🛑 Stop Holding Yourself Back
Conquer your fear of “taking up space”
Back in November, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favourite “classmates” from the online writing course I’ve taken and mentored over the past two years. Janahan was visiting Montreal from New York, so naturally we had to meet in person and get a photo to share with friends. Here’s the one that made the rounds:
Funny enough, this was our second attempt after the first photo was a fail (on my part). See I committed the cardinal sin that many tall people commit when taking a photo with someone shorter than them—I shrunk myself to be on the same level. The result? Far from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but still.
We had a good laugh and as we reassembled for photo #2, Janahan hit me with a deep, empowering thought. He gestured expansively and said, “Take up space.”
“Take up space”
Janahan’s words came rushing back to me earlier this summer as I read ‘UNTAMED’ by Glennon Doyle—a book that sheds light on how women are conditioned from a young age to “fit in,” not take up space, and ultimately, tame our inherent wildness.
One of the most eye-opening examples of this is the difference in how everyday items—like shampoo—are marketed differently based on gender. The typical boy’s brand uses bold colours, bulky bottles, and large fonts, while the girl’s equivalent uses soft colours, slender bottles, and cursive.
This realization blew my mind. Though I was aware of the difference—as is anyone who’s ever walked the shampoo aisle at a pharmacy—I’d never paused to think about the ramifications these subtle everyday cues have on our psyches. After all, everything has a compounding effect.
Conquering the fear of “taking up space”
Shivani Berry is the CEO and founder of Arise Leadership—a career accelerator for women. She’s a Harvard Business School graduate who worked for major US companies (like PayPal) before launching a company to address the challenges women face in advancing their careers, after experiencing them firsthand.
Here’s a LinkedIn post Shivani shared outlining how she unconsciously avoided taking up space in the past:
Shivani’s recollection of “rushing through introductions” because she was worried she was “wasting people’s time” was me to a tee for the majority of my career. Much like the girlie shampoo bottles I’ve used all my life, I had unconsciously internalized their “keep it minimal” and “don’t take up space” essence. And so anytime I was introducing myself to a new group, I felt like I wasn’t “worthy” of sharing much—as though I hadn’t accomplished enough to warrant that air time. And yet, when I think back to many of these scenarios, it’s abundantly clear that many female colleagues shared this false narrative (whether they realized it or not), while most of my male colleagues didn’t.
In any case, once you realize you’ve been restricting yourself, you can work on “taking up space.” One by one, you can work on overcoming things like “rushing through your intros” or “pushing back on ideas from superiors” (respectfully, of course). And you can do other things outside of your comfort zone that will bring about that expansive nature.
For me, that’s meant everything from starting to freelance and pitching myself to potential clients, starting this newsletter (this edition marks 97 weeks of publishing), starting a YouTube channel (which I want to reboot in the near future), and so much more. All of these undertakings have been catalysts in helping me “take up space” I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking in the past.
My hope for you is you commit to “taking up space” of your own in the coming days, months, and years. The world will be a better place for it.
Thanks for reading and have a wonder-full week,
P.S. If this post made you think or feel something, like it and comment to let me know.
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