Hold Space for Yourself
“Holding space” is the concept of listening to what is (and is not!) being said, without grabbing the spotlight to share our own anecdotes or advice. This requires us to trust that the people whom we want to help are capable of solving their own dilemmas without our intrusion if they have a safe, uninterrupted space in which to process and evaluate their thoughts. Last month, I shared tips for holding space for others. This month, let’s turn the focus inward to explore what it looks like to hold space for ourselves. Explore your answers to the questions below in a voice recording on your phone, or on a separate page. What additional questions about holding space for yourself are you still curious about?
What would holding space for yourself look like? For me, space for myself requires both physical space (a quiet location where I won’t be interrupted) and mental space (a time where no one expects anything from me or demands my attention, where I can focus on what I choose). In different stages of my life, “my space” has been the shower, a reading nook in my bedroom, a parked car, a hammock under a tree, or a private room at the public library. Holding space for myself requires me to block time on my calendar (and arrange childcare, if necessary) so I can focus. Sometimes I come prepared with an agenda (e.g. “I’m reserving this time to figure out what I want to do about x”); sometimes, I just show up and see what happens: I might cry or vent or journal, or just sit and think. Before I step back into the demands of life, I identify what I’m taking away from my “session” (e.g. “clarity about what to do next”, etc.).
Who are you when you have space? When I have space to process through the thoughts, fears, and dreams that are wrestling in my head, I feel the tension melt from my shoulders. My heart rate slows, and I relax. Instead of being swept helplessly along by the current of frenetic activity, I am able to find solid footing and move forward to confidently organize the chaos and choose a plan of action.
What would be different for you if you regularly protected space for yourself? When I reserve daily “recharge” sessions, I feel calmer during the day. This “space for me” might happen in mini bursts throughout the day (e.g. paying attention to a physical sensation for 10 seconds), or it might come as “quick recharges” (e.g. taking a 5-minute mindfulness breaks), or it might be a more sustained focus (e.g. prioritizing one hour to think about or check in on a specific topic)—or it might be a combination of all of the above! Knowing that time is reserved for me helps me to push through the chaos and the overwhelm.
What would it be like to give yourself the same courtesy you extend to others? Often, we are quick to make time to fulfill the expectations or demands of others. Then, we decline additional requests because of our prior commitments. What would be different if you respected the time you reserved for yourself, instead of overwriting your space in service to others? What do you believe about your value—are you worth the same respect and courtesy you give others?
What prevents you from holding space for yourself? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!