The amount of space you take up is determined by how much you can be with. The people who can be with more, more emotions and feelings, hold more space.
Ask yourself this – what feelings can you be with? And more importantly, what feelings can’t you be with?
What is your relationship like to sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration? Do you suppress or avoid any of these feelings?
In life, we will avoid what we can’t be with.
In psychotherapy I discovered that your childhood relationships can give great insight into the amount of space you may allow yourself to take up in this world.
Think back to your relationship with your parents. What could or couldn’t you be around them? Could you speak up and assert yourself with them? Could you express your creativity? Could you be sad around them or afraid?
If you have a hard time risking failure or disappointment, or you hold yourself back from being fully self-expressed, a part of what’s stopping you is your avoidance of all the feelings that can come up when you do “fail” or encounter judgments or criticism. That’s because we often have disempowering relationships to our challenges and failures, so we avoid taking on any risk in the first place so as to avoid the “negative” feelings that we may have attached to our failures.
What you couldn’t be around your parents is often what they also they couldn’t be with in themselves. They likely picked this up from their parents and it’s a pattern that can continue from one generation to the next.
As a young adult I had a hard time being with sadness and risking failure. Failure was not on the table for me. It wasn’t an option. I also made being sad mean there was something wrong with me, something that needed to be fixed and I had to do whatever it took to make it go away or avoid being it at all.
But in all honestly it’s totally normal for humans to experience all kinds of emotions. Emotions are a healthy part of being alive. Life is like a rollercoaster and our emotions change from one moment to the next. It’s okay to find yourself in a funk sometimes. It’s okay for all of us (especially boys and men) to cry. It doesn’t mean you are weak or not a man, it simply means you are human and allowing for a healthy release of your emotions.
We humans are feeling creatures. We are meant to feel our emotions and feelings, not suppress them or deny their existence. In today’s society with all the prescription pain medications at our fingertips it makes it even more difficult for us to be with or accept and feel pain – whatever kind of pain it is.
As counter-intuitive as this may sound one of the key ingredients to living a more fulfilled and peaceful life is to have room for and be with more of your stuff – more of your feelings and emotions and fears.
Let your emotions breathe, give yourself permission to have them, and have it be okay that you do. Allowing your emotions to exist instead of avoiding them will give them less power over you because what you can be with can’t control you. Your emotions will loose their power. You can even bring some humor into it, like “Oh hey there funk, you’re back again, been a while, what brings you here?”
When you can be with more emotions you’ll naturally start taking up more space. You’ll be more free to be yourself and go after what you really want. Feelings of fear about what others may think, or fear of failure won’t be something to avoid anymore, they’ll be things you expect and embrace (because hello, you are human and it’s totally normal to feel all kinds of feelings). You’ll start taking actions you’ve never taken before because you’ll have stopped letting your emotions define you.
But in all of this there is an IMPORTANT NOTE: once you give yourself permission to be with and accept any disempowering feelings that come up, you must then go beyond them. Thank them for showing up because it means you are alive and have a beating heart, but then force your focus on empowering thoughts. Make a list of everything you appreciate and are grateful for in your life, celebrate the small successes you achieve every day, take care of your well being in whatever way you enjoy (ie. meditating, yoga, running, getting outside).
Then take action in the face of your feelings. Take action that supports what it is you really want. Don’t sit in your sadness for days or your fear of failure for years. Instead, take action despite them. Re-define your relationship to them. Get responsible for what you are making your feelings mean about you. And know that when you are going after what you want and being fully self-expressed, fear and disempowering emotions will never be more present! When fear shows up, see it as a good sign that you are pushing yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. You are doing different to get different (instead of more of the same). So invite your feelings and fear to come along for the ride but don’t let them take the wheel.
How much space do you want to hold in this world? How bright do you want your light to shine? The more you can be with, the bigger (and more badass) you’ll be!
To develop a healthier relationship to your feelings and take up more space in this world try this:
Distinguish what emotions or feelings you can’t be with. Think back to your childhood – Who couldn’t you be around your parents, at school, or with any authority figure in your life. For example, I couldn’t fail, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t be disappointed, I couldn’t be in a funk!
LOOK AT THE COSTS
With each emotion or feeling, write down how avoiding or suppressing it is affecting you. How is it making you feel? How is it holding you back in your life right now? In your relationships? In your career? For example, fear of failing could be keeping you miserable in your current job and holding you back from trying something new. Or fear of feeling or causing disappointment could be costing you stress and irritation, preventing you from telling your romantic partner what you really want more of in your relationship.
CHOOSE TO TAKE ACTION
Now that you’ve gained some clarity around what you’re not allowing yourself to be with and what it’s costing you, you can take responsibility for choosing which kind of relationship you want to have with certain feelings – and you can take action that supports what it is you want in your life vs. supporting more of the emotion. Do you choose possibility or predictability? Do you want to stay in the pattern you’ve been operating in? You are just going to keep getting more of what you’ve got if you do. So how much longer do you want your emotions to have control over you? Do you want to risk feeling these emotions and set yourself free from their constraints? Do you want your emotions to stop preventing you from being who you want to be and going after what it is you really want?
PRACTICE BEING WITH ALL OF YOUR EMOTIONS
I’m not telling you to indulge in your emotions but rather just to be with them when they show up – allow them to simply exist and stop making them wrong. Don’t judge them. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. Do not jump in the pool of sadness or anger and go swimming around in it and splashing waves of anger at other people. Just notice these feelings are present and be okay with them, then MOVE ON. Don’t forget that when you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone fear will never be more present. So instead of beating yourself up over how you are feeling you can get curious about it. What led you to here? What thoughts or fears may have been swirling around in your head for the past few days to bring this on? What effective action can you take right now that would be in service of you feeling better and taking care of your well being? And what action can you take right now that would support what it is you want vs. fall back into old habits? Start by allowing 5-15% more emotion to exist, then you can work your way up to feeling more and more when you are ready.
Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. In changing any habit or learned behaviour you need to allow time for practice, so please have a whole lot of patience. I recommend you take on a daily practice here. What actions can you take on today to support being with an emotion you suppress? Do not approach your emotions as though something is wrong, rather that there is something missing.
Being with your fears or disempowering feelings can feel scary as hell to do but like anything, with practice it gets easier. The key here is to re-define what you’re making your feelings mean about you. For example, your sadness, re-define it so that it empowers you rather than makes you feel worse.
Also practice faith. Faith that you will be okay, that you are okay, and everything will work out – because I’m telling you, it will.
Writer’s note: You are the best judge of your feelings so if you recognize or know that your relationship with some emotions have developed into unhealthy habits (drinking, drug abuse, depression etc.) or is putting your life in danger, by no means is this article meant to make light of whatever it is you are experiencing. Mental health is to be taken seriously and mental health awareness is important. If you or someone you know shows signs or suffers from mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, or anger management issues, I highly recommend you/they seek the help and support of a therapist and/or medical doctor.