We’ve all been there, that moment where you felt too ashamed or awkward to speak up for yourself. It could have been when that man took off his shoes next to you on the airplane, when your partner’s parent made an insensitive comment that hurt your feelings, or when a coworker stood too close for your comfort in the office. Unfortunately, so often we neglect our own inner voice—the one sounding alarms
that whatever’s happening doesn’t feel okay—in the hopes of making sure we don’t offend someone else.
And that’s the real issue: Neglecting the part of us that feels uncomfortable or upset as to not “rock the boat” continually reinforces the message that our voice isn’t important as someone else’s, and isn’t worth standing up for. Most of the time, it ends up being the intense anxious thinking keeps us from saying anything. Anxious thinking like you’ll hurt someone’s feelings, make them feel embarrassed, or anger them in some irreparable way. Fun fact, anxiety grows with avoidance. The more time a person takes to address those uncomfortable moments, if they address them at all, the more anxious they will be.
So, what does it mean to take up space? It means empowering yourself to speak up and ask for what you need. It may be uncomfortable (likely, the first few times will be), but speaking to your needs is a way of showing yourself you have worth. You’re deserving of just as much space, emotionally, verbally, and physically, as anyone else. Decrease emotional reactivity by speaking in facts, using “I” statements, stating your needs with confidence, and being open to negotiating what the other person is able to give you.
Not everyone will respond favorably, and that’s on those people, not you. You cannot control anyone else’s reactions but your own. The more someone learns to control their emotions, the more efficiently this process will go. By taking the time to recognize what’s happening internally (discomfort, anger, frustration, sadness), the better a person becomes at speaking to those emotional parts. Take up space by
giving your needs a voice, and empower yourself to begin making this a natural and normalized reaction in everyday life.