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There's no Shame in Taking up Space

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

As I’ve written on the blog time and time again, I can’t get enough of the soul-searching, personal development books. On my own personal journey to understanding and loving myself and those around me more fully, I’m coming to terms with how much I was convinced of “truths” taught to me by my parents, my hometown church and a community that I now realize still stands on the shoulders of patriarchy and misogyny.

I didn’t have that language or vocabulary to explain why it never felt quite right once I moved away until more recently as I’ve been diving more into this world of personal development, trying to understand why the things I was taught or shown for years never fit with what I believe to be true.

I’m realizing that though I may have felt shame or confusion for years trying to fit my ambitious personality and goal-oriented dreamer sort of self into a system that ensures women never quite meet up to the standard or aren’t allowed a place at the table (literally when it comes to church decisions), that I was struggling because it isn’t right. I didn’t agree with the way that I was taught by example and by instruction that men were the heads of the household and I was to find and marry a godly man so I could follow him. And that somehow by surrendering myself, I’d find true happiness.

I wonder if some people may find fulfillment in completely losing themselves to follow another.

But in my case, that didn’t make sense. Why would God or the universe or a higher power give us gifts, dreams and passions if we aren’t meant to use them? Why do we have a voice if we’re only meant to listen to a man behind the pulpit as the voice of truth?

Losing myself, my dreams and my ambition to follow another seems ironic and like the last thing I’ll be teaching my daughter or my son.

No wonder women in the church so often feel conflicted. There’s times in our childhood in which we are told, “Dream big. You can do whatever your heart desires.” (But there's conditions placed on us as those large statements are followed by something like "as long as you marry a man and submit to him or follow him".)

I recently shared a podcast on Instagram that I listened to with author and speaker Brene Brown, who interviewed two women I admire so much, Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker. All three of these women have publicly shared their vulnerable journeys and understanding of spirituality and the ways they’ve broken free from so much of the traditional church that stifles women’s voices. Listening to this episode, I couldn’t help but feel like these women are 15-20 years ahead of me on this journey and the wisdom they are sharing spoke directly to my heart.

I’m now reading Jen Hatmaker’s newest book, “Fierce, Free and Full of Fire.” So much of what she writes feels like it could be something I am writing or saying. Her journey leaving the traditional evangelical church to being a more inviting person, loving all and accepting all, is something I can support. She talks of her own journey to finding and speaking truth, despite the fallout along the way.

“I decided that people-pleasing, fear, and politeness weren’t the hallmarks of a well-lived life, nor were their ugly companions: passive aggression, resentment, and dishonesty. I discovered the world is hungry for women who show up and tell the truth, unafraid and free, expanding to the very edges of who they were always meant to be.”

What if we all show up? What if we tell the truth? What if we love ourselves, wholly and completely? What if we appreciate our bodies and our minds instead of trying to conform to a standard or to please others?

Chapter 3 of the book talks about the relationship women often have with their bodies and it reminds me of some of the truths that I’ve had to learn over the years, about loving myself and appreciating myself wholly. She dives into the impossible standard of beauty that society and the beauty industry promote and how that make-believe world teaches us not to love ourselves. That we will never be enough unless we reach an impossible standard. Loving ourselves is the key to living a life full of life and being who we were meant to be. Yet, I know in my life, so many of the amazing women I call friends and family, may praise others but can never love themselves.

The impossible standard of beauty or perfection we place upon ourselves is something we’d never expect of others along the way. Yet, that being said, even among women, I find there’s this strange sense of competition.

Even though the men often make the rules that we are all attempting to adhere to or rebel against in the first place, there’s also a strange sort of jealousy or competitive nature that comes to play when another woman starts to have success or speaks up. Rather than looking at life through a lens of collaboration and trust, we find we have to explain and justify ourselves.

"I believe if we just do the gritty work of cheering one another on, instead of deciding that other women are our competitors, it'll change our communities." - Jen Hatmaker

There’s so much more to unpack in this book as I’m only halfway through, but I’m grateful for authors who show up and speak truth, even when it’s hard to unpack and face the criticism that comes hand in hand when breaking societal norms.

And as she also says in the book, “If someone wants you to be smaller, that is their problem, not yours. You do not need to offer a lengthy defense of your credentials.”

quote jen hatmaker, fierce, free, full of fire

People are quick to silence or make us feel small when we speak up. I’ve experienced it many times over the years, but it doesn’t mean I stop showing up.

The world needs us to keep going, taking up space and speaking up. Hopefully by cheering one another one on along the journey to acceptance, we’ll empower and encourage others.

I believe with every fiber of my being that we are stronger together, that living out our truth, passions, and unashamed of our gifts will create a more beautiful and secure community. We need each other. And need to be lifting others up along the way.

Each week on the podcast, I share either a part of my story and what I’m learning or unlearning along the way or I invite another woman to share her story. By listening to each other and giving others a place to speak their truths, we will create a stronger community.

We need to be genuine, starting with ourselves. Be wholly and truly YOU.

“The only relief is being genuine at all times with all people, and if you think that is also hard, you are correct, ma’am. But at least it is honest. At least it is whole and true. At least you don’t have to adjust the station according to the passengers.”

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