I wish I didn't have to write this post but I do. I wish I didn't have to consider the implications that come with pursuing that which makes you come alive with any kind of gusto but I do. I do because it seems like everywhere I turn, women are worried about taking up space. Worried that they are coming across as pushy; worried that they are seen as overly-confident; worried that if they go full throttle in their business and hobbies that they will be perceived as aggressive or salesy or up themselves or too much. So much worry.
I'm kind of tired of it.
I recently got added into a really beautiful facebook group for women who are mothers that run their own business. Spoiler alert: I don't officially run business - in fact you may be surprised to know that this blog space where I have been writing for almost 10 years isn't actually something I've chosen to monetise until very recently. I have made almost no money from my blog. More on that later.
The facebook group is run by the lovely and very wise Ray Dodd - a doula, hypnobirthing practitioner and creative coach for women and mothers in business. Ray posted a video in the group recently entitled "Who is keeping you small?" where she delved into the idea that as women, especially mothers, we can absorb so many messages from people around us about what kind of space we should be taking up in the world.
I've realised that there are some significant issues that come up for me and many of the other women I know that are putting themselves out there to pursue what they love and it all centres around how much space we think we deserve to take up. I want to crack into some of the things we might be believe that are holding us back here - maybe you'll see something that you're struggling with too. Maybe shedding light on these things and calling them out for what they are will relieve us from the fear of them and give us all more permission to go for it. Here are some of the things I think we internalise that are keeping us from doing the things we were made to do:
+ We believe that someone else could do it better.
You have this idea, you want to do the thing, you feel passionate about 'X' but all you keep thinking about is how inadequate you are to do that thing compared to someone else and you feel paralysed and frustrated. Your inner dialogue says "someone else could do it way better and have way more influence and be more slick and funny and professional". And you know what - that might be true to a degree but you cannot and should not let that stop you. They are not you. And your version of things is entirely important. If there is an idea or something you want to do that is eating up your soul or burning in your brain, you're going to put out a version of that thing that is totally unique to you and that will connect with particular people like nothing else will. You need to do the thing anyway. Take up your space.
+ We struggle because some people do not want us to change.
When you decide to take up space and try something that takes you out of your comfort zone, some people aren't going to be happy with you doing that. When someone is used to you being a certain way or having certain parameters and you decide to step out of those parameters, it can be uncomfortable for them. Please hear me when I say this - that is not your issue. This is not your concern. Change can manifest some really interesting responses from people, even those that we love the most. When I started to take my writing and social media a little more seriously in order to develop opportunities for myself online, someone close to me unfollowed me on instagram. Isn't that wild? I was devastated. But it was about them, not me. The changes they were seeing me move into was uncomfortable for them. Don't let this be a barrier. You are entitled to evolve and change. We all are. Take up your space.
+ We think that we need to stay small to be relatable.
Taking up space as a women often means being unnecessarily apologetic or playing your talents down. You think people won't like you if you come across as confident - if you push your product, talk about what you know or claim your space as an expert. It is still in us to want to reduce ourselves for fear of what people may think. I think there are many ways to be confident in your abilities, to take up your rightful space and still be likeable or relatable. It's absurd to think it's not possible to do both - and frustrating because it never seems to be a concern for men. If you only ever promote yourself, try to sell, talk about yourself and only share your glory moments then sure - that's annoying and is going to alienate people but we shouldn't have to justify ourselves or follow every accomplishment with a self-deprecating caveat (it took me 6 months to be persuaded to put 'Mel Wiggins MBE' on my work email signature - I get that this is an issue for us). What we need is for men and women to champion each other publicly, so it becomes normal that women feel safe about unashamedly doing what they are made for. Take up your space.
+ We know that us taking up space can trigger people who want to take up space too.
This is huge for women. I've been triggered by other peoples success and ideas and I know that things that I have done have been triggering for other people. Unfortunately the trigger is that when we decide to take up space, other people worry that there will be no space left; that you doing your thing will mean that there's no room for them to do theirs. And it's simply not true. The table is very wide and there are limitless places. This false culture of scarcity pips women against each other and it is damaging. Can you imagine how boring life would be without the flavour and variety of many people doing things in their own unique way? If you are someone who struggles with other women taking up space because it makes you feel like there's no room for you please hear this - your attitude on this is not only hurting yourself - but it's hurting the sisterhood. Cheer each other on and be supportive, even when it triggers that scarcity mentality in you and for goodness sakes, take up your space.
And here's the crux of it all: when we allow these things to hold us back, nobody benefits.
You don't benefit: you will be become paranoid, resentful, over-questioning yourself, paralysed and find your creativity and energy for the things you love start to dry up. Brene Brown says that "unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame."
Your family doesn't benefit: they will have a wife or a mother who is not living at her fullest and that unfulfilled part of who you are will ripple into your family life and they will sense and feel your lack of satisfaction (it's OK to want satisfaction outside of being a mother or a wife, feel no guilt about that).
The rest of us don't benefit: the world misses out on your gift, your contribution, your voice! That is a loss that we can't afford.
We all have our issues, our doubts about whether we deserve to take up space in the world with our gifts, abilities and desires. I over think every single thing I write or put out on social media because I'm so aware of the space I take up. I've just launched my first online course where I'm asking people to pay for what I write and the knowledge that I have and I have second guessed myself about it forty squillion times before I put it out there even though the content of this course is about a decades worth of learning for me.
But what if we reframed how we look at these scary, vulnerable situations and saw them as opportunities to be pockets of light. That when we set out to do what lights us up, it shines a path for others to bravely do the same. We all start to shine, we give each other permission to be bright and fulfilled.
So consider this your launch pad, your permission slip to get stuck in and take up as much space as you need. There is plenty of room for us all. Take up your space.
Images by the hilarious and talented Kat Mervyn