Recently, I had a talk with my little sister about taking up space, especially in the healthcare field. She is in her first year of medical school and I am working to be among the 1% of Black mental health counselors. In these fields, as with many others, it can often leave one feeling ignored, unheard and invisible. I'm sure you've heard it before; "take up space", but what does that really mean?
Simply put, taking up space means that you are allowing yourself to be full and present. When you take up space, you allow yourself to be vocal, visible, and exude confidence, instead of hiding or shying away from your power.
People often project their own fears on you by determining what you can and can't do, and placing you in boxes that have likely been outgrown by you already. These people don't want you to take up space and oftentimes, it is easy to feel small or lost in this world when you don't truly know or understand your own power, and have only heard their input on your life. In order to tap into your true purpose and reach your goals, it is absolutely necessary for you to find your voice and then decide that EVERY room is a room that you belong in, and regardless of the opinions of others, you will stay there until you feel like that room has served it's purpose. This can be used in both the literal sense and the figurative.
Taking up space begins with confidence. It is understanding your power and walking in every room knowing that you belong there. How much space you occupy is often a reflection of you feel internally. Your self-knowledge, how you choose to own your voice, and your perception of your own gifts, ideas, beliefs of self, also play factors in how much space you choose to occupy.
In the physical sense, one can begin to take up space by changing their posture. Stand tall. Head high. Chest up. Direct eye contact. These are all reflective of a strong physical presence and can actually influence how you feel on the inside. For a moment, reflect on your current position; whether seated or standing. What does your position say about you? Again, your physical stance has the power to alter how you feel inside, so why not make that stance say something positive about you?
In addition to physically taking up space, it is important to acknowledge how we use our voices to take up space. Even when others fail to completely understand you, know that your voice, your words, they are valid. You don't need validation from anyone else. Find the strength to believe in your own voice. You can practice this daily through affirmations. What do you believe to be true about yourself? Your words have power, so be mindful of what you say about and to yourself. I'm reminded of the movie The Help; "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." And guess what...you is! (I know, grammar police. Calm down.)
You can also take this practice with you. Challenge yourself to speak up in a meeting or when discussing subjects that you are knowledgeable on or would like more understanding. Yes, it is intimidating, but it is also a beautiful way to flex your muscle!
During the conversation with my sister, we discussed how she was initially afraid to speak up because she was often the only Black person with a "seat at the table". I'm sure that many of us can relate to this feeling at some point or another. When asked how she felt when she quieted herself, she expressed that she felt "crazy" and that her input "didn't matter". I challenged that thought with the question, "if you are at the same table, wouldn't your input be just as valid as your neighbors?" The answer is ABSOLUTELY! Someone somewhere needs your voice. They need your input. They need YOU! Your advocacy has the power to change lives. You belong there, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Take up that space!
Becoming an advocate for yourself and asserting yourself are literally the most freeing feelings ever! You deserve to take up the space that you seek. How will you take up space this week?