Just like most people my age, or even those older than me, I was told that kids are not meant to be heard. I was yelled at for running, for stomping, for being too loud, for being bossy, for almost everything. Because of that, I developed a complex. I new that if I was noticed in whatever I was doing, I was doing something wrong and I was taking up too much space. Everything about my life was about everybody else because I got the worst anxiety attacks if I felt that I was ever the center of attention. To say it was uncomfortable, rather to say it is uncomfortable, is putting it mildly.
If there is anything that my husband and I argue over the most, it is probably this. I get gut wrenching anxiety when he walks a little too hard on the wood floor. If I feel I’ve wronged him in any possible way, that gut wrenching anxiety takes over. For the majority of our relationship, I have been growing and challenging my old habits and anxieties, but taking up space is one that is the most difficult for me to overcome.
Arielle Estoria posted this somewhat recently on her Instagram and I resonated with it so much that I saved it to review and remind myself. Yes, I know that her battle with taking up space is vastly different than mine and NO I am not comparing them. Let’s get that straight right now. I am not comparing me taking up space and my anxiety around it with her journey with taking up space. She is an inspiration to me and serves as a daily reminder to lean into who I am as I continue on my journey.
That’s the thing, Arielle has a completely different journey in life than I do and yet, she is an inspiration to me every time I see something from her. We are very different people and she is an inspiration to me. By her taking up space in my Instagram feed and stories, I am learning how to do the same for myself. It doesn’t matter that our journey’s are so different in life, what matters is that there are so many of us women who have been told not to take up space and that is a tragedy.
Each and every one of us women who struggles with feeling like we are taking up too much space, has had a different journey to get to today. We may have some similarities over the years, but each of us are different and so are our journeys. Also different is the effect we feel when we feel that we are taking up too much space.
When I feel like I’m taking up space, whether it be just a little or entirely too much, I get gut wrenching anxiety that makes me somewhat nauseous, gives me a panic attack, and makes me want to roll up like a roly poly or disappear completely. Sometimes, all I have to do is talk about it or be around while someone else is doing the action. Let’s take my fear of stomping on the wood floor as an example. A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a girls night with my close friends. We got to talking about ailments and how two of us have to relearn how to walk – me because I had a shitty orthopedic doctor when I was 12 and am trying to fix years of issues that necessitated in surgery, and my friend because of what was ingrained into her because of gymnastics. She was talking that she had to relearn how to walk with not walking on her toes because the proper way to walk for form, is to step heal-to-toe. Anxiety hit me harder than I knew words could. There is no way in hell I am ever walking heal-to-toe in a home where I might be considered to be stomping.
My husband does it. The same friend stayed here for a over a month and walks heal-to-toe. My anxiety was off the charts. No, it’s not her fault. Yes, it is something I need to work through. My husband has adjusted the way he walks, most of the time, to not walk heal-to-toe because it sounds like he is stomping. Just yesterday he took off his sneakers and was walking heal-to-toe and my anxiety hit like a Mack truck. I am slowly learning hearing someone walk doesn’t mean that they are pissed off, nor does it mean that yelling will immediately commence.
How does walking heal-to-toe relate to taking up space? Well, when you are yelled at for making any sound when walking, it has everything to do with it.
There are so many things in my life that I am learning to live through instead of allowing my anxiety response to take over because I feel like I’m taking up too much space. Another instance is with work. I work really hard and I am dedicated to helping this startup succeed. But, I suck at actually taking any praise for the work that I do. I have a bi-weekly one-on-one setup with my boss so I can receive feedback and have an open conversation with him. Every time the meeting comes around, I get anxiety as a preparation to dialing in. The anxiety is because feedback is difficult, whether it is constructive or good. Honestly, my anxiety calms more when it is constructive than when it is good. I rarely receive constructive feedback because I am always correcting mess-ups or failures as they occur. I usually receive praise. That praise makes me feel like I’m taking up entirely way too much space. Not because my boss phrases it that way, but because I am standing out.
Standing out has always equaled taking up too much space. My anxiety tells me that if I stand out in any way, get your ass back in the back and stop showing off, it isn’t appropriate for you to shine. My anxiety tells me that by shining I am taking up too much space.
Taking up space isn’t a bad thing. As I’m learning, we should be taking up all the space that we need to be true to ourselves. Getting from the anxiety fueled fear of taking up space to embracing and owning the space I am in is one hell of a long, arduous journey. It is painful and exhausting. But as I continue to shine, as I continue to lean into who I am, as I learn to stand up for what I believe in, I will overcome the gut wrenching anxiety and will be rewarded thousand-fold.
How have I done it? How have I embraced the pain to continue on the journey to taking up more space? By just doing it. Every time my boss praises me, I sit with it and let the glorious feeling of praise overcome the anxiety. Every time I post and worry about who I will offend, I watch the couple of likes and random comments roll in from those who are inspired by my journey. As Eddie walks hard on the floor, I ask if he is pissed off instead of allowing my anxiety to take over immediately. I find a way to use the cause or result of the situation to battle my anxiety. I haven’t been able to do it all at once, that would have been massively overwhelming. I started with the things that would provide the greatest reward, whether it be emotionally or externally. I can say that I am slowly getting better at accepting praise and that I don’t as easily snap at Eddie “what the fuck did I do now?”
What things make you feel like you take up too much space? If you can’t readily identify any, what things cause you anxiety? Sit down and write out everything that causes you anxiety. Then try to identify what typically triggers that anxiety response. Once you have that, how does that relate to your past? What things in your past might have caused that trigger to be established?