You're Allowed to Take Up Space
I’m mere minutes from wearing my swimsuit for the first time this summer.
Yes, it’s July 5th, it’s fine.
I haven’t not worn it on purpose. We don’t belong to a pool, and I’ve passed out from heat exhaustion no less than four times in my life. Being outside in the southern summer sun isn’t my ideal situation.
That said, today is our first Pool Day. It’s fun for a number of reasons - it’s a solid pool with a wide shallow end, my kids can swim to the point where I don’t have to worry they’ll drown, and I really like the women I get to hang out with.
We just hang out in swimsuits instead of jeans and pretend it’s normal.
In a lot of ways, it is. Wearing a swimsuit in a pool is incredibly normal; I think we can all agree on that one. What isn’t quite normal, at least for me, is the low-key hamster wheel of comparison that no one wants but many of us feel.
Sure, comparison is lame. We know it. We’re all different shapes and sizes and who the hell actually cares.
But when I physically take up more space than someone else, I feel like I’m obligated to care. I’m socially required to apologize for being bigger than someone else.
And not just physically. I take up a lot of space personality-wise, too. I’m loud and direct and ask personal questions instead of chitchat. I talk with my hands and sometimes arms. I get fired up really easily. All things considered, I’m a passionate person, and passionate people take up space.
And sometimes I feel socially obligated to apologize for that, too.
It’s easy to reduce our insecurities to how we look in a piece of royal blue spandex, but really, the insecurity goes well beyond the physical. It’s just easier to ignore it the other three seasons. I’m finding that my insecurity about my physical size is just a window into my insecurity about everything else. But I’m less concerned about the intangible space I take up in a room when my body is covered. When it’s swimsuit season, all my metaphorical flab is on display.
Today, I realized it’s not about my body. Not really. And now I know how to tell myself true things.
We’re allowed to take up space. We’re allowed to be big and small and flabby and jacked and pear and apple and whatever fruit Vogue says we are.
We’re allowed to be loud and reserved and talkative and nervous and curious and confused.
It’s not “or” because this isn’t linear or comparative.
It just is.
You’re allowed to take up space in a swimsuit, at the splash park, in the PTA meeting, in your marriage, on your blog, and at the sales meeting.
When I get dressed in an hour and leave for the pool, when I take off my coverup and get in the water with my kids, I don’t want to be focused on the physical with internal platitudes like “you’re beautiful no matter what” or “you’re valuable in other ways” or “you’ve had three babies don’t worry about the flab!”
I want to speak the strong and valuable truth that I’m allowed to take up space. My body, my volume, my hand-talking… it’s all allowed. Who I am and the space I take up is acceptable and valuable and doesn’t have to be cloaked in apologies or bravery because “I’m so confident” even though I’ve clearly never stepped foot inside a Crossfit gym.
Dismiss the apologies and qualifications on the space you take up. You’re allowed to be where you are.
You’re allowed to take up space, and we’re all better for it.