The Right to Take Up Space


I notice that many people in this world, especially those who suffer from low confidence and low self-esteem, have the belief that they “don’t have the right to take up space” in this world.

They walk through life trying to be as little of a disturbance as possible. Never speaking their minds. Never doing things they want to do. Never dressing as they want. Never really living their lives because they are too afraid of upsetting other people, or being judged for being themselves.

Here’s one little, but common example I often find. And it’s going to sound silly. It’s actually a pet peeve more than anything else. But have you ever noticed some people, when they sneeze in public, they try to hold it in. Or instead just give out a small (sound) you know?

It’s amazing to me that some people are hesitant to even do something as common and innocuous as a sneeze, because they don’t want to take up space – they don’t want to disturb others.

And a sneeze is natural and something that’s mostly involuntary (you can’t blame someone for sneezing or coughing even while watching a movie or play, where people are supposed to not disturb), so imagine how these same people deprive themselves of taking up space when they actually want to do something, or want to say something.

A lot of people are too afraid to claim the space they rightfully deserve. They are too busy trying to stay out of the way. You know, there are people that have others run into them, and they are the ones apologizing. So, someone runs into you, and you’re the one saying sorry? Why not just apologize for your existence at that point?

I know these examples are small, and you’re probably thinking, “Who really cares?” But to me these are possible symptoms of a greater problem.

If someone doesn’t feel like they have the right to take up space, they are going to get literally and figuratively walked over throughout their whole life.

How often does this person not communicate their thoughts and opinions? How is that affecting their relationships, at home and at work? How is this person’s self-esteem, if they are never standing up for themselves, or the right to express themselves, and be themselves.

A good artist, musician, or performer knows how to take up space. They know how to stand up and be like, “This is me, this is my work, I want you to see what I can do!”

Interestingly, there was a study published last year in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity that discovered people with narcissistic tendencies are more likely to pursue creative activities.

And, you know, people always say artists and musicians have huge egos and they are full of themselves. I think one of the best examples of this is Kanye West, who is in my mind probably one of the most creative hip-hop and pop musicians of our time, and yet someone who has an enormous ego and sense of self-worth.

And one of those benefits of narcissism is giving yourself the right to take up space. Now, many narcissists maybe take up too much space to the point where they are disrespectful to other people and their boundaries, but narcissism (like all personality traits) is ultimately a spectrum. And perhaps some people who are too, too low on that spectrum, can benefit from a little more narcissism.

Though, let’s not call it narcissism. Let’s just call it confidence and self-worth. The key is that it’s about balance.

I think one of my favorite people who embodies this personality is actually Salvador Dali. He was great at taking up space and honing who he was as a person, whether he was walking his pet anteater around NYC, or borrowing his friends Rolls Royce, filling it to the roof with cauliflower and driving it to around Paris.

Given, Salvador Dali was a bit of an attention whore and liked to shock people, but he was certainly someone who knew his right to take up space and took advantage of it.

Many people who feel like they don’t have the right to take up space, often ask themselves, “Why me? Why should I have the opportunity to show off who I am?”

And maybe you can’t think of any really good reasons.

However, the people who do feel like they have the right to take up space, ask themselves, “Why not me? Why shouldn’t I have the opportunity to show off who I am?”

And they too can’t think of any really good reasons.

You have just as much of a right to take up space as anyone else who exists in the world. Right? What gives anyone else a special privilege to take up space, but not you?

Taking up space is a balancing act. It requires testing your boundaries, expanding yourself, and putting yourself out there.

And when you put yourself out there more, you’re going to get a lot of feedback from others – some positive and some negative. You’re going to find some people liking you and agreeing with you, while others not liking you so much, disagreeing with you, and maybe just flat-out considering you an enemy or threat.

Taking up space does mean that you’re more likely to be judged. But that’s only something you are going to get more used to and comfortable with once you start putting yourself out there more.

The more you’re judged, and the more you put yourself out there, the more you become desensitized to negative feedback. Which means you’re becoming more comfortable being yourself despite what others think – and that’s a very valuable trait to have.

Because if you’re living life the way you personally see fit (which I think we all aim for), then you’re going to have to know when to ignore other people, and that making yourself happy doesn’t always mean making everyone around you happy.

I think each and every one of us has a right to take up space and express who we are. This includes the freedom to think as we want, speak as we want, dress as we want, and act as we want (so long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others).

So don’t hesitate or be afraid to take up more space in your life, and show the world who you really are and what you stand for.


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