Taking Up Space

I’m thinking about the instinct we have to avoid taking up space, especially, though not exclusively, as women. 

I was in a zoom group coaching session recently and found myself apologizing, trying to leave the hot seat, BEFORE my needs were met. I had another question – but Oh, am I taking too much time? I was assured I was not. I still felt the need to hurry.

I was listening to a podcast interview. The female guest was being brilliant, the male host interrupted, and she immediately apologized and waited for him to finish.

I find these experiences different, slightly, from the times where I’ve really been talked over, mansplained, whatever you want to call it. Times when I knew I had the floor and I was making a point and had to cede to an interrupter. Those times are infuriating and I recognize them as they happen. We all do, right? 

But I’m talking about the moments when we shrink OURSELVES, and play small, and are so ready to hear that our turn is up.  We almost WANT to leave the spotlight. Is that socialization? Habit? Or fear of insisting on our own voice? Is it that same damn Imposter Syndrome that haunts me daily?

This occurs to me because I was talking with a student about the cadenza in the first movement of Beethoven 5.  On the oboe, I feel no need to be self-effacing, and I MILK that line when it’s my turn to play it.  But I completely heard and understood her when she talked about glossing over the moment, hurrying through the cadenza to get to the end so no one had to wait for her. This almost instinctive fear of taking up space.

I encouraged her to reclaim her time, to fill up the moment. This place in this symphony is a time of rest and reflection for everyone. No one is going on until you are finished. It won’t hurt anyone to take a breath and enjoy your beautiful sound here for half a minute. And even though the conductor might not be smiling, might not be holding up his end of creating this space for you – he WILL wait. No one can move until you are good and done.

This your time. Use it to its fullest.  It’s good practice for life, too.