"You can take up space"
I recently started seeing a transracial therapist. After just one session, I already had a new “tool” in my mental “tool belt” that shattered a lifetime (yes, a lifetime) of insecurities (that I believe can translate to anyone)!
She told me that I can take up space.
This was a new concept for me, as were the 7 core issues with adoption and permanency, which could apply to many circumstances, in my opinion (if you haven’t read up on them, I highly recommend a quick Google search, viewing the video linked above, or continue reading).
That said, this post isn’t a criticism of adoption, transracial adoption, adoptive parents, birth parents, or anyone in the adoption “triad.” This is a post about finding self confidence. This is a post about gaining clarity around one's identity (which is one of the previously-mentioned 7), which has led me to become the most confident I’ve been since before I can even remember!
Since learning about the “taking up space” concept, I’ve repeated the affirmation to myself on a daily basis: “I can take up space.” “I can take up space.”
Please allow me to explain.
As adoptees, we come with a lot of complexities. Even if adopted at birth (as I was), adoptees deal with loss, grief, identity, rejection, shame and guilt, mastery and control, and even intimacy. Even if our adoptive parents gave us all of the opportunity and love we could ever want and need, we still have a different way of viewing our worlds — especially, our relationships.
When my new therapist told me, “you can take up space,” I had a “light bulb moment.” Until she said those words, I hadn’t fully realized that I have a tendency to make myself – my views, my opinions, my emotions, my voice – smaller, in order to maintain my feeling of acceptance and belonging with others.
There’s a lot to be said about nature and nurture, and there’s a lot to be said about experiences in one’s formative years. For me, I was bullied and excluded in elementary school. My peers would be my friends one day, and the next, they’d have changed their minds, among other experiences. At home, I wanted to “keep the peace,” and similar to other adoptees, I never wanted to “rock the boat,” so I hid my schoolyard struggles. I just wanted to be accepted and not cause any stress to anyone.
As I took a leisurely drive this week, blaring and singing to my Amazon “Likes” list, I realized something: if I’d known I could “take up space” and didn’t fundamentally believe I had to “filter” myself to be quieter and smaller in order to feel like I belonged, what all could I have done in my 35 years?
For example, I’ve always loved to sing, but in high school, I never felt confident enough to audition for leading roles. Even after taking voice lessons, I’d lose my breath and only squeak out any solo I attempted, my hands dripping with anxiety. It was as if my lungs abandoned my ambition. If I’d only known that I could – and believed I was worthy enough to – take up my own space, could I have been a lead singer and not have limited myself to the chorus ensemble or a backup?
Would I have shared more of my artistic expression earlier and even made a well-paid career out of it?
Not to “toot my own horn,” but damn! I’m not only a good harmonizer, bandmate, and promoter of others in general, but I’m a good singer! What if I’d known that earlier? And was confident in that?
What if I’d believed (deep down) that I could have been the “leading lady,” because I allowed my passion for artistic and other expression to explode loudly and proudly?
What if I’d walked confidently around my college dorm and apartment and didn’t startle my roommate on a weekly basis, because I walked so softly (Sorry, Nicole! LOL!)?
Okay, that example may not only have been attributed to my “survival skills” but also to my dance training.
Still, if I’d allowed myself – and knew it was okay to allow myself – to be LOUD, not suppress myself for others, and not (musically speaking) turn my “volume” down, would I have gotten leads in the musicals?
Would I have produced that movie I’d written?
Would I have had more confidence in my professional life to speak up and insist that others listen?
Would I have avoided all of the controlling relationships I’ve had?
I don’t know.
But I have a hunch.
If you’re reading this (and have gotten this far in my post), I hope you know that you are also allowed to take up space! You don’t have to live your life by anyone else’s standards. It’s your life! Do what gives you fulfillment, joy, and pride in yourself! Follow what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and embrace the day!
Even pretend another pandemic is on its way or that tomorrow could be your last and pick up your head and f*****g FLOAT! Sing that song that none of your friends like at FULL volume and with the car windows down and embrace your voice!
If you’re a lil' analytical and science-based like me, know this: singing aloud and embracing your space is not only a good time, but it’s also good for your nervous system and boosts your mental and physical health and even immune response!
Go on! Take up space! Take up ALL the space! This is your life. OWN it. Rock it!
As always, thanks for listening!