Learning to Take Up the Space You Deserve

Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth. {Archimedes}

When I was a kid, I curled in. I hunched over, chin to chest, chest to knees. I wore dark colors – you know, things that were flattering for a person of my size. I held my legs close together. I sat on my hands. I struggled to keep myself as contained as possible, imagining myself invisible in a room.

I never owned my own power.

There was no strength behind my voice – statements were frequently couched with polite phrases like, “well it’s only my opinion but..” or “maybe if you approached it from this angle – BUT I could be wrong, of course.”

I felt, deeply, down to my toes that I did not deserve the space that I took up in a room.

I felt that I didn’t deserve your attention.

I felt as though I should be ashamed for being so big – and not just big in my sense of my body – but big in the sense that my thoughts were so expansive, so scary, and my ambition was even more gigantic. I felt ashamed for being who I knew I was, somewhere deep down.

At some point, I realized that I was worth a spot in the world.

I realized that we are ALL worth permitting ourselves enough space to plant both feet firmly on the ground, arms wide, colorful, and gorgeous in our own right.

Learning To FlyAt some point, I realized that I had crippled myself with all that hunching. That no air was getting deep into my stomach. That my spine was coiled from years of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. That my limbs were pale from never be shown unclothed in the sunshine.

At some point, I put on a tight dress, let my hair down, and used my words to tell you that I was beautiful and interesting and funny and imperfect and smart and that I was deeply proud of myself for how amazing I was.

I do not say this to pat myself on my back for being so wonderful, but to illustrate a tendency – as women, as people who are uncomfortable in our skin, as recovering disordered thinkers, as humans – to recoil into the safety of a glorified fetal position, keeping our tenderest bits hidden from perceived judgment, and keeping all of our gifts and talents quiet.

I am disclosing this story to remind you to claim the space that you deserve.

Be big. Be wonderful. Holler about your dreams from the top of the highest tower. Wear colors. Look up when you’re talking to someone. Tell them what you really think. Believe that you are worth being heard.

Be yourself – there is no one else in the world just like you.

What do you need right now?


Figure out what you need + how to meet that need in a way that is deliciously DOABLE, sustainable, and kind. (I pinky promise.)

22 thoughts on “Learning to Take Up the Space You Deserve”

  1. I have for a long time had the habit of boldly stating something, like my opinion, and right after this statement sort of “taking it back” or retracting a bit. Well, not fully “taking it back”… but apologizing, I guess, for having such a strong opinion. It’s like I get up the courage to say what I feel, but I am still so worried about having such strong feelings that as soon as I express myself I start backtracking. I do this sometimes even when speaking about “unimportant” topics.

    This post inspires me to just give my opinion, and leave it at that… no ifs, ands, or buts. πŸ™‚

  2. “…but I could be wrong, of course” or something similar is SO me. Wow. A couple others…
    “… or maybe I’m just dumb.”

    “… or maybe I just made that up.”

    It makes me sad to realize how often I say that kind of thing about myself.

  3. This post is amazing. Thank you so much for writing it. I still struggle with things like this (as I’m sure many other women and men do too), saying things like “but I could be wrong”, or not saying anything at all because I’m soft-spoken and my voice physically gets drowned out a lot. Thanks for the reminder, MM πŸ™‚

  4. omg…
    *deep breath*
    i’m a writer and don’t even have words to respond to this article…my soul friend sent it to me and i’m so glad she did.

    thank you for this. so much.

  5. I do this! Not all the time, but in very specific emotional circumstances. I minimize my world-space when I’m scared, nervous, upset, or depressed; I make myself as small and as still as possible. Thinking about it now, I do it because I’m trying to reel in everything I’ve got to laser-focus on whatever’s hurting me, to give all my attention to the Hamster Wheel. The irony is that what I *really* want is for someone to notice, to hold me, to support me, which requires my physical presence in the world. I’m slowly learning to not retreat that way, to take up the space I deserve.

  6. This is so wonderful-I talk a lot about this feeling in therapy. I used to never inhabit my body, I simply worked it out to injury, and I could never let myself just “be” in my body. After practicing a lot of yoga and meditation, I am more comfortable doing that, and owning who I am and the space I take up. My thoughts and feelings may be big and scary and uncontrollable sometimes, then again, they deserve to be heard.

  7. This is a great post. That sort of un-deserving attitude really does manifest in our posture, etc., so taking notice of those things and even just adjusting physically can reflect our mood. It’s harder to accomplish that it sounds, but always something to strive towards.

  8. i read once women tend to end their statements on a higher pitch, indicating more of a question as opposed to solid opinion. since reading that, i noticed how often i do it and how often all the women in my life do it. why we’re raised to believe humble and meek are the right traits to show boggles my mind. you’re right — we do deserve to take up space. at any size or weight. it kills me to see beautiful women with hunched shoulders, picking at their fingers or examining the ends of their hair while everyone around them lives, breathes, laughs, and connects.

  9. I began crying about half way through this post and the tears are still falling. It “hit me where I live” as the expression goes. But what is saddest is not that this “trying to play smaller than” has crippled me, but that it has affected so many other women in the same way. I came to live out loud in a world that seems to prefer that I sit quietly at the back of the bus. Some days, claiming my place is harder than it is on others. And to make the situation worse there is the knowledge that we Western women have it better than women in most other parts of the world, so I think that we each have a responsibility to make as much noise as we can for women everywhere. Thank you, Mara. As ever and always.

  10. You know what is so very powerful about this?? It’s when we choose to take up the space that we deserve to take…when we choose to speak up and be heard, we’re modeling that for others and THAT is what it’s all about. Love you Mara!!!!!!!!!

  11. Beautiful post my friend. And now, what is important to remember is that NO ONE can take your power away from you. It’s yours.

    You are so special, thank you for writing and sharing!
    xoxo Andi

  12. Hello! I identify with this post very strongly. I spent a lot of time worrying about things when I was young, feeling like I didn’t fit in, and not knowing how to go about resolving… anything. I was always resistant to ‘doing what I was told’ in order to fit in, and I always hoped to be noticed, and was afraid of it at the same time. I wanted to be different, but not to change, and at any rate, over the last year or so I have become much more confident, independent and opinionated, and have developed a strength of character that I attribute to realising that there’s nothing ‘wrong’, that I don’t need to add qualifiers to my opinion, and that my body shape is mine, and nobody else’s. Nor is it their business. Anyway, thanks! This struck a chord!


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