You know that thing.
That thing that enters the room with you.
Everybody has it—you do too.
We can’t put our fingers on it. We can’t see it. We can’t even describe it.
The French coined the phrase ‘je ne sais quoi’ in an attempt to capture the essence of it—enter accordion music and the smell of early morning chocolate croissants.
Presence is not what we’re feeling today—this week or next month. It lies beneath the worries, anxieties, and crazy making. It’s that thing that gives us an instant imprint of a person’s humanity. It’s like a fingerprint, but energetic. It’s invisible, but felt.
Presence is the most important quality that we embody, but the least discussed. It’s how we show up on the daily stage, and It sets the tone and trajectory of every experience. It even sets the tone and trajectory of our lives.
Presence is what’s behind statements like, “I just met her, but I just love that woman,” or “He’s bad news, I can just tell.”
So, what is our presence like?
Calm? Excited? Somber?
Lit up? Lit down?
Uneasy? Content? Needy? Forgiving?
Presence is not how we feel. It’s what we emanate. It’s how we make others feel. It seeps from our pores, invisible but potent. It’s so much of who we are, yet we rarely know what our presence is.
Want to know? Ask. Ask friends, beloveds, neighbors, and colleagues. Ask them how they’d describe you. Ask for the good and the not-so-good. If they’re being honest, they’ll tell always tell us straight up how they experience us. What we bring to the room. How it shifts when we enter.
We must listen to what we hear (even the stuff that hurts) and say thank you, because now we’re getting to all the juicy bits. Because what we hear tells us so much, so we accept it like we would a bedraggled, neglected child.
This is who we are. Welcome it home.
Take that bedraggled child in. Feed the child soup and drape its shoulders with a warm blanket, lay it down to rest. Forgive the foibles, and by god celebrate the excellence. Look upon it with kindness.
This is not a place for judgment—wanted or unwanted. It is a place of knowing: this is how I show up and this is what I give.
Want to change some of that? Sure. That’s expansion and growth and this is our ever evolving nature.
So we should ask ourselves, “What kind of presence do I want to embody?”
Write it out.
Brainstorm a best self.
Ask, again and again: “How do I want to feel, and how do I want to make others feel?
Feel into those places. Step into them. Explore them.
Want to be more kind? Energetic? Engaged? Considerate? Then practice it. Embody it. Become it.
Know that nothing (and I mean nothing) is immutable, and this includes who we are, our presence, our own irreplaceable way of being here.
Is this easy? No. But then I ask, what else are we doing with our lives?
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Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth / Editor: Catherine Monkman