Learning to take up space.


Today’s blog won’t appeal to everyone because not everyone struggles with taking up space.

I cover this topic quite a lot in FEM-I’s social media content because it is something that I and many other women I know have personally struggled with.

There are many different aspects to taking up space but essentially what it means is to be comfortable being seen and heard by others.

I remember being quite shy as a child when I initially met people. I have always been somewhat introverted and preferred my inner dialogue and playing outside to trying to strike up conversation that I deemed boring with other kids.

I believe this can be attributed to my parents and the rather advanced conversational topics and reading material they supplied myself and my sisters with as children. My social skills remained somewhat dormant for some time during my younger years and I only brushed them off in my later years with the use of red or white wine.

I struggled with severe social anxiety and speaking in front of more than one person used to totally freak me out. I found socializing without alcohol to be totally draining and I used to avoid it at all costs.

In more recent years I started taking my health and fitness seriously and traded drinking on the weekend for 42km runs. Now I had to learn how to socialize without the blanket of courage that wine provided.

Much to my surprise, people are not that scary. 99% of the fear and anxiety that came with being seen was conjured in my head. Make no mistake, I had to push past my comfort zone and make a serious effort but the more I did it the easier it became.

I am currently on a mission to find external funding for FEM-I and this requires me to deliver a business pitch. Initially the thought made my throat close up and my palms sweaty, so I found a professional coach to help me.

My public speaking coach has literally changed my life.

Not only have I discovered the power of sound and improved my communication skills, but I have also begun to realize all the ways in which I kept myself small in the past.

I used to identify being seen with negative and intimidating feelings and now I identify it as something empowering. For the first time in my life I am more than okay with being seen and it has enabled me to level up in so many aspects.

I know that there are a lot of women out there who view taking up space the same way as I did. You apologize for everything, you get embarrassed for nothing and you often make yourself smaller out of fear that you will inconvenience someone else.

Today I am here to tell you to stop that. Keeping yourself small is the greatest disservice you can do for yourself and for all women.

When we are young, we are told to be quiet, sit like a lady, be polite, never demand and to always allow others to go first. I am a firm believer in being kind but not if it costs you your self-respect or conviction. At the end of the day no one is going to give you what you want in life because you moved out of the way and said thank you. You have to fight for the things you want in life and the earlier you figure it out the higher your chance is of actually achieving it.

I have seen so many of friends sell themselves short, not fight for a promotion or move out of the way because they didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or to come across as too cocky.

I say to hell with that.

You know how hard you work, and you know what you deserve.

If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

The worst thing that can happen is they will say no to you but at least you will sleep well knowing that you went out and tried your best to get what you believe you deserve.

You may not have gotten the promotion, but you did gain more self-respect.

Look, when you ask for what you want, you will receive negative comments about your attitude, and it will likely be from other women.

Do not let this deter you.

This is only because your confidence makes them uncomfortable.

That’s okay, they have never learned to go for what they want but just because they play it small, doesn’t mean you have to.

Inspire other women by ruthlessly chasing your goals.

It’s time to stop making yourself small to satisfy those around you.

Stop apologizing, start using the word NO and don’t ever pass up an opportunity because you are afraid of the attention it might bring.

Give yourself the credit you deserve and use your voice.

I kept myself small and meek for a very long time because it was comfortable, and I was afraid of the negative connotations that came with being a confident woman.

I cannot begin to describe the upset I feel when I think of all the missed opportunities and compromises, but there is no use crying over spilt milk.

I am still working at it and there are definitely days where my knee jerk reaction is to shrink back and it takes a conscious effort to fight the habit, but I will keep working at it until my knee jerk reaction changes.

In this case the rewards seriously outweigh the risk.

I have built an invaluable network and reached milestones that I never thought I could because I was willing to deal with the discomfort that it took to begin using my voice.

This is a call to all the women out there who struggle with taking up space, stop playing small because its comfortable or because you are afraid of what others think.

You have a right to be seen and heard just like everyone else on this planet.

It’s time for you to take up some space and don’t you dare apologize for it.

– Caitlin Oelofsen