BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Over the past few months, I’ve been researching women and space. There’s a pretty big self-help slash self-confidence craze happening right now, and rightly so. It feels as if we’ve hit a moment in time that we as women need to start taking our space and doing it together.
But what does that mean, taking space?
Women often “play small” – they are either shrinking their bodies (thanks, diet culture), the space their bodies take up that isn’t diet related (thanks, society), or being “nice” in their work, personal and professional lives because research shows that not only do women have to appear confident, competent and nice to be liked and seen as capable, but they also face a phenomenon called the “backlash effect” if they are too confident – or too much – for the person who calls the shots. My use of person is deliberate: women request this behavior from other women as much as men, and it’s really all exhausting.
Instead of calling it a day and moving to Themyscira to hang with Wonder Woman and the Amazons, we can start taking the space that belongs to us and stepping up in ways that work for us.
1) Define confidence for you
For about a year, I read every single confidence and self-help book I could get my hands on. I was exhausted with all of the expectations everyone else had of me. From manifestation of my confidence in washing my face to saying YES! to everything – there were good and bad parts of each book I read. All of them seemed to be lacking on thing though: what was confidence to me? Because of my background as an improviser, I think I take more risks (not unplanned – always calculated!) than many folks, so I don’t pretend that my confidence looks like everyone else’s.
That’s the critical point: confidence has to be felt internally, and unfortunately, externally, people can and will judge us. You have to look out for yourself first, though. Take five minutes and either write down or record on your phone what confidence looks and feels like for you. For example, you might feel confident when you’re taking care of yourself, or when someone compliments you. Don’t base it off someone else, or another person’s ideas.
2) Little changes make ripples
After you understand what makes you feel confident, it’s time to think about doing those things more, and to a higher degree. For example, if you feel confident when you’re taking care of yourself, maybe you start to schedule time every week to just do you: whether that be reading a book, having a meal without your phone or posting that cute selfie. This conscious effort to add things that make you feel confident is going to increase that confidence, and it will start to bleed over into other areas of your life. Think of a drop in water: it might be tiny, but there are always ripples. What you start doing might feel tiny – but there will be ripples in all areas of your life, even with the smallest change.
3) Get uncomfortable
Once you’re comfortable with the little changes, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Remember that exercise of what makes you confident? Take five minutes and write or record thoughts on where you are playing small – where do you wish you had more confidence? This isn’t about where someone or something might think you need to be more confident. This is about you and where you want to take up space.
When you have that area or instance, think of step two – little changes make ripples that affect everything. Make a little move and slowly but surely, you’ll get that space that you deserve, because it belongs to you.