Ever since I can remember, I’ve been trying not to take up space. At least not too much space. I don’t even think I knew that I was doing this. But it was real. And it’s wrong.
Do you remember the first time you were noticed for your size? Either for being big or small?
I don’t. But I do have many, many memories of all sorts of people placing value judgments about me based on how much space I took up. For most women, and let’s be fair, many men too, we receive so much input about our size and whether or not it’s acceptable. These experiences get filed away in our subconscious and we react to them, all the time.
My experiences with size judgement occurred in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it was a positive comment, which told my subconscious that my size was okay, acceptable, perfect. Other times it was a harmful comparison or just a downright negative comment, which told my subconscious that my size was not okay, unacceptable, shameful. My subconscious is stockpiled with these comments, looks, comparisons, judgments, and emotions.
Every time I was told to “sit here” or “stand there” or “go through here” because I could “fit,” my subconscious got sent a message that my size was acceptable. That I was regarded highly or liked enough because of how much space my body did and didn’t take up.
Every time I was called “tiny” or “too skinny” or “rail-thin” with eyes showing jealousy or disgust, my subconscious took some hits of shame and began to feel like maybe my body didn’t take up enough space.
Every time I was laughed at because of how certain clothes fit my body, my subconscious was jolted with pain, anger, and even more shame.
Every time I was told that my body needed to lose an inch, or firm up, or be something that it wasn’t, my subconscious took notes on the need for exercise and portion control.
Every time I was compared to a friend or a sister or a stranger, my subconscious became abuzz with resentment, because when body comparisons are made, someone always gets hurt.
Every time I was excluded from fun things because my friends didn’t want to be in bathing suits around me or were worried that I’d get the most attention from guys, my subconscious stored sadness and pain that would overstay its welcome.
Every time I was told I don’t eat enough, or I eat too much, or labeled anorexic, or told I had gained weight, my subconscious began to close her doors and retreat inward, because she knew there was no way to win this fight.
It wasn’t until I began exploring yoga that my idea and ideals for body size took a different path. I remember doing a particular yoga video in which the instructor was giving directions for body placement on the mat. And she specifically said, “Spread out. Take up space.”
There was a part of me that recoiled from her words, and immediately felt shame at the thought of “taking up space.” The messages from my subconscious came into view and reminded me that society says that I, as a female, should be small and tiny and barely there. How dare I take up space, as if I could use up too much space that there wouldn’t be enough left over for anyone else.
Well, how dare I let society, or anyone, dictate how I feel about my own body! After all, it is my body. And finally, there was a shift. Not only could I laugh at this ignorant notion, but as I spread out on my yoga mat, I felt something different. I felt pride. In my shape, in my body, in my person. I am a person, and I will take up as much space as I need because I matter.
Here’s me, taking up space and being proud of it. 🙂