Minding Your Own Business: Taking Up Space
Part of minding your own business is self-care, doing kind and nurturing things for yourself, and not waiting or expecting someone else to take care of you.
Let’s face it: we usually enjoy it when someone else does something nice for us. However, it can become problematic when we become dependent on others to take care of us.
Another closely related aspect of minding your own business is attending to your own basic needs.
For example, do you eat when you are hungry? Do you drink when you are thirsty, rest when you are tired, or use the bathroom when you have to go?
It’s not as unusual as you might think to neglect our most basic needs to fit into a situation, to not disrupt the flow of an event, or to not be a nuisance. Sometimes, waiting for the “right” moment is no big deal.
However, at other times we put ourselves in significant discomfort in order to not call attention to ourselves or to avoid creating an inconvenience for others. The thing is, no one else can determine when you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, or when nature calls. Only you know, and it is your business to take care of your business.
Taking sovereignty of your own needs and doing what it takes to meet those needs is an important part of minding your own business. It requires us to be willing to take up space.
What does “taking up space” mean?
Taking up space means that we don’t look for permission to exist and take care of ourselves.
I recently read an essay in which the author wrote that she didn’t realize how much non-consensual touch she was experiencing prior to the pandemic. When casual social touching became a health hazard, she became aware of how often in the past that she went along with social expectations regarding touch.
Now that with the pandemic, she wasn’t shaking hands, hugging, or being touched when she didn’t want to, she realized how often she went along with social expectations rather than setting firmer boundaries.
The author said she went to a “cuddle party” in New York City where attendees wore comfortable clothes and cuddled. There were rules against sexual touching and it was explicitly stated that all touch and cuddling was to be completely consensual. Attendees were instructed to verbally request consent before touching anyone. Even in that situation where verbal consent or non-consent was explicitly required, she still had trouble saying “no” to touch she didn’t want.
But before the pandemic, she didn’t even realize she wasn’t taking up space and hadn’t been considering what she really wanted.
How do we know what we want?
How do we mind our own business when we don’t even know what we want and what we don’t want?
We may struggle to do this for many reasons. In our culture, we are taught to read others’ reactions and try to please them, or at least to not displease. Women are taught to put the needs of others before their own, and men are taught to be stoic and invulnerable.
We are social animals, and we don’t want to go against the grain of what is deemed socially acceptable.
On the other side of that coin, we may find that we’re not bothered by things that “should” bother us. Let’s say somebody does something we’ve been brought up to believe is wrong, and we know we’re supposed to be offended or take it as an insult because that’s what everyone else thinks we should do, even if it doesn’t actually bother us. We have a script in our minds and use that to determine our reaction instead of listening to our authentic selves.
So how do we figure out what we really want when we’ve been conditioned to read the environment to figure out how to respond instead of listening to our own gut? How do we get to the core of ourselves, and how do we know that we’re there?
As always, it begins with noticing.
Notice when you feel uncomfortable. Are you saying “yes” when you want to say “no” or vice versa? Are you hoping that someone else reads your mind or creates an opening for you to say what you want?
Notice when you’re passively going along without considering what you want, or when you’re assuming someone else knows your needs better than you do.
Listen to your gut
I like to think of this as a matter of Head, Heart, and Gut.
Each gives us different information.
Your head will try to figure out how you’re “supposed to” behave. Your head will evaluate the rules and expectations for a particular situation. It is also concerned with how your choices will ensure your survival.
Your heart is concerned with relationships and feelings. It wants to please, or to not displease others. Your heart will focus, sometimes excessively, on another person’s feelings.
On the other hand, your gut is what you truly want, and it doesn’t care about pleasing others or following the rules. Your gut is your truest source of information.
Handling the discomfort
When we start listening to our gut and get our heads and hearts in line with what we truly want, we might feel uncomfortable, at least for a while.
We might feel selfish. Others might tell us we’re being selfish. We might worry that we’ll be judged, or that we won’t be good friends, partners, etc. We might even judge ourselves.
But remember, one of the core tenets of conscious living is loving kindness to self and others, and not just one or the other!
When we are loving and sensitive to others, it’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves too. You’re not here to be invisible. It’s your birthright to have an opinion, take up space, and use your voice.
How might this look in real life?
For example, if you and a friend make dinner plans, she might ask you, “Where do you want to eat?”
And you might respond “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?” Even in this simple scenario, you might not want to displease your friend. You may try to opt out of having an opinion to avoid that discomfort.
But what if you did state your opinion? What if you want Mexican and your friend wants Thai? What if you are trying to eat vegetarian and your friend wants to go to a steakhouse?
No one is wrong here, you’re just expressing opinions and desires. Once those opinions are out there, you can communicate, figure out a third option, or let one person choose this time and the other choose next time. It takes two people to have a relationship, and that means both of your opinions count.
Or say that your friend has a dog that barks and growls every time you come over. It makes you feel uncomfortable and threatened. You know this person loves their pet and they make excuses when the dog acts aggressively toward you. You express your discomfort to your friend and ask that the dog go outside or stay in another room while you come over, or that you start meeting at your house instead.
When you use your voice to take care of yourself, you are honoring yourself. That doesn’t mean that you’re dishonoring your friend. In fact, if you don’t say something, you are likely to build up resentment toward your friend or think they’re insensitive to your discomfort, which will ultimately harm the relationship.
Minding your own business means you can use your voice, take up space, and not have to please or agree with everyone (because that’s their business).
Because we’re human beings, it’s inevitable that we’ll disagree on some things. Part of a healthy relationship is balancing what both people want, not just honoring one person’s wishes. So minding your own business is essential in creating a thriving relationship that works for each person.
If you’d like to learn more about using your voice in your relationships, I invite you to join me on May 3rd for The Art of Conscious Communication. This is an online workshop where you’ll learn communication techniques to improve every relationship in your life while honoring your own needs.
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