Until not long ago I had never considered ‘taking up space’ as a thing. Since I do, I have started to see it in everything. I have found it to be an incredibly useful concept in my personal development! Here I will share my story, including the first new insights and developments.
Throughout my youth I seem to have conditioned myself to adapt quite actively to my surroundings. I would examine, partly unconsciously, situations carefully and adapt to them. As we know, situations often involve other people doing all kinds of things.
We examine other people in terms of their looks, whether they’re nice or not, whether we suspect to have things in common, and in my case: whether they’re loud or not. I had come to think that loudness was an important factor for me to get along easily with someone or not; generally I would click better with more soft-spoken people than with loud people. That rule of thumb worked quite well. Using this and other things I managed to surround myself with mainly soft-spoken people, people among whom I didn’t have to be loud myself to be heard and recognised.
So it worked to some extent, but it remained difficult for me to feel at ease. Of course we cannot always control which people are with us, so trying to do this is not the ultimate solution. I regularly got overwhelmed by difficult situations and most of all I didn’t quite understand why I found them difficult. What was wrong with me socially?
I talked rather fast so not to bother the other. I did not want to take up too much time.
Recently someone told me that she noticed that I talked very fast. We agreed that I did that because I didn’t want to take up much time, for efficiency reasons and to not bother the other too much with my many details. Why did I not want to take up this time? The other could enjoy listening, right? My contributions are valuable, I let others speak as well and I listen carefully, so there’s nothing ‘annoying’ about my behaviour. So why would I not feel comfortable talking?
Taking up too little space
She introduced the concept of ‘taking up space’ to me. I am so thankful that she did, because using it has already brought me a lot.
I would adapt to how much space was left. If it’s a little, I would make myself small so not to disturb others.
Now, I found that I am accustomed to take up very little space. I wrote before that I would examine the situation and adapt to it. In terms of space this translates to: I would examine how much space the other people were taking up and how much was left for me to use. Then, I would adapt to how much space was left. Is it a lot? I could move freely. Is it a little? I would make myself small and uncomfortable, so not to disturb the others.
I see this really clearly now. I have always lived in houses with shared living rooms and kitchens, with loads of house mates with unpredictable behaviour. This behaviour included bringing more people to the house, whenever. And people take up space. Some people would take up more than others, and over all it was pretty unpredictable how much space would be taken up by the people that would be present in the room.
This living situation resulted in me adapting to changing situations all the time. The fact that it was so unpredictable whenever such a change would happen, lead me to be alert and uncomfortable a lot, often already anticipating people to come in and invade the space I was using.
Now, you can imagine that changing to living together with (only) my boyfriend is a great relief for me. Read More