“Perhaps it’s archeological,” I begin, “I’m not sure, but women contort themselves like pretzels. It’s time for women to stop shifting themselves to meet every circumstance and know, deep down inside, they have the right to take up space.”
I say this to a client the other day and it lands with a resounding BOOM.
The bottom line “Women have the right to take up space” rolls around in my head and I can’t make it stop.
When did women start becoming pretzels for others?
I discover it goes back to ancient times and women’s role as gatherers. Back then, women survey their surroundings to make sure it’s safe and as a group, pick berries and other foods to bring back to the cave to prepare for meals.
To do this, women need to be hardwired to be hyperaware, to get along and to multi-task. These combined skills, although critical in prehistoric times, are not serving women today.
As if the DNA hardwiring isn’t enough, women have also been generationally conditioned to put others’ needs before their own.
Growing up, how many times do girls hear, “Don’t make waves, just get along,” “Go make sure so and so is okay,” or “Did you notice I can use help with this?”
There’s a steady reminder to check in with everyone else without any regard to checking in with yourself. Women look externally for connection and engagement instead of internally.
The result? Women are experts at shapeshifting to meet the needs of others, but are terrible at taking up space to meet their own.
How can you stop doing the pretzel? How can you take up space and put yourself first?
Here are 3 important steps.
- Respond versus react.
The next time someone asks you for something, stop and take a breath. Seriously, inhale and exhale. In the time it takes for one breath, you create a moment to respond versus react.
There are huge benefits to responding instead of reacting. When you respond, you have the option to make your answer work for you. When you react, the default answer is ‘YES’ as you’re pre-conditioned to do for others.
You can do this by making a habit of asking the following questions:
- How does this help you?
- What can you get out of it?
- What do you need to do it?
Think of your own needs and desires BEFORE you respond. This is the key. If you don’t have a positive answer to any of these questions, then your response is “No.”
- Take your place.
Before you get to work, reach out to a client or go onto social media, connect with yourself. This reminds you of your own personhood. It gives you the opportunity for agency.
Create a quick routine.
- Put your hands on your heart.
- Take a few deep breaths and get centered in your body.
- Say to yourself “I have the right to take up space. To take my place in the world.”
- Picture yourself standing in beautiful white and gold light.
- Extend this light beyond your body in all directions.
- Take another deep breath and smile.
Get on with your day.
- Own your space.
To deepen your place in the world, give yourself permission to own your space. This requires you to know who you want to be in the world. This seems simple, yet most women have trouble answering this question as they haven’t taken the time to think about it seriously. Permit yourself to take the time just for you.
- Grab a paper and pen and journal how you like to spend your time, what makes you happy and what you value.
- Carve out time to reflect on your dreams and wishes.
- Set your intentions based on your values, dreams and wishes.
- Create vision board or a beautiful list to post on your mirror.
- Prioritize one intention to begin right away.
- Ask for help, support or resource to make this intention happen.
Put a date on your calendar when you want it to be realized and continue to your next highest priority when you complete the first one. Remember to remind yourself you have a right to take up space.
Make it your mantra.