“Just Show Up”

If you struggle with anxiety, overwhelm, or just plain feeling like a failure, I have a mantra for you that’s been really helping me out lately:

Just show up.

As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I am a peer in mental health issues, and my biggest problem has always been depression. I’ve had to acknowledge that I am disabled by my mental health problems, and for an honor-roll student, that was often a struggle to accept.

In college, I used to skip class almost every day because the whole process was so overwhelming to my depressed and anxious brain: I had to get dressed in something clean (even though I never had the energy to do laundry), walk the 45 minutes to school, sit in class for up to three hours, PLUS pay attention, take notes, participate in discussion, and end up with an A at the end of the semester.

I didn’t realize that I was being a perfectionist, and life would have been a lot easier for me if I had Just Shown Up. By staying home because of my depression and anxiety, I wasn’t giving myself the chance to meet any of the expectations I had saddled myself with. I was so stressed out about being a “bad” or average student that I stopped being a student at all.

The Just Show Up philosophy isn’t the same as lowering your standards. You’re not suddenly off the hook for all your responsibilities. Instead, this is a mantra that will help you stay realistic and grounded. By Just Showing Up, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to grow and do your best without enforcing any of the guilt, overwhelm, or anxiety that comes along with expecting perfection at all times. Don’t think too far ahead. Just put on your shoes and Show Up.

The great thing about Just Show Up is that once you do, you will often find yourself doing quite well anyways– it’s something that you were capable of all along, but were too keyed up (or otherwise symptomatic) to envision. If you really can’t do a particular task, then at least you did something just by showing up. Think of all your activities like an hourly job: if you’re there, you get paid, even if you’re not always meeting your too-high expectations. People can’t be “on” all the time, and the Just Show Up philosophy recognizes that without letting bad behavior slide. In other words, nobody’s perfect.

Often, when I would apply Just Show Up and go to my college classes– sometimes in my pajamas– I would find that I was interested enough in the material to pay attention and take some notes. I was passionate enough about the topics to participate in the discussion. At the very least, I didn’t get points off my grade for another absence. Sure, I spent some time doodling due to attention span issues, but for the most part, I had succeeded just as well as the other students. I had minimized the task in my head from a mountain to a molehill. I didn’t overwhelm myself. I did exactly what I was capable of at that moment.

If you’re having trouble getting something done, Just Show Up. You don’t have to be employee of the month. You don’t have to be valedictorian. Just Show Up.

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