Growing up as a queer Asian-American woman, I had to learn how to take up as little space as possible in order to survive some of the harsh forces of the world. I needed to grow into myself safely away from what was happening outside in order for me to understand who I truly am, so that I could eventually share all of me with the world. This is not necessarily what works for everyone, but that is what worked for me.
Not only did my Asian upbringing reinforce the idea of group harmony over individuality, but being a female further pushed culture to remind me that the ideals of passivity and quietness were what was expected of me. Not only did my upbringing leave me shrinking away, but my desire to hide my sexuality and gender identity, in order to not face questions, made being as small as possible an ideal situation for me. By no means am I done with this introspection process of growing within, but I have just recently started to realize how important it is for me to feel comfortable in the outward space that I am occupying. Space, to me, means I am making my presence known, feeling confident about what I am doing, and acknowledging I am worthwhile.
We live in a society where the big movers and shakers are expected to be white cisgender males, and, thus, anyone outside of this category must learn to bend and shrink to make sure it stays this way. I am nowhere near “done” finding the confidence in taking up space, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to speak to this issue right now. As I’m coming to the close of my second year attending a women’s college, I’m reflecting on how much this environment has allowed me to feel comfortable reclaiming the space I have given up to others when it was wrongly taken from me. Here are some tips and things to remember to help you become more comfortable taking up your rightful space.
This TED talk explains that standing confidently, even if you aren’t, can actually help lead you in the right direction. This is a real case of fake it until you make it, and may lead to you being more confident. Body language is the physical representation of your mentality and is how others see you, whether or not you are claiming your space.
As an English major, I’ve realized how important others’ narratives have been in me finding my own. A good story can make someone who feels alone in the world realize that what he or she is going through may not be all that isolated. Poets who are women of color have been extremely inspirational to me because of their ability to write in an art form that is designated as “feminine” and not only reclaim it, but also reaffirm the importance of their presence and stories in the world. Some poets I recommend are Audre Lorde, Marilyn Chin, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Rupi Kaur.
While you can take up space without being in touch with yourself and the rest of the world, it is important if you want to be a strong leader or a positive force for change to ground yourself. Take a little bit of time every day to meditate, be it actually silencing your mind and body for a couple of minutes or perhaps just some important self-reflection. You will be even more capable of being fully you in your space when you know who you are and what you want. Apps like Stop, Breathe, & Think or Day One may help you with this introspective process.
Remind Yourself You Are Worth It
While this may seem corny, occasionally reminding yourself you are here for a reason can really change your perspective onto the right path again. I am a firm believer that I am where I am because I have worked hard, and if that, in itself, isn’t enough reason to want to claim my space, I’m not sure what is. I deserve every bit of confidence because I have as much of a right to it as a white man does, just as you do. Not only are you worthwhile, you also are a human with needs just like everyone else. Far too often, I find myself bending backward for other people. Compassion and kindness are not necessarily bad things, but when you have forgotten yourself in all of this, that’s when it starts to encroach negatively into your metaphorical space. Remember your needs are important, too.
Hopefully, I have brought to your attention something that may be holding you back toward being the person you want to be outwardly, and that you’ll work towards taking up the space you deserve. Women who finally are able to feel confident in themselves are bound to be even stronger leaders, and the world is more than ready to take on more.