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I have become so good at making myself small, of keeping a low, cramped profile so as to not draw attention to myself. It is second nature now for me to stand, speak, and be in ways that keep me from taking up space.
It first started as innocent shyness, keeping myself small—a subtle kind of humbleness; a holy, noble martyrdom. Then, it began to mutate into something more dangerous: meekness, insecurity, shame.
No one thought to pull me out of that dark, stuffy pit designated for me—no one truly wanted to. A nice girl is meek, they resounded. A pure girl gives up her space, they reinforced. Sacrifice. Back-step. Apologize.
And so I learned. I learned how to not be the one who takes up space, for she—the space-taker—is a steamroller, “a moving mountain,” an ancient tree whose roots damage cemented foundations.
Her energy is bigness, raucous, unapologetic. She is loud and demanding. She makes others uncomfortable because her truth is often stiff and challenging. And she is capable of exposing the truth in you, upturning rugs that cover dirt and dust and bones from your past.
She doesn’t want to be good, doesn’t want to please or sit still. She only wants to blossom, to grow her lengthy stems up and up, thriving in light, becoming and transforming wherever she occupies.
This is why she’s so dangerous.
No wonder I was taught against her. No wonder her presence is abhorred. Why would anyone want to be that woman? Who would willfully choose to spur or embody her colossal, unwavering spirit? Certainly not me.
And then I read it somewhere, this short and sweet sentence that emboldened me to think about taking up space (or, essentially, to examine how little space I was taking); I can’t remember where I found it. It was just six words, seven easy syllables; simple and to the perfect point. . .
You deserve to take up space.
It was then the proverbial record scratched and I could hear this small, muffled voice inside of me simultaneously go, “Who, me?” and then rejoice, “Oh, yes. This. Finally!”
I read it again. And again. And again once more, each time feeling like that tiny little voice was being resuscitated, as if the words were waking up parts of me that I didn’t know ever existed—the sleeping giant, the moving mountain.
And then I realized that this—this dangerous truth, this powerful wisdom—was what I’d been seeking my whole life; this was the truth that could finally (finally!) take me home to myself.
But before that ecstatic voyage, an interruption of disparaging thoughts courtesy of my Critical Voice:
How could you possibly take up space? You’re not a space-taker, you are a wallflower. You’ve existed so long crammed against these walls, you have no idea of what it means to be big. And anyway, if you take up space, you’ll leave nothing else for the rest of them.
I could feel myself shrinking back into that cramped space, that too-small fishbowl. And as my Critical Voice continued to prattle on and on about all the ways in which it was impossible, irresponsible, reprehensible for little ol’ me to take up space, that tiny small voice—the one that, in the beginning, rejoiced so happily, Oh, yes, finally!—it seemed to burst up and out.
No, it boomed.
You are wrong, it defied.
I belong here.
And so it has been.
I’ve been sitting with this voice and this notion of taking up space for months now, unsure of how to actualize it into reality. I mean, how does one claim space? Is it a psychic expression, an energetic shift of perception, or must I literally go around town saying aloud (or to myself) “Mine! Mine! Mine!”?
But the biggest question that continues to come up for me is: Who am I as a space-taker? What forms does she take within and without me? What truth does she have to speak?
I began to write it out here, and this is what came through unfiltered:
I am a moving mountain. I am expansive energy.
I have thunder in my voice and fire on my breath.
My laugh is lightening. My eyes are laser beams.
My hair is a lion’s mane. My wisdom is crashing, salty waves.
I am large, bigness; I contain multitudes.
I am unafraid of invoking reactions, truth, emotions in others.
I am unafraid of my power to shift the energy of a room.
And no longer will I martyr myself.
No longer will I apologize for occupying space that is rightfully mine.
I will not shrink.
I will stand tall and big and wide. I will rejoice in my capacity.
I belong here.
And you. You do, as well.