A recent Tumblr image of "men taking up too much space on a train" caught my eye... two men on a subway train, legs splayed out, penning in a tightly compressed, contained woman. I think it struck me as extra funny because I've had that "overflowing" experience with my husband on plane trips, his body spilling freely past his seat, me politely contained in my spot. I (affectionately) call him "Mr. Elbows". But aside from making me identify a cultural curiosity within my own marriage, that image also got me thinking about myself as a woman and how I make myself be seen and heard in the world.
Then, last week, enjoying my morning walk on a local trail, I noticed a similar male vs female phenomena as I passed other walkers on the path. As men approached other walkers they stayed center to the trail, while nearly every woman moved aside. The men greeted each passerby with confident "good mornings," while women spoke it more gently, often in response to someone else saying it first, and also frequently with a rather apologetic smile. I became hyper-aware of my own greetings. Did I greet first? Second? Did I use a quiet, timid voice or a confident, assertive voice? Did I move aside, or did we equally share the trail?
[Photo from Tumblr]
Of course that made me wonder, as an interior designer, how can my work help women (or introverted men) be seen and heard?
For me, my home is an integral part to how I begin my day. When I wake up in my home, I smile as I look around my bedroom. It is tidy, sensual, and looks onto my beautiful woodsy yard. From the moment I wake, I feel supported, present, affirmed, clear about who I am.
By feeling supported at home, I leave the house with my head higher, shoulders back, and then speak to strangers, colleagues and clients with more confidence. My clothes and colors, the cleanliness of my car, my smile, they all remind me that I'm Rebecca West and I have a place in this world. I have every right to every inch of my plane seat, to an equal share of the trail. I have a right to be seen and heard.
On the other hand, if you wake up to a home that looks like it belongs to someone else, or to a room that is stuck in a moment in your history that is past or hurtful, or to a place that is falling apart and speaks of failure and not success, you will, naturally, start your day off in a very different place and have to work harder to hold those shoulders back and demand your place in the sunshine. That's not to say it can't be done - people do it every day - but why not start you day off in a place of support and love?
In the end, I don't want anyone, male or female, to diminish their power. There is room enough for all of us to be confident, and each of us have the responsibility to speak up and take up a good chunk of space in this world. I mean, if you don't take the space, someone else probably will. Why not make the moment yours? And in a world where every magazine cover would have you believe you're not tall enough, sexy enough, or smart enough, you have to create spaces that smile back at you, that say YOU ARE ENOUGH! - spaces that encourage you to stake a claim in your life. Whether that starts at home, in your closet, or in your cubicle, it's time to be seen and heard. No apologies.
I may not be the next "Ms. Elbows," but plan to share the road (or trail) with me!