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“Refuse to apologize for being. You are not taking up space. You are a mountain.” ~ Alison Malee
From a young age, we’re taught to fit in.
Taught to not be too loud, to not be too weird, to not be too different, to not be too this, too that.
And somewhere along the way, we lose ourselves. We lose the true essence of who we really are. We disconnect from the “weird” things that make us unique and special. We play small. We make ourselves small to make others feel comfortable.
This is especially true for women who are indoctrinated from birth that being too much of anything is wrong. That we are supposed to be ladylike, polite, not answer back when spoken to, smile—you get the gist.
But all this comes at a price—playing small leaves us feeling small. We feel as though we can’t express our true feelings and opinions. We feel wrong for showing off our talents and gifts. We lose our true identities and mould ourselves into whatever everyone else wants us to be. We lose our spark. It shows in our postures. It shows in our energy levels. It shows in the way we feel inside. We know we’re not living out our truths.
And the truth is we deserve to take up space in our lives. We only have one life—do we really want to spend it dimming our light to accommodate others? Do we really want to live unhappily just because the “right thing to do” is to fit in?
If you have ever felt that you often don’t “belong” in this world, then this list is especially for you (yes—I feel you).
I’ve put together five ways we can start taking up more space in our lives. Yes, it will take a bit of self-confidence. Yes, it will take getting a bit uncomfortable. Yes, it will probably feel weird or “wrong” at first. But the result? It will change how we feel on the inside. It will allow us to bring the true “us” out into the world.
This isn’t about arrogance. This isn’t about showing off. This isn’t about “being better than anyone else.”
This is about realizing your own self-worth. This is about stepping into your own skin and feeling good in it. Let’s go.
1. Stop with the “sorrys”
Guilty as charged. We humans say sorry so often for just about everything. Sorry for missing your call. Sorry for dropping the plate. Sorry for getting home late. Sorry for crying. Sorry for existing. There’s a time and place for sorry—and you’ll most likely know when that is (like when you have to say it to your boss). But most of the time, we are over-apologising for nothing. We are human and we all make mistakes. We are not responsible for everyone else’s emotions and we can’t control every damn thing.
Sorry, not sorry.
2. When you receive a compliment, accept it
We usually can’t accept compliments because we don’t see the good in ourselves. It’s time for that to change. Compliments are usually well-meant and from the heart. So own them. Say thank you and accept them. Be grateful. Don’t downplay yourself. Feel the compliment. You deserve it!
3. If you disagree with something, speak up
After playing small for so many years, it may feel difficult (if not impossible) to speak our truth and our opinions in front of others. We may feel our hearts racing just thinking about it. But suppressing our voice is suppressing the true us.
Say you are in a group of friends and politics is being discussed—if you have a different perspective to theirs, why not offer yours? It’s not about starting an argument; it’s just about expressing your own opinions. Or if you are in a work meeting and you have something interesting to offer—say it. If everyone else offers their opinions, why shouldn’t you?
Our opinions are just as valid and important as everybody else’s. Practice, practice, practice. You might not believe you have it in you, but you do. And it gets easier with time.
4. Ask for what you need (without caring about the response)
Many of us from childhood have felt wrong asking for our needs. Maybe our needs were ridiculed and ignored, or maybe we grew up in scarcity, where there was never enough of anything. This will translate into our adulthood, where we hesitate to put our needs forward—out of fear of being rejected or shamed.
So let’s start small. When we’re eating out with friends, let’s order what we really want to order, not what everyone else is ordering. When we need some alone time, let’s say, “I don’t really feel like socializing right now. I just need to be with myself a bit”—without the extra added guilt. When we’re with our partners and they say something slightly insensitive, let’s say “I need you to be a bit more sensitive with your words—that actually hurt me.” Let’s not brush it off—swallowing it up will make you regurgitate it later on in a much less kind manner.
Start small and work your way up until you feel it doesn’t even matter what the response to your request is. You’re finally doing you.
5. Own your talents (and share them with others)
Ironically enough, people who “play small” tend to possess incredible power and gifts. Many are talented singers, play instruments well, are good dancers, good speakers, good writers and poets, or film critics (and obviously the list goes on). What a shame it is to hide these beautiful gifts. No, really—what a shame.
Some people like to keep their talents hidden—and that’s totally fair enough. But if you have even the slightest spark inside you urging you to share your gifts—do it. Please. The world needs more of it! Who knows what can come of it?
So how will you choose to show up for yourself? How will you choose to step out of the “playing small” role?
Because you are worthy. You deserve to step into yourself. You deserve to step into your power.
We only have one life.