“You are allowed to take up space. Own who you are and what you want for yourself. Stop downplaying the things you care about, the hopes you have.” ~Bianca Sparacino
I deserve to take up more space. Plain and simple. By taking the space I deserve, I further build the confidence I need to live a rich life that resonates with who I truly am.
Over the past several years, I’ve had to navigate a new life after hard breakups, difficult career transitions, and moving back home. I’ve had to face the feeling that I’m not doing enough. That I am not enough. That I don’t deserve to take up space. To be seen, felt, and heard with all of the faults that scatter among all my strengths.
I know I owe it to myself to show up. I know I owe it to myself to be present as I am. I know I owe it to myself to finally come out from the back curtains and take center stage where my heart can shine.
I deserve to take more space in my presence around others and to be truly seen.
I deserve to take more space in my voice in a loud world and to be truly heard.
I deserve to take more space in my heart and take care of my needs first.
Because I know these things, I now try not to make my voice small when I want to speak so loudly that it hurts.
I try not to be apologetic for taking the time to express what I feel to others when the person I should be accommodating first is myself.
I try not to bottle up my emotions because the longer I do, the longer it will take to get past ignoring them.
After taking moments to pause and breathe, I gently remind myself again that I am enough. That I deserve to speak from the heart and to be heard. That my thoughts, opinions, and voice matter.
Over time, I’ve recognized the reasons why I lacked the confidence to take the space I deserved, and I’ve also identified what I need to do to change.
7 Reasons I Was Scared to Take up Space (And How I Changed)
1. I lacked confidence in my communication and overused apologetic terms, which minimized my opinions.
I used to say sorry a lot in my interactions, if I thought I’d made a mistake or I interrupted a conversation, for example.
Research shows that when you say sorry, people tend to think less of you. I may have thought that I was displaying myself as a nice and caring person, but I was actually sending the message that I lacked confidence.
“Sorry” isn’t the only word I needed to watch out for. These 25 limiting words diminished my statements. For example, with the word “just”—if I was “just wondering” or telling someone it will “just take me a minute.”
There’s no need to use minimizing words. My needs and opinions are as important as others’. I built more awareness and confidence by flipping the script and being firmer in my conversations. I started saying phrases like “Thanks for pointing that out” or “Here, let me get out of the way” or “It will be a minute.”
2. I thought it was unkind to say no, even if something didn’t align with my priorities.
By consciously saying no to one area, I am confidently saying yes to another more important one. I don’t want to give my space away without consideration of what the true cost is. I need to protect my time like it is my most valuable commodity.
Saying no is not a natural response for many of us, though. We often feel nervous about creating conflict with others and tend to value others’ needs more highly than our own.
At least for me, I have learned to please others by being kind and helping those who ask for it. I tend to say yes because I want to be seen as caring, selfless, and generous. I didn’t realize that the ability to say no is closely linked to self-esteem.
So how did I start to say no without feeling bad about it? I kept my responses simple and to the point. I learned how to strengthen my delivery and not over-apologize.
Sometimes, when I provide too many details, I get caught up in the why behind my decision to say no. I’ve learned that there’s no need to overanalyze, and that I have the right to say no as much as yes. I just need to remember that I’m not saying no to the person, I’m saying no to the request. Also, I’ve learned not to take someone else’s no personally. Sometimes their no means “no for now.”
3. I didn’t realize my thoughts can contribute to a richer conversation.
Sometimes, it’s been easier for me to keep quiet and listen to the entire conversation without saying a word. I’ve learned that I have a seat at the table, and with every word I speak, the more confidence I gain.
I know I have many valuable thoughts that could add a new perspective to the conversation at hand. Whether it’s in a work meeting or hanging out with friends, I consciously remind myself not to hold back my voice.
The world benefits when we all find our voice. Whether it’s to elevate good ideas or discuss alternatives to bad ones, speaking up is how we arrive at the best outcomes.
4. I struggled with being vulnerable because I worried about what people thought of me.
Vulnerability is consciously choosing not to hide your emotions and desires from others.
Being vulnerable with others is scary and uncomfortable for me because it’s letting go of what people think of me. When I’m not afraid of what other people think, that’s when true confidence begins to grow.
Vulnerability bridges connections and helps me build confidence in the relationships I am creating. Vulnerability frees me up to share personal stories that others can relate to. Vulnerability sparks conversations that allow me to move beyond fear to a place of shared experiences.
Connecting with others by being vulnerable—as opposed to overcompensating and trying to get everyone to like you—will result in some of the best interactions and relationships of your life.
5. I felt insecure about sharing my dreams and achievements along with my mistakes and failures.
I needed to let myself be excited and proud in order to build confidence in what I’ve accomplished. Sometimes I have to be my own cheerleader to keep the confidence going and be okay with that.
By sharing my successes, I hope to inspire others and kickstart them in a direction that helps them on their journey.
By sharing my failures, I accept the mistakes I’ve made along the way. I’ve built confidence by taking the lessons learned and continuing to strive toward my dreams.
6. I felt uncomfortable asking for help.
It’s hard to ask people for help. Like most people, I’ve been taught to carry all the weight on my own. To be independent. To be self-sufficient. When you ask for help, people may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to simply ask. Each ask will give you confidence for the next.
Most people like helping others by sharing their time, knowledge, and experiences. I realized I am in a village where others look to help me, which in turn helps the entire village.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Asking for help is uncomfortable because it’s a behavior I wasn’t used to. But it gives me the confidence to know others are there along the way to support my dreams and goals.
7. I didn’t realize how much I have to offer.
There are times I thought I didn’t have much to offer to others, but I now know I do. I possess a wealth of experiences that can help others live a brighter, more confident life. Whether it’s sharing how I aced a job interview or how I created a fine-tuned budget, there are people out there seeking my help.
As I started to offer my knowledge to others, I was surprised by how many people I began to help. By being of service to others, I built confidence that I have more to give than I realized. I am a wealth of knowledge and experience that can help others build their own confidence.
I’ve learned that my thoughts and needs matter—that I matter. That I can speak up unapologetically, say no when I need to, share my successes and failures, ask for help when I need it, and make a real difference for other people. I just need to let myself take up space, knowing I deserve it, and the world is better off because of it.
About Kim Nguyen
Kim Nguyen is the author of In and Out of Love, a beautiful book of short love poems that will ignite your soul and open your heart to love. The poems encourage you to let go of the prison of self-doubt and embrace a possible future filled with light, hope, and love. She is committed and inspired to help others live a brighter life including powerful reminders that you are enough.