To take up space is to exist happily and wholly, just for the purpose of being alive. It is to express our needs without fear of judgement. It’s normal, however, for people in recovery to feel insecure and not want to have any sort of attention on them. If we stay small and in the corner, we might not get into anybody’s way and warrant any unwanted attention. While this might not be everyone’s experience, for a large population of those coming into a fully autonomous recovered person, being out in the open and asking for needs to be met can be a daunting act of growth.
And though we might start to get more healthy, learn about boundaries, and even develop some confidence which allows us to start feeling good about our talents and skills, we still shy away from being “out there”. And though there grows an awareness of affections, qualifications, and maybe even reception of accolades, we still struggle to take up space. We still feel guilty for receiving recognition and/or fearful of rejection and embarrassment.
At some point in some of our histories, we fed into a narrative that we didn’t deserve to be in open space. We then developed a slew of coping mechanisms ranging from perfectionism, to people-pleasing, to self-sabotaging, all to avoid the incredible discomfort of being seen, which to us felt like some sort of painful exposure to be avoided at all costs.
This incapacitating fear can lead to all sorts of problems that can range all the way from attitudes born of excessive pride to feelings of complete deficiency. But regardless of the beliefs, the response is generally the same – to freeze and remain inactive. The belief that we don’t deserve to take up space can reveal itself in any situation where wants and/or needs are not being articulated, for reasons that can vary from not believing there is possibility of achievement, to not feeling deserving of it.
One way to overcome this inaction is to practice self-compassion. Kristin Neff is a well-respected psychologist who created accessible and relatable teachings of how to be gentle with ourselves. Since perfectionism often precedes the hesitancy to take up space, her principles of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness are simple ways to practice feeling less afraid to go where we want to go.
What are some ways that you give positive self-talk to take up space?