By Melissa Kirk
Is it okay for you to take up space, physically, energetically, psychologically, or emotionally? For myself, sometimes the answer is ‘No.’ I’m a very accommodating, flexible, and eager-to-please person. I sometimes I have to consciously hold myself back from doing too much for other people, especially if they [...]
By Melissa Kirk
Is it okay for you to take up space, physically, energetically, psychologically, or emotionally? For myself, sometimes the answer is ‘No.’ I’m a very accommodating, flexible, and eager-to-please person. I sometimes I have to consciously hold myself back from doing too much for other people, especially if they are people I want to keep close to me. There’s a little voice inside my head that tells me if I say no to those people, they won’t want to be around me anymore. I can also be absentminded and scattered, temporarily losing things such as glasses, keys or event tickets, because I’m juggling so many things at one time that, literally, one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing.
Last night, I had a ticket to an event that myself and a group of friends were attending. I didn’t want to carry my purse, so I put the ticket, along with my cash and ID, in a travel pouch that I stuffed in my boot. When we got to the venue, amidst the joking about “Does everyone have their ticket?” I looked at my ticket and realized I had brought the ticket for another event. This filled me with such absolute shame, that I just wanted to crawl under a rock. I felt like I had single-handedly inconvenienced everyone else, especially my friend who had to drive me back to his house to get the correct ticket. Everything worked out in the end; we got the ticket and the show wasn’t even close to starting by the time we got to the venue. But throughout the evening I had a horrid, empty feeling, like I was about to be rejected because of my absentmindedness about the ticket. My thinking was that, by inconveniencing my friend, that my worth in his eyes had declined.
As the night went on and I thought about why I was feeling so disturbed by an incident that, after all, wasn’t so uncommon, I had a sudden insight that my feelings were linked to a deepseated sense that it’s not okay for me to take up any energetic space in the world. I saw that my anticipation of abandonment was connected to my feelings that making mistakes and being human automatically meant that I was unworthy of love. By inconveniencing someone — by making any kind of ripple in the world, in other words — I was risking rejection, and rejection would mean that I was worthless. This is also connected to my desire to be seen as accommodating and nonjudgmental, and my difficulty saying ‘no.’ By not taking up space, by not asking for anything that might cost someone else some time or energy, by not inconveniencing anyone and by not making anyone uncomfortable, I try to make myself worthy of love.
This was a powerful insight, one that I’m still pondering. In my personal experience, the people that I respond to are the ones who do take up energetic space, but not in an aggressive or selfish way. The people who are kind but also have strong boundaries, the ones who don’ t hesitate when making a decision or stating an opinion, but who don’t feel the need to use their decisions or opinions to steamroll others. I’ve heard public-speaking coaches say that, in order to be heard on stage, the speaker will need to speak louder and stronger than he or she thinks is necessary. Even when we may feel like we’re shouting, we’re usually actually speaking in a normal voice. I think this is true, energetically, also, especially of people like me who feel uncomfortable taking up a lot of energetic space. To take up even a normal level of space, we need to push past our comfort zones, to the point where we feel like we’re way over the boundary of what’s acceptable. For me, that means speaking a little bit more loudly than is comfortable (because I tend to speak quietly), stating my opinions just a little bit more confidently than I actually feel, not apologizing so much, and acting as if it’s okay to make mistakes, even when, inside, I’m cowering in shame.
How about you? Do you feel it’s okay to take up space in your life? How do you see this issue operating in your life?
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Words of Wisdom
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.— Ajahn Chah
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