You Are Allowed to Take Up Space


Yesterday a friend posted on facebook about an experience she had shopping with her 2 year-old daughter.

She was trying on clothes and her daughter said to her, “Mommy, you look great!  You look tiny!”

My friend said her heart broke, and she wondered how a 2-year old could have possibly learned that looking great means looking tiny.  She immediately sat down next to her and said, “Sweetie, Mommy doesn’t look tiny.  Mommy looks just right.”  And her daughter smiled and said, “Okay Mommy, you look just right; and so do I!”

That story touched me and got me thinking.  I think she did an amazing job of addressing the “tiny = beautiful” issue right there, in the moment, in a natural and honest way.*

You know what, though?

I don’t know if I would have caught it.

And I’m ashamed to admit that.

As passionate as I am about women (and men, but I’m going to be focusing on women today) accepting themselves exactly they way they are, I still struggle with it myself.  And I don’t know if my child calling me tiny in an effort to praise me would have set off the alarm bells that it probably should.

I started thinking about my own body image “journey” (please, someone supply me with a less cliché word), and I realized that as far as I’ve come, I still haven’t been able to let go of that desire to be “tiny”.

Why is that?  What is so appealing to me (us?) about being small and skinny?  When I look at other women, I don’t mentally whittle them down to a size 00.  I absolutely love curvy women, and I think there is nothing sexier than seeing a woman who is obviously comfortable with herself, and has chosen to embrace her body, rather than trying to hide or mask it.

And yet.

And yet I look at myself sideways in every mirror I pass, assessing the size of my stomach.

And yet I often wear sports bras and looser shirts, trying to flatten and hide my breasts so that I lose all semblance of curves and look thinner and straighter.

And yet I long to be smaller, thinner, wondering what it would be like to be able to fold myself up into practically nothing when I sit on a chair, or to not have to tuck my stomach back into my pants when I sit down, or to be able to wear clothes and know they are going to hang just right on my frame.

I was talking to another friend about this, trying to get to the root of the issue.  I couldn’t figure out why thinness wasn’t a body type I idealized in or expected from other women, but somehow, after everything, it was a standard I kept holding myself up to.

She said something that I’d never been able to pull into conscious thought before.

“It’s about not wanting to take up space.”

I recognized the sentiment as soon as the words left her mouth.

It’s about not wanting to take up space.

I am uncomfortable in my own skin.  I feel I don’t deserve the space I take up, or maybe I want to hide sometimes.  I want to be smaller, ever smaller, so that I can choose when to disappear and when to be noticed.  I don’t want to take up space.

But guess what?  I am 5’8″.  Even if I lost 20 pounds, I would still be 5’8″–just more gaunt, and definitely saggier.  (Sorry, boobs.)  No matter how much weight I lose, I will not be able to erase my body.

And I don’t need to.

As women, we are constantly apologizing.  We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and we go out of our way–sometimes shoving ourselves out of the way–to make sure that we don’t.  We are constantly apologizing for our feelings and for our thoughts and sometimes, for ourselves.

But we are entitled to our thoughts, no matter how different they are.  We are entitled to our feelings, no matter how “unacceptable” they are.  Binge eating is tied into this–when you think your feelings aren’t acceptable, or you’ve never learned how to deal with them, you numb them.  Hide them.  Shove them away.

It is okay to feel and to exist, and to take up as much space as you want to.  You are a human being, a person created by God.  You have a right to be.

Accept the space you take up, and own that space.  Fill it however you want to.

You are allowed to take up space.




*I just feel I should point out, there is nothing wrong with being thin or tiny if that’s how your body is.  I know naturally small women sometimes get left out in all the anti-media “real women have curves!” hype.

The thing is, some real women have curves.  And some real women don’t have curves.  Our definition of what constitutes a “real woman” shouldn’t hinge on her appearance.


What does body acceptance (or self-acceptance) mean to you personally?

13 thoughts on “You Are Allowed to Take Up Space

  1. That is a really interesting way to look at it. My struggle with weight is that I want everything to be smooth. I don’t want to see any bumps, grooves, or divots in my figure when I stand in front of a mirror. I don’t mind taking up space necessarily, but I want to look neat and put together. When I see little bumps in my stomach under my clothes where my pants or bra straps dig in a bit, I get very frustrated. I think I equate me gaining weight with looking less put together, with looking sloppy. I want the image I present to the world to be flawless. An absurd requirement of my faulty human body, I know.

    But I think my mental struggles echo what you are saying. I would like many of my emotional responses to take up FAR less space, because, as you said, I feel that they are unacceptable. It’s hard to allow myself to have certain feelings, I think, because I feel that I’m not supposed to, like I am drawing too much attention to myself. But that just amplifies them and leads me to react passive-aggressively or end up having a total meltdown because I didn’t say how I felt to begin with.

    Good food for thought today, madame. As always, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • That makes a lot of sense. I’d never thought of it that way, wanting to look neat and put together and present a certain image to the world. And I like what you said about taking up emotional space. I think that emotional displays aren’t readily accepted in society for either men or women. Men get called weak, women get called hormonal or overly emotional (which is another way of calling us weak). One of the most frustrating things for me is to feel like I’m not allowed to express my negative feelings. The other day I was upset, and normally I would just shove it away and wait until it passed, but 99% of the time that causes me to become bitter and resentful. So I walked into where Silas was and said, “I need to say some things and you don’t have to say anything back. I just have to get them out because if I don’t I am going to start to hate you.” Haha…at least I was honest. 🙂

      • Hahaha good move! I’m the worst at just sharing my feelings instead of walking around in a grumpy funk for hours before talking about what’s really wrong. And sometimes I don’t even know what’s wrong to begin with until I start to talk about it.

      • Exactly!! I think I’m getting a little better at trying to recognize why the hell I’m so pissed or depressed, but most of the time I’m still like “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG BUT I DON’T LIKE IT SO MAKE IT STOP.”

  2. I really needed to hear this today. I was thinking about how I want to take up less space (or no space) just a little while ago. It’s like you said, I want to be able to hide sometimes. Man, I so need to talk to you.

  3. This is so wonderful. Thank you. That is so great how that mother dealt with that situation. I worry about this kind of thing having kids now. Collin will catch me putting myself down and he reminds me to never do it and never do it in front of our children because if they ever out themselves down like that…it would break my heart.

    This was an inspiring post. You put it so well–I don’t want to take up space. I’ve never been “skinny” and never will be but I want to be healthy and strong and able to do everything with my kids and give them a good life. I often long for a hot little body, but maybe I already have one?? 😉 I want to embrace it!!

    Love this. Love you, you smart, strong, beautiful, fun, insightful woman, inside and out!!!!

    • To me, you’ve always seemed to project this confidence and surety in yourself and your decisions. If I pick up on that, I’m sure your kids do too. And that is a great example to set. I love you!!! Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: Letting Them Help | Authentically Heather

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