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Issue #32: Taking Up Space: Finding and Using Your Voice

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Mike – Tell me if this is you…

 

(a common one nice guys)

… it’s about taking up space.

We’ve often heard that we men need to step back so women can take up space.

We’ve had it so good for so long that it’s time for women to shine, to have the spotlight, to have a voice, to have their time and space.

I agree.

On a level. Not absolutely.

Like most things, there is a CRUCIAL nuance here.

Some men have had a huge piece of the pie for the longest time.

In general, most men have had it easier than women.

In some ways.

But I also think if we averaged a lot of humanity across time, we’d see many women and many men have had a rough time.

Some women have had a much better time than some men.

Being forced to go to war – not a great time. For example.

So, we get to this idea that men need to shut up so women can have a voice – we miss a couple of important things.

One: In many relationships now (and for a while), men have taken the back seat, not ‘worn the pants’. They have, in effect, given more space to the voice and needs of their partner.

 

The reasoning and mechanics at play there definitely deserve investigation for those individuals.

However, for the hundreds of Nice Guys I’ve personally worked with – and using that as an opportunity to extend it across many more – those men often get into relationships and then step back to prioritise their partner’s needs.

In straight relationships, anyway, he will tend to be the quieter voice, dismiss his needs in favour of accommodating hers – and generally be equally part responsible in centring the relationship around her needs.

Said another way, he takes up less space, and uses his voice less, giving her needs more time and space.

Now, to be clear – Nice Guys generally do this out of service to their own insecurity as opposed to purely in service of their partner. However, for the sake of this broader conversation, we’ll simply focus on whose needs take up more space.

Second: I think we miss exactly this point, the individual level.

When we explore here we get to a more relevant and appropriate dialogue – what does this one person need?

I have witnessed many women who struggle to have a voice and take up space in the world.

I have witnessed many women who take a lot of space, who are manipulative with their energy, controlling, overbearing, undermining, and perhaps even overcompensating for generational or individual lack of space and celebration allowed or given (which I can understand).

Just as I have witnessed many insecure or immature men over-power, dominate, claim, or take more space than is needed or warranted or respectful.

 

Sometimes unknowingly, sometimes intentionally, and often simply a result of a lifetime of conditioning. Often in a similar kind of overcompensatory way mentioned above.

 

I’ve worked with a chunk of these men, too.

 

Maybe not ‘nice’ on the surface, but driven in service of their insecurity.

I have certainly worked with countless men who struggle to take up any space, to have a voice, to ask for what they want, to even consider that they get to have needs.

Men who don’t believe they have anything to offer the world. Men who are so fearful of being inadequate that it becomes their self-perpetuating lifecycle. They are almost invisible.

Regardless of who you are, you get to have a voice – it matters – and you get to take up space.

Regardless of your politics or your ideas on men and women and “whose turn it is” – we all get to take up space, we all get to have a voice. Everyone’s voice is valid.

Sometimes more in certain situations, less in others.

 

Learn to find the line.

 

 

But as an individual one of your life’s tasks is to honour your internal voice and let that be represented in how you show up in the world. What you do with it. In who you are.

Take up space – you’re a human, and humans have needs. By its very nature, that means taking up space; in conversation, at work, in relationships.

Not always. Not just for the sake of it. Not to have something over others. But when suitable and appropriate.

In service of self-expression and in service of others.

But what even is that – taking up space?

 

Taking up space isn’t forcing yourself into the situation or the space of others.

It’s being okay in your own space. In your own space.

It’s being grounded.

It’s willing to be seen without needing to be seen.

Let me write that one again – let it land:

 

It’s willing to be seen without needing to be seen.

The difference between these two things is monumental.

Needing to be seen is often a coping mechanism; insecurity performing in an attempt to seek approval and some kind of external validation.

It says “I need recognition to boost my self-esteem or prevent taking a hit to it”.

Willing to be seen is the courage to actually be seen for who you are – the real you.

 

It says “I am secure enough in myself that I am ok with people truly seeing me”.

Learn to tell the difference in this by experimenting with it.

Sometimes you might step across the line.

 

But… that’s how lines work – we have to approach the line and risk crossing it.

That’s how we learn new territory – by entering into it.

Sometimes you might push up against a boundary. Don’t let that stop you from exploring the line. Learn about it. Get curious.

Remember, as kids, we learn the line, the boundary, by exploring the line.

I’m seeing this a lot on my daughter right now, coincidentally.

Explore the fucking line, dude.

Take up space. Use your voice.

You can always apologise later if you step over the line. But if you spend your life thinking you’re close to the line one thing is guaranteed – you’ll be miles away from the line.

Learn the difference between needing to be seen and willing to be seen.