Have you ever apologized for simply existing? For standing, walking, turning a corner? For making somebody consider you?
I have. All of the above.
Living alone for the first time in my life this year has given me a lot of time to think about my interactions with the world around me. I think about how comfortable I feel at home, how comfortable I feel in my own space. Not having to apologize for making a mess or not putting something away. Not having to make excuses for why I don’t feel like making dinner.
This is the first time I feel like I have complete control over my life.
It’s the first time I feel the power to take up space.
Since I was a little girl, my house was full of consequences. Make too much noise? Consequence. Remind parent that you exist and are a child who has needs? Consequence. Cry because you are forced to walk on egg shells day in and day out? Consequence. I learned that the only way to get through social interaction was to be as quiet and small as possible and then escape the first chance you got.
Taking up space was not allowed.
When I was a kid, I built hyper awareness as a coping mechanism. I would freeze in fear when I accidentally made too much noise. I would be very aware of who else was in the house before I called my dad. I had to be careful about my tone if I expressed displeasure about moving because my step-dad was constantly pursuing some “better job” that just happened to be in a town more rural and desolate than the last. I had to listen for the sounds of fighting downstairs because a lot of the time it meant packing all my belongings in boxes, only to be told to unpack them hours later because we weren’t getting out after all.
If I could catch the signs early and stay out of the way, I could prepare.
As I grew older, I’ve seen how this has worked against me. I never spoke up in class. I was afraid to present my opinions to friends. I didn’t take initiative in my work.
The worst part? I became a pushover in relationships. This made me an easy target for abuse by two men I dated.
I feared I was becoming passive aggressive because I couldn’t express my needs. Therefore, nobody could ever meet them. I realized I needed to change when I met somebody who felt comfortable telling me their needs. It’s hard for somebody to be clear and transparent with you for the first time in your life. You feel exposed and raw. But then, you realize that you can be as clear and transparent as they are. There is freedom in not having to hide your fears or needs from your partner.
I’m growing more comfortable taking up space. It’s a new venture for me. It started by thinking about why I care what other people think of me, and that transformed into developing more comfort with my body and voice.
I’ve had to stop caring if the normal things I do are an inconvenience to others. I’ve had to learn that nobody else is going to advocate for me, and I need to stand up for myself first and foremost.
People will always have opinions, whether they share them or not. I have power by choosing which of those opinions I hold in high regard. I’m not going to fall over and die because somebody didn’t like that I was in their way for a brief second.
I’m scared that the rest of my life will be reduced to its worst moments. Learning to recognize what serves me prevents this.
There is a lot of freedom in taking up space, and you deserve it.