Leaders need a space to show up as they are

By: Ariana Friedlander Friday November 15, 2019 0 comments Tags: Ariana Friedlander

By Ariana Friedlander

Principal and Founder

Rosabella Consulting

"You are so welcome here, just as you are," She Leads founder, Chrysta Barrie, said as she welcomed us to the She Leads Summit earlier this month. 

"You're welcome here, whether you're having a great day or you cried in your car earlier, or you're anywhere in between. Regardless of how you're feeling today. What's important is that you first show up, and we're so glad you're here."friedlander-blog-photo.fixed-1 

I shifted in my seat as her words landed. I honestly cannot recall the last time I attended a professional program where I was welcome just as I am. And I was filled with both a sense of relief and fear.

It was refreshing to be in a space where I was invited to show up as I am.

Until recently, I had been silently battling a 2+ year long depressive episode and I rarely felt welcomed as I was in any professional setting. In fact, continually experiencing a disconnect between how I felt within and how the world perceived me only exacerbated my feelings of despair. 

For that reason, it is also incredibly vulnerable to show up as you are! Being human is a beautiful and messy thing. No one is immune to the messy stuff. Showing up as you are, means letting the messy stuff be out there. 

It is especially hard to show up as you are because most of us have had negative experiences doing so in the past.

You might have experienced shame, judgment, or ridicule, making you feel like less of a person for what you carry around. Or perhaps your well-intending friends’ efforts to fix and advise you only left you feeling frustrated that no one really understands what you're going through.

Being an entrepreneur, a leader, a parent, a person feels incredibly lonely at times. As humans, we are hardwired for connection and belonging. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are the antithesis of experiencing connection and belonging. 

Despite the immense pain felt for being left out, the fear of vulnerability -- of showing up as you are -- can be so great that many hold back, grasping onto the facade. Even though the cost of wearing the mask is greater than the benefit of feeling seen and heard. 

At its core, showing up as you are requires a level of self-awareness. To be aware of the roles we play and the facades we wear as being distinct from who we are as people. And to be willing to set down the comfort of the mask to let your true self be revealed. 

Facades eventually crack, masks are impermanent, showing up as you are is a risk worth taking. By heeding the invitation to show up as you are, leaders experience the much needed space to heal, gain clarity and build resiliency to continue to face the inevitable messiness yet to come.

Having a safe space to be courageous, real and honest about your struggles is invaluable and priceless.

Indeed, such an invitation to show up as you are requires a gentle touch with a steadfast resolve to not judge, shame, ridicule, fix or advise. The invitation must be followed by a commitment to listen, an openness to seek to understand and a dedication to connect first and foremost. 

The words only go so far to create the space. The behavior most be modeled from the leader that’s holding the space. 

“I’m gonna be real. I’m only at about 70 percent today.” Chrysta later said in her opening remarks. “My divorce was just finalized yesterday.”

Ariana Friedlander

About the Author: Ariana Friedlander

Ariana Friedlander is the founder and principal of Rosabella Consulting, LLC, and has more than nine years of experience working with small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to create strategies for successful organizational growth.