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Don’t Just Stand There, Take Up Space

taking up space

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, take note of your posture, just as it is, right at this moment. How straight is your back? Is your head held high? Are your feet planted firmly?

If not — well, first off, go ahead and straighten up (and I’ll go into why this is so, so crazy important in a second) — but really, if you’re stooped over or holding yourself in a small space, take a second and think about why. Is it comfortable? Are you protecting yourself from something? Are you trying to give more space to those around you?

While it’s certainly not a 100% split along gender lines, women are prone to trying to shrink (not the same thing as shrinkage), while the concept of “manspreading” in public places is becoming very well known. But have you given much thought as to why we ball ourselves up? Lily Myers, a student and poet, certainly has, and she articulates it beautifully in a powerful poem called “Shrinking Women” — if you haven’t watched it, please do it now.

She talks about how her mother continues to shrink as her father continues to grow — and that’s not the only example in her family.

“…and I wonder if my lineage is of women shrinking, making space for the entrance of men into their lives, not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave. I have been taught accommodation.”

And, in addition to the physical space, she finds herself apologizing for taking up temporal space by doing something I would venture to guess the majority of us have done more often than we’d like to admit:

“I asked five questions in genetics class today, and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry.'”

RIGHT?!? I did this just the other day — a dish I’d ordered at a restaurant hadn’t come with the rest of our meal, so I flagged down a server and said, “Hi! Sorry, but I don’t think our hummus has come out yet.” Umm, no. It definitely hadn’t come out, and I had nothing to apologize for — it’s totally possible to be polite and kind without turning a statement into a question, you know? What is that? I’m sure I was also sitting hunched over as I did it.

Power and Posture

So, what does recognizing you say “Sorry!” too much and taking up space have to do with being happy and healthy? So, so much, you guys.

Another amazing video you’ve just got to watch when you have 20 minutes or so is Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk about body language. I truly want you to watch it in its entirety, but here are a couple of takeaways.

In both the animal kingdom and in the human corporate world, those in command take power poses. And without me even saying another word, you know what those are, right? If not, here’s a pretty solid guide. It’s easy to see how that body language speaks to an audience, right?

But — and here’s where things get wild — it’s not just those outside the person in power who are affected. We affect ourselves by taking these postures, too. And there’s science to prove it.

Spending as little as two minutes in a power posture impacts your confidence on chemical level by affecting testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. Two minutes. So, can you imagine what it would feel like to stand or sit in confidence-boosting poses all the time? (Or, what it must do to you when you spend all your time curled up and shrunken? *shudders and sits up straighter*)

This realization has been a complete game-changer for me. I find myself sitting and standing differently now, both when I’m on my own and in public, and I do feel the difference. I own my space, and it feels damn good.

Oh, and you know what? There’s room for all of us to do it. Me taking up my space doesn’t mean I’m putting you in a corner. So! In the spirit of this month’s Mindful March Fit Bottomed Challenge, let’s get mindful about our posture. Let’s stand a little straighter and shine a little brighter — together. Whaddaya say?

When’s the last time you noticed your posture and how it affected you, either positively or negatively? I’ve had a couple days in a row of pure power, baby … and I’m not sorry in the least. Kristen

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2 Comments
  1. Jody Hickmott says:

    This is so interesting. I find that when I workout solo at the gym when I’m resting I automatically go into wonder woman pose. I’ll even take active recovery laps with my hands on my hips. I’d never thought about it before.

  2. Robin says:

    I use that Amy Cuddy TED talk in a college class I teach, and I think it’s so powerful, especially for women. I tell my students to go into the bathroom (or other private space) before a test or job interview and just stand there for a few minutes in the “Superman” pose. Faking it really does help you feel like you’ve made it!