I feel like I’ve spent the last decade trying very hard not to take up too much space.

We could blame Los Angeles and aging for part of the angst. Fighting my ever expanding waist and thighs as the decade flew by was no easy feat, particularly given my love for all things wine, chocolate and cheese. Couple that with the pressure to look like the actress/model/reality stars around me, and you can see why I’m just the tiniest bit concerned with taking up too much space in this city.

The other side is harder to explain. I don’t even know how that started, but at some point I stopped claiming my space in the world.  Successful people seem larger than life. Have you ever seen a very successful person enter a room? Even if they aren’t vocally demanding the attention of everyone around them, they make an entrance. You can feel the energy of the room being directed toward them, and they own it. They take up space, and they have a presence that says they deserve to do it.

When I enter a room, I scurry into it in hopes of not disturbing the air.  It’s not that I don’t long to make a real entrance—it’s just that I’m fairly convinced when I do it will be because I’ve fallen in the doorway or because I’ve accidentally tucked the hem of my skirt into my underwear.

It’s almost impossible for me to reach out for mentoring or any kind of assistance (as I wrote about here: because there is a part of me that is convinced that someone will get mad at me for doing it, or that the request will somehow be an imposition.  I don’t just mean that going up to someone is a problem; I mean emailing them is a problem. I’ll do it because I have no choice, but to do it, I have to take a deep breath before I hit send. It’s as though I’m afraid that the email will waste valuable space in their systems and that the 20 seconds that they think of me might take up space in their minds.

Even if the attention is not specifically for my benefit, I’m fearful. A couple of years ago I spoke with a man who has produced some work I admire.  On shear adrenaline and hope, I approached him to tell him how much I hoped that more of his writing would be produced.  That sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Kind, maybe?  From the moment I opened my mouth I was backing away from him as I was speaking to him.  I mean this literally. I was walking backwards hoping that I wouldn’t trip over the curb. There was simply a part of my brain that screamed at me that I was imposing on him, and that I should get away from him as quickly as possible.  That’s right—I was giving him a compliment, and I was afraid that he was going to be angry that I interrupted his life to tell him this.  Did his gracious acceptance of the compliment change my perspective? No. I turned away and nearly ran from him just in case my continued existence annoyed him.

At this point in my life, I’m being asked to market myself. I’m being asked to pitch my work and explain to people why I should be the one to be published; why I should be the one to be produced.  I’m being asked to claim my space.

And I long to do that…

through a proxy…

who I have hired to play me.

2 comments on “Space”

  1. Danielle

    I’ll do it! We should talk soon about this media empire you mentioned. I like the sound of it and have been thinking about it a lot.

  2. Helen

    Congratulations. You have been trained well. You have listened to the societal narrative that says you should not ask for help or depend on anyone, or dare to impose upon anyone ever. Most importantly, you have believed it. The fact that it is patently untrue does not matter. You have bought in. You believe that being successful is something you do alone…the rugged individual of American myth. Unfortunately, the truth is that you will get nowhere on your own. While hard work is certainly required, nothing is more important than relationships. People who grow up to be successful adults have healthy relationships with their caregivers as children. They have teachers, coaches, pastors, etc. who are invested in their success. Which college you attend is important not just because of academics, but because of the people (students, professors) you will meet and network with. Outside of politics, I can think of no industry more dependent upon relationships than entertainment. Who you know is often more important than your talent and work ethic.
    And no one who is successful got to where they are without leveraging their relationships. So you are going to have to accept two things: 1) that asking for help is okay (and, in fact, necessary for success) and 2) that you are worthy of success…that you matter and are entitled to take up space.

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