by Melanie Dale
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
Someone took my spot at yoga today. I felt like my dog Khaleesi when my other dog JPEG steals her spot on the couch. I wanted to back my butt into the person and slowly shift my weight on top of her until the position was mine and she had to slide away in defeat. Though I love a good Downward-Facing Dog, I am not an actual dog, so I controlled myself and dragged my mat to a different spot, disgruntled and muttering namaste under my breath in a very non-namaste-way.
Recently I was heading into a new situation at work that made me nervous and I asked my friend Mandi for advice on how to stay calm. She reminded me that I deserve to be there and said, “Take up space with your body.” I loved this physical response to an emotional challenge, so I decided to try it. Every time I’d start to get overwhelmed or feel small, I’d widen my stance, put my hands on my hips, and expand my lungs with air. I am a small person, physically, but I’d find ways to feel bigger. And it worked.
I like taking up space, and I'm rather particular about the specific space, if I'm honest. I’m a creature of habit and tend to gravitate to the same spaces, like in yoga class. Once I sit in a particular chair in a room, it’s mine forever, and I can’t deviate. My feet travel the same routes over and over and my butt likes the same spot in the living room.
Lately, I've been thinking about the way I take up space, and there are two things I'm challenging myself with as I inhabit a room. The first is to be confident in my space and the second is to be flexible. I want to own the space I'm in but I want the humility to adjust to the needs of others as well. It's a give-and-take.
As a woman, I’m always trying to get smaller, cross my legs, shrink, not get in the way. Taking up physical space gives me more confidence. My body says to my brain, “You are here, and you deserve the real estate that you’re inhabiting. You deserve to be here.” At work that day when I was nervous, I stretched and widened. My body went head to head with my Imposter Syndrome and won.
I have Imposter Syndrome with God, too. When it comes to God, I tend to focus on the humility part but lack in the confidence department. I don’t deserve to be here. I’m afraid to take up space around God. But Hebrews 4:16 tells us that since we have Jesus as a high priest, who inhabited a body that was tempted and can empathize with us, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Because of Jesus, we can approach God with confidence. We’re allowed to take up space in God’s throne room.
So as I learn to take up space at work and while working out, I’m also challenging myself to take up space in God’s presence, to approach God with confidence. I’ll take a deep breath, lift up my chest, and pray bold prayers with a bold body. Arms up, hands wide, taking up space.
Melanie Dale is the author of four books, It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, Infreakinfertility: How to Survive When Getting Pregnant Gets Hard, and the forthcoming Calm the H*ck Down: Let Go and Lighten Up about Parenting. She hosts the Lighten Up with Melanie Dale podcast and lives in the Atlanta area with her husband, Alex, and three kids from three different continents.