Career, Career Development, Professional Growth

Take Up Space!

A few years back, I participated in a high-visibility diversity project sponsored by one of the employee resource groups during Hispanic Heritage Month. It was an opportunity to contribute my photographic talents and highlight Latino employees at the company.

I flew to corporate headquarters in Omaha to present the photography exhibit, which included giving a brief speech about the inspiration behind the photographs. The project was a success, and it was well-received—or so I thought.

When I returned to Los Angeles, a male coworker gave me some unexpected feedback. He told me that I was starting to build a reputation of being someone who wanted to be seen. Initially, I was taken aback because I didn’t know why he grossly misinterpreted my intentions.

My goal had been to highlight Latino employees, specifically those in the field who hardly get recognition.

Why would he say that?

Didn’t he know this was something I was passionate about?

I didn’t know how to respond and fumbled my way out of the awkward conversation, feeling defeated and misunderstood. Finally, after thinking about it for a while, I concluded that it didn’t have anything to do with me.

He mentioned my work with the employee resource groups before, and I started noticing a trend, which is when I realized that I was unapologetically taking up space, and he didn’t like it.

Taking up space has different meanings, both figuratively and literally, and as a first-generation Latina it doesn’t always come naturally. Many of us were taught to be humble, respect authority, and not to ask any questions and do as we are told. These tendencies have followed us into adulthood, and they show up at school, at work, in relationships. Sound familiar?

So what exactly does taking up space mean?

This list is not exhaustive, but here are some ways you can apologetically take up space:

-Saying NO
-Asking for what you’re worth
-Speaking up at a meeting
-Wearing what makes you feel comfortable
-Exuding confidence
-Setting boundaries
-Expressing yourself authentically
-Making eye contact
-Standing your ground
-Stand up for what you believe in
-Advocating for the voiceless
-Thriving in all spaces

And so many more!

Taking up space may feel contradictory to how many of us were told to operate in this world, a world not made for us. But we are here, and it’s time to make some noise and TAKE UP ALL THE SPACE.