Just Show Up

Alanis Morissette is an old favorite of mine. Her CDs used to litter my passenger seat floor, like unsent postcards to men I loved. She was an early spokesperson in my life, validating both ecstasy and anguish. I loved her – and still do.

For some reason, driving down the speckled mountain highway this afternoon, after picking up my son from school, her lyrics surfaced as I was thinking about competition among women in the workplace:

I am the biggest hypocrite
I’ve been undeniably jealous
I have been loud and pretentious
I have been utterly threatened…

did you just call her amazing?
surely we both can’t be amazing!
and give up my hard earned status..

Hard-earned status. As women, we might fight for that status more than men. We certainly tend to feel more threatened and vulnerable, sinking claws into our achievements and our winnings with our indignant talons.

If I am amazing at my job, for instance, how can another colleague be too? How can there be room for more than one unique, special person? It’s these questions that poison us. Once we are recognized as good and worthy, no one else has the right to that “title.”

Why do we have this fear? This fear that no one else can be good too? It’s as if maybe someone will figure out we aren’t good enough. Or that someone else might be slightly better and threaten to take our share of the winnings. After all, we didn’t deserve them anyway, did we? Despite the fact they were earned fair and square.

In this moment, I am reminded about what my husband, Eric, told me many months ago when I was getting started in a new position as an adjunct at my current school. With a stomach full of knots, I was plagued with doubt, as many of us are when beginning a new endeavor, and he said, “All you have to do is show up.” And that’s what brings me back time and again, when self-doubt or self-criticism creeps in. When I feel tension or jealousy or fear arise in myself or see it in my colleagues, I remember that.

I just have to show up. After all, no one can do what I do best – or what you do best – and that is, be ourselves.

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