Have you ever been afraid to speak up? To voice your opinions? Scared to be assertive and take up the space you duly deserve to take up? Well then, let’s delve into how we can take up that space confidently, respectably, and consistently.
Being assertive comes as a core communication skill; it allows us to express ourselves effectively and stand up for our own points of views. It gives us the chance to be proud of our beliefs and confidently express them. Being assertive is so much more than just saying your piece.
Shonda Rhimes, an American TV show writer and producer most notable for writing and producing Greys Anatomy, tapped into the concept of taking up space confidently when discussing her progress in creating the ‘Shonda verse’: a multi-show universe, in which every show takes place in the same world, spanning multiple tv dramas including Grey’s Anatomy and We the People. She explained:
“Plenty of people will decide that you can’t do something. Plenty of people will decide that this room is not for you to be in. Your only job is for you to decide that every room you are in is a room that you belong in, and to remain there. I always think that’s the most important thing—to feel like you belong in every room you’re in.”
You read that quote, and you’ll recognise just how important your own assertiveness is. You make the decision whether you belong in a room, in a space, making decisions. When we take up space, we do it both physically and metaphorically, and it can be scary. Our presence is felt, our words heard. It can be intimidating.
So, how do we get more confident with it? How can we help ourselves feel at ease taking up said space? And how can we do it in a way that is constructive and permanent? Let’s look at some benefits to being assertive and taking up space:
Being assertive can help you build self-confidence and develop your self-esteem. Developing the ability to stand up for yourself is a great confidence builder. And the more confident you are, the more comfortable you’re likely to be with being open and honest with yourself and those around you.
Being assertive helps you get what you need. Staying quiet and unassertive results in the status quo. Assertive communication paves the way for achieving your personal goals.
Being assertive can help your set boundaries, prioritising your mental health, and giving you the opportunity to focus on yourself.
Now, physically, I am sure we all can take up space. But there is a difference between being in a space and taking up a space. Physically being present and taking up space can also influence your confidence and the power you feel in your day-to-day life. ‘Power posing’, otherwise known as superman posing – hands on hip and all – has even been proven to affect how you feel in high stress situations. You want to feel confident? Start with being physically present within yourself. Be yourself even when you feel awkward. Laugh a little louder than you think is necessary. And hone that skill of self-awareness. Getting to know yourself is the first step in defining a space as yours. The only opinions that matter are your own, so get out there and take up some space. I promise you; you’ll feel better for it.
The behaviour of being assertive is slightly harder to develop; for years many of us have been taught that being quiet and small is the ideal. Maybe we were criticised for being ‘too loud’, ‘too emotional
, ‘too needy’, and the result was an ingrained lack of self and assertiveness. So, the moment we have the opportunity to be more assertive and express our needs and wants, we just don’t know where to begin. So, let's start small.
Infact, let's go back to taking up space. These two things go hand in hand so well. I spoke about getting to know yourself. Well, once you do, try believing in yourself too. Because I believe in you, and I’ve never even met you. But you’re here. And you’re reading this blog post. Which already tells me you want to learn. You’ve taken that first step, let's keep going.
First, and probably most important, learn how to say ‘no’. Whether it’s extra training as part of a sports team, coffee with a friend, being asked to help a peer. If it doesn’t work for you, then learn to say ‘no’. It’s important to recognise when saying ‘no’ helps you – and when saying ‘yes’ comes at a detriment to your own wellbeing, comfort, or time, then the answer should always be no. It’s empowering, its liberating. And I think we could all learn to say ‘no’ a bit more often.
My next piece of advice is to start small and keep it simple and direct. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation. Assertiveness is effective because it is straight to the point. Tell the other person how you’re feeling using the pronoun ‘I’—as in ‘I feel’ or ‘I think.’ This is a confident approach. Beginning with ‘you’ presumes to know what the other side is feeling and comes across as a more aggressive communication style.
And, finally, try and keep those emotions in check. I know we are all capable of feeling pretty big feelings, but being assertive can often come across as aggressive and when it does conflict can escalate quickly. So, by keeping those emotions in check, and working on remaining calm, not only do you help yourself, but you help whatever situation you are in too.
I took a long time to learn how to be assertive. To balance being a woman and being seen as emotional, and simply expressing my emotions. So, I hope you can come away from this with a handy set of tips to help you be more assertive and take up space confidently. Something I would have really appreciated when I first started taking up space.