If we want to put ourselves out there and share our work with others, we need to be willing to be visible and take up space.
I tend to try to take up as little space as possible. I’m fairly tall, but I often slouch and I stand or sit with my arms crossed. I even sleep curled up in a ball.
I shy away from wearing bright colors or bold patterns. Statement jewelry makes me nervous. Partly I really do prefer more subdued colors, but I’m also afraid of attracting too much attention.
My voice is quiet and I often have to repeat myself to be heard. I’m hesitant to give my own opinion, especially before making sure it jibes with the opinions of those around me. I rarely leave comments or post anything on social media.
I try to be the one who helps and doesn’t burden others with my needs. I go out of my way to be flexible enough to fit into whatever space is most convenient for someone else’s calendar. I want to see my friends, but I assume they’re too busy to spend time with me so I don’t invite them to get together.
I keep my emotions hidden and pretend everything is fine. I keep my dreams to myself, even though I need other people in order to achieve them. I avoid talking about what I’ve been up to, assuming others won’t care or will think I’m wasting my time.
I hide and hide and hide from the world and then wonder why I struggle to feel like I belong in it.
It’s been challenging for me to figure out what sort of work I want to do. I’ve learned along the way that work isn’t satisfying to me unless I can see how what I’m doing directly helps another person. This kind of work is tricky to do when I’m also constantly trying to hide from people.
One of my biggest struggles is learning to be willing to be visible—to take up space. But what does it really mean to be visible? Don’t we all take up space in this world in one way or another?
Part of me thinks that taking up space and being visible is about overshadowing others and demanding that everyone pay attention me.
Then, I look at the people I most admire. They aren’t caught up in competing with those around them or trying to yell the loudest. Instead, they stand tall and firm in their little part of the world, clearly showing what they have to offer as an invitation to those who need it.
That’s who I want to be. Not someone pushing others out of the way to get ahead or making promises I can’t keep to lure you in. Not someone cowering in a corner, hoping you’ll come searching for me.
I want to be someone who is discovering what she has and is willing to share. I want to be someone who recognizes what she needs and is willing to ask.
I want to be visible because I want to be seen. I want to take up space so I can see you too.
Taking up space doesn’t have to mean being the center of attention. It doesn’t have to be loud or flashy or aggressive. Whether I’m at my best or my worst, those things just aren’t me.
Taking up space does not have to mean taking space from someone else. In fact, the more I can take up my own space, the more I’m able to help others step into their space too.
Maybe taking up space isn’t about dominating or demanding attention, but rather about making sure the space I do inhabit is filled with a rich and specific portrayal of who I am, what matters to me, and what I have to give.
Either way, I do take up space. We all do. But when that space is filled with camouflage to obscure and deflect, I’m not able to do the good I hope to do. Instead, I face all my struggles alone.
Maybe the question I should be asking isn’t whether I’m taking up too much space, but rather what I can do to make the most of the space I occupy. Maybe taking up space looks less like:
Look at me, look at me…
Get out of my way…
I’m the best…
Maybe it looks more like:
I just learned something new and it’s helping me so much. I’d love to share it with you…
I’m feeling stuck on this project, can I talk through my idea with you…
I wonder if I’m the only one living with this painful struggle. Maybe sharing my story could give someone else hope…
Being willing to be more visible doesn’t mean immediately stepping out of the shadows and shining a spotlight on myself. That’s terrifying and would send me straight back into hiding. Rather, it’s taking one tiny step at a time to show up a little more in my life.
Today, for me, that looks like recognizing I feel a bit lonely and texting a friend I haven’t seen in a while to let her know I miss her and invite her to get together.
What about you? What is one tiny step you can take to be a little more visible? How will you fill the space you take up?
I’d love to know…where do you struggle to be visible? What is the hardest part about taking up space? What tiny step are you taking this week? How does it feel to take that step?