Ope, just gotta scooch by ya. Pardon me. I hope it’s okay that I’m bothering you. Oh! You need me to do a long list of your tasks as a favor, no prob!
If you found yourself identifying with that list of little quips, you may need a lesson in taking up space, Mama! In the last several months, I’ve set forth on a mission: Teaching myself to take up space” when it feels outside my usual practice to do so. What does that mean exactly? Take up space.
It’s been a recent conversation across mental health forums and social media posts about this idea of taking up space. I had to reflect and explore what this meant, to truly uncover the power behind putting it into practice.
So who likely needs to be encouraged to TAKE UP SPACE?
Enneagram Twos! I’m talking to you here! And additionally, let’s face it, MOMS!
What traits bestow an Enneagram Two? Twos are quite literally nicknamed “The Helper.”
At the core, Type Twos are generous, empathic, self-sacrificing, and people-pleasers.
All great things until they aren’t. Let’s face it, each of those traits also defines much of the daily parts of motherhood as well, and it’s exhausting! I know you are guilty of holding your pee at a ballpark just to get your kiddo to the field in time for practice and holding it on the way to school drop-off and while your child is having a meltdown in the Target check-out. Admit it. You have been there, Master-Pee-Holder!
If any of the “people-pleaser” adjectives above resonated with you, repeat after me, “Start taking up space!” What does teaching myself to take up space look like?
Start saying NO!
Start speaking UP!
Start LETTING GO of guilt!
Start living your best LIFE because everyone else is!
I know you have likely heard the phrase, “Put on your own oxygen mask first when the plane is going down!” If you haven’t, then allow me to impart some of this theory into your new era of taking up space.
Taking up space as a newbie requires PAUSE. That’s right, when you are in the moments that shape what feels like a selfish act or a “But I just feel bad saying no,” moment, pause. Stop and think about the impact of your NO. It’s likely not as big of a deal as you envision it is at the time. And if you are reading this post, it’s probably because you have never NOT said yes in your life. Do you know what happens when YOU say NO? Allow me to explain: Someone ELSE has to step up, someone ELSE may have to make the extra stop on the way to the office or girls’ night for cupcakes, and someone ELSE might have to experience being burdened. I know – absolutely wild, life-altering concepts here. Just imagine!
I can’t recall the exact catalyst, but I think it occurred at the tail-end of 2022. I’d made it through the entire Covid era from 2020 to then, with the same company, despite the ups and downs and burnout moments within my own world as every other mom had done for almost three years. I’d reached year number three of having the highest performance data within the company as well, and it was out of sheer willpower and a constant fear to the tune of, “I must keep this ship – the entire company – afloat no matter the odds!” And I did. Without taking any breaths or pauses to wonder, “But what if I just didn’t?” Was anyone else putting this kind of pressure on themselves? With confidence, I can assert NO.
And then, one day, the pieces of opportunity were there for me to finally say, maybe I need a break. Maybe I just won’t push myself to the brink of physical decline. Maybe I’ll prioritize my mental health above whatever job performance elements exist day-to-day. And what came from this was a lot of guilt that I had to push past. There it was, a NEW determination. I was determined to sit in this discomfort and squirm and meditate and allow it to fall over me with no remorse. Eventually, I got comfy not being the first to reply to an email call-out for help. I got comfy not being (the only) reply to volunteer for things. I got comfy setting BOUNDARIES!
That is when you know you have made it to the breakthrough side of “taking up space.” Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a stream for you! Stop replying to emails immediately when you have waited a week for a reply. But remember…this requires actually STOPPING. Reflection before action! Catch yourself about to be “everything to everyone” and revert course. Ask yourself “the why” behind your undying need to check your email at 10 pm and 10:12 pm, and 10:43 pm. It’s not serving you. It’s serving everyone else.
Take up the space to not “DO” until the next day’s business hours!
Take up the space to decline to volunteer without validating why!
Take up the space to simply not be a people-pleaser because that is a losing game, and it’s time to WIN for your own damn self!
Will this nuance force others to re-resource what you might typically offer up and do? Yes! Will saying no cause some to wrestle with what they are forced to do in your absence? You betcha! Will saying no or speaking up for your own needs cause you to feel discomfort? Of course, but the rewards will feel like freedom. You will take back your sanity, take back your time, and take back – honestly – your self-respect AND the respect of your peers, even if it requires them to pick up some slack. Teaching myself to take up space has been the most liberating and bizarre journey of my 30s, and I can’t wait to see where the next phase takes me.