We all know that one of the common and nasty side effects of struggling with a mental illness is the tendency to believe ourselves to be unworthy. Unworthy of love, unworthy of opportunities, unworthy of happiness. And a common side effect of those feelings of unworthiness is the tendency to make ourselves smaller. To attempt, in any way possible, to take up less space. We don’t want to speak out when something is bothering us, for fear we’ll be a bother. We don’t want to take up people’s time or energy, because we believe we’re not worth it. We stay quiet and small and suffer in silence.
But this is wrong.
We are worthy. We are worthy of taking up space on the world. And it can be scary to do so but once we take up that space, we can suddenly find ourselves with the means and the power to make changes and decisions that support our wellbeing. We’re also better placed to advocate for others who may find it even harder than ourselves to take up space on the world.
Just like when a negative thought generates another negative thought, asserting our right to take up space – even just to ourselves- can give us the confidence to assert and address our needs in a way we might normally have cringed from.
Here are some ways you can assert your right to take up space:
- Allow yourself to say no. If it’s going to cause you stress, tire you out unreasonably, or you just plain don’t want to, saying no is a powerful way of setting boundaries and taking up space.
- Set aside time for yourself. We’re often pulled from pillar to post with all the shoulds and musts of everyday life but my setting aside time for yourself and sticking to it we can take up space in our own lives. Put the time in your diary and if anyone wants to intrude on that time tell them you’re busy. Treat yourself as a priority.
- Practise self awareness. At the end of each day, check in with yourself. How has your mood been today? How is your body feeling? How tired are you? Pay attention to anything that feels off and make a commitment to doing something to address it: take a hot bath; go to bed early; do something that always cheers you up.
- Ask for support. Something at work or school bothering you or causing you stress? Ask a someone to support you in figuring out how to deal with it – even just to act as a sounding board. Noticed a significant drop in your mood or self esteem, or an increase in your anxiety? Talk to a friend, family member or professional about what you’re experiencing. Sometimes just having someone else know what you’re facing can help because suddenly you are not alone in it.
Are there any ways you would encourage people to take up space?
To find out more about #TimetoTalk, check out this link and get involved.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.
The Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org
Young Minds: http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide): https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Self Harm UK: https://www.selfharm.co.uk
Time to Change: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Rethink Mental Illness: http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.