Growing up, my mom always taught us to get up, make our bed, clean up, get out of our pajamas and out of the house to do something -anything! It didn’t matter how old we were or if we were on holidays. Sometimes it didn’t even matter if we were sick (minus the getting out of the house part). The rules were the same.
Those who believe that growing up in Mexico must have been a laid-back paradise have obviously never met my mom! We like to blame it on her German parents, but my grandma claims my mom got this way all on her own.
The point is, my mother instilled in us very early on a set of valuable principles. And although growing up we didn’t find this to be a lot of fun, as an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate it. The principle that resonates with me the most today is suiting up and showing up, consistently.
I’d like to talk about that, but first, let me tell you more about my mom.
I had the honour of being raised by a strong female figure. My mom grew up in a challenging environment and with limited resources. However, she refused to let hardship get in the way of doing the things she loved. When she couldn’t afford fashionable clothes (and she always looked GORGEOUS) she learned how to sew and started making her own clothes. When she couldn’t pay for her studies, she started teaching how to sew. She also got a scholarship and finished her BA top of her class.
Once married and with four (FOUR!) girls to raise, she went back to school, graduated with a Master's degree and became an entrepreneur, speaker and writer. She did all of this refusing to give up. Her goal was to make sure her daughters had better opportunities than she did. And because of her, we did. But more importantly, she set an example of showing up and making the best of whatever life threw at her.
Did I mention she also sings and plays the guitar, beautifully?
I didn’t inherit her voice nor her guitar skills (trust me, I’ve tried!), but I’d like to think I got my entrepreneurial spirit from her. Being currently self-employed, I can easily find excuses to not suit up and show up. This is especially true when I am having a tough day and all I want to do is curl up in bed, pull the sheets over my head and wait until whatever I am facing magically disappears. And while I can likely find valid reasons to do this, having my mom’s principles ingrained in me make it really hard for me to stay there.
So I’ve learned to listen to my mom and show up not out of guilt, but because it works.
Suiting up and showing up when the going is easy is no problem. It’s when things get tough that it matters the most to show up.
I believe suiting up and showing up during these moments is not only good for my self-esteem and discipline, but it also sends the universe a big message. I imagine that message being something like this:
‘Hey! I’m still here! I’m not going anywhere. Feel free to send all the good stuff you’ve got my way. I am ready to do great work! I am eager to learn and grow some more. No, I mean it! Look, I am all dressed up, just for you!’.
I find most of the time, the universe is paying attention and likes to play along.
The best part is of this showing up business is that it can work for many things.
Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic talks about taking a shower, putting on nice clothes and even lipstick (and she never wears lipstick) to entice creativity when she is in a bit of a rut.
“I’ve done this myself sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly sluggish and useless, and when I feel like my creativity is hiding from me. I’ll go look at myself in the mirror and say firmly, ‘Why wouldn’t creativity hide from you, Gilbert? Look at yourself!’
Then I clean myself up. I take that goddamn scrunchie out of my greasy hair. I get out of those stale pyjamas and take a shower. I shave… put on some decent clothes. I brush my teeth, I was my face. I put on lipstick… I might even put on perfume, for God’s sake.”
When I read this, I became convinced she must have grown up with a mom just like mine.
However she got there, I am grateful she is also a suit up and show up advocate.
I am also grateful for my mom.
The day I wrote this, showing up meant taking a hot bath, doing my hair, getting out of the house and going for a work-walk in the sun. It also meant keeping my commitments, being vulnerable with friends and making time to work AND play. I believe I get extra points because that day, of all days, I especially didn't want to do this. My choice would have been to dread disappointing news.
But I knew better than that. And I knew what would actually work.
So I put on some goddamn lipstick! (I pretty much always wear lipstick but I really wanted to say it like Liz Gilbert!)
Anyway… who would have known! I guess I truly am my mother’s daughter.
Thank you mom, for teaching me to show up, always. This one is for you.