn good at showing up, and that's what I want. It's absurd and negates their efforts. Now more than ever though it's my heart's desire. Having me would mean knowing exactly what to say, how to say it, and how to just be there. That's who I am. That's how I display friendship. That's what makes me that catalyst friend in people's lives. Someone who shows up, somehow intuitively communicates precisely what is needed, and honors emotions/brings peace. I'm the friend that changes everything just by being with you, and somehow is there when you need me most.
Appearing to know "everything" (at least about people) must be annoying. I have noticed that people are reluctant to tell me what they think of me or who they know me to be. Is it because I am firmly grounded in my sense of self that they think it might be pointless, or because the way I do it to them makes them feel like they cannot do so, at least to the same effect. I want to know, and I think I have to encourage it so whatever people are willing to offer in that vulnerable way has room to breathe. I know that each and every person has an expertise, gifts, and talents. I believe it is paramount to both know, and own what people are good at. I also happen to know part of my talent lies in being able to quickly assess who people are, identify what makes them unique, and most importantly articulate it back to them in that ways that are deeply impactful, to the point of being vulnerably personal. It is an emotionally exhaustive task. I am trying to use it less, and even more so empower other people to do it for themselves. I am finding that it can be a learned ability that people can develop for themselves. Bare minimum if they are able to use it reflexively then it can be a powerful tool for self-assurance, self-recognition, and self-determination. If we are secure in who we are then who others perceive us to be loses its influence.
I am trying to be brave, and tell people what I need instead of waiting for them to figure it out. People are often oblivious, especially when it comes to the person/their "person" that helps them make sense of the world. If that person is working through their own things, it means they too are fallible, and that's not the story we've long told ourselves about them. If someone asks me how I'm doing twice, I am leaning into the discomfort, and trusting them to tell them the truth. I am also telling people how to show up, and show up specifically for me. I have realized that people don't know what to do with me because I have never told them. I don't get to be let down when I never gave others the opportunity to be awesome for me. I'm this unsolvable enigma that unrealistically expected people to know how to solve me without directions or guidance. I am learning that knowing what I want and need is only useful if I share it with others. X
How to Show Up for Others:
1) Notice them, and express care for them - "I care about you, I love you, I am glad you're here, I appreciate your presence in my life"
2) Ask them what they need with specific questions:
- What are you thinking?
- What are you feeling?
- How can I show up for you?
- What do you need from me?
- What can I do to be helpful?
- How can I be present with you?
- Is it okay if I just am here with you?
- What care do you respond best to?
3) Give what them they needs - meet their needs as you are able
4) Be present with them - plant your feet, lean in, ask more questions, give time and be there
More readings: Time to Start Showing Up
Showing Up Means Showing Up for Others
Showing Up for Friends: A Guide