It’s a loaded topic and I think this is something that we really need to dedicate a blog post to unpacking.
What does it mean to take up space?
I started thinking about this a lot when I moved to New York. I’m a “small town” girl who was taught midwest (and general) manners, and I quickly learned that the, “Excuse me” “Ope!” and “Sorry” were not going to fly in the big city. I had to learn to take up space and be unapologetic about it. I grew a thick skin and I learned to assert myself. If you live in New York, you quickly learn how to take care of yourself in the diverse ecosystem that is the crossroads of the world. When you live in a house with 25 girls, you also quickly learn how to take care of yourself and take up space in that equally diverse ecosystem.
That was my first taste in taking up space. It was a huge thing for me to be able to feel like I deserved to be where I was. I wasn’t going to melt into the floor and disappear any longer, even if at times I wanted to. I was too used to allowing myself to be pushed around and fade into the background because I had been told that was how it needed to be; I needed to not speak until spoken to, and I didn’t belong. When you’re bullied enough, it’s easy to fall victim and do what they want.
I overcame what was held over me and learned my right to take up space.
When I moved back home I once again had to change how I interacted with people and discover a new/different way of taking up space. In Denver you can smile and say “Hi” or “Good morning” to someone without them thinking you’ve gone off the deep end. I had to relearn how to properly mind my manners and soften my approach.
After being home for a while I’ve come to realize that I, once again, need to reevaluate for myself what it means to take up space; not only in general, but as someone who is chronically ill and living with a progressing illness. What does it mean to take up space in both of those worlds and combine them in to the world we live in:
For example, every time I use my handicap parking placard I get looks from people, as though I don’t have a right to be parking in a handicap space. I am not allowed, in their mind, to exist within that world. I don’t meet the requirements that they’ve been taught need to be met to be allowed to be there. To that, I have to remind myself that they couldn’t be more wrong. I am allowed to take up that space. I have that right. They can’t see my heart and lungs, and I don’t need to explain to them why I am allowed to be there. That’s between me and the government who issued me the placard.
I am an overly anxious person. Shocker. After years of being told that I don’t deserve to take up space and believing it, it’s taken me a very long time to come to a place of realization that as lucky as I am to be in someone’s life, they’re also lucky to be in mine; that actually might circle back around to the Self Worth blog I wrote a bit back…But I digress.
Where I was going with the above paragraph is that my anxiety about taking up space, still to this day, lives deep within me. When I’m at the grocery store, Target, coffee house, where ever, I’m overly apologetic and trying to make my presence as small as possible. I didn’t realize what I was doing until it hit me one day and I became very aware of it, and have been ever since.
We exist. We being every single one of us. We take up space.
I think the dialogue of this needs to be opened up more than it is. Where is the line between courtesy and manners, and being overly apologetic for taking up space?
It’s food for thought and something that I feel is not spoken about in a broad way. I think it’s spoken about within communities; ie. In the frum community there is the ongoing conversation of women taking up space. In the disabled community there is also an ongoing dialogue about taking up space; and so on and so forth. So, I thought I would take to my platform and bring it up seeing as it’s been something weighing on my mind.
What do you think?
How do you take up space in this world?
What does taking up space mean to you?