Take Up Your Space.


‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10).

Ever dealt with the lie that you are a burden, that you take up unnecessary space, or felt the pain of someone trying to make you feel you are a nuisance?

Today I wanted to be a little more vulnerable and share one of my lows of 2018, partly because I never want this blog just to be a ‘highlight reel’. Today, I’m here to encourage anyone who’s dealing with this particular lie of the enemy right now: that you take up space, that you are less-than, excess, a nuisance, or a burden.

I’ll start by sharing my experience, and then give you some encouragement. If you’re new to this blog (welcome! 😎), or for context on my Year Abroad experience, please read my posts here and here.

My experience

As many of you know from my previous posts, last year I was on my Year Abroad (YA) in Paris and it was pretty tough. Several of the difficult situations I faced involved some level of this ‘nuisance’ thing.  Most pertained to the people I was living with out there. Some involved people being overly-eager to win my trust and get close too quickly, then switching when they saw I had boundaries and valued space from time to time. Others involved flatmates who made a point of making me believe I was a nuisance in ‘their’ space/territory, even though it was ‘our’ space and we were all paying rent. I guess that can come with being the new kid on the block. The rest were just people whose own issues took up so much of their headspace that anyone else around them became a burden or a punchbag. In each situation, there was a person bent on making me feel like I was a nuisance to them in their world; and unfortunately, I was usually living with them.

Long story short, I became quite introverted. The more people switch, the more you can turn inward, since everything/everyone outside is shifting and revealing true colours, and you’re the only steadfast person you know in close proximity. Especially on a Year Abroad.

I also carried home, back to England, the remnants of the groundless lie that I was/am a burden. The devil sometimes uses people facing their own problems—in Paris these ranged from mental illness to family breakdown—to make you feel like you are the issue, when you are not. When I got back to England in May 2018, especially for the first few months of summer, the lie I’d adopted would show up in small ways: being the first to (swiftly) end conversations because I didn’t want to ‘waste people’s time’; avoiding calling people; turning down invitations to hang out with friends (the subconscious fear that even they will switch eventually, because you’ve learnt for a year now that ANYONE you currently trust could—and is even likely to—switch); keeping people at a distance and spending a lot more time alone instead of socialising, for the sake of security and peace. It even shows up in your body language (shrinking) and eye contact (evasive). I’m working on that.

I guess some may say the lie shouldn’t have affected me that easily. But I’m human, and it was a lie drip-fed into my ear passive-aggressively every day for 32 weeks by people I was living with, who’d pressed to win my trust and then switched, and whose own issues were only revealed later. It’s easy to disregard the lie when you’re surrounded by the familiar. It’s harder when everything around you is foreign, and you are alone and so much more reliant on people. In all, I had to relocate three times because of other people’s problematic and sometimes violent behaviour, and there’s something about constant relocation, let alone constant belittling in your own home, that makes you feel groundless and like no space is your own. These only increase the feeling that you are ‘taking up space’.

After a year of having that lie being pushed down onto my shoulders, I’m still working on shaking it off. And if you’re facing it, I want to help you to do that too.

Encouragement: Six things to remember

All this to say: I just want to encourage anyone who’s ever been made to feel like a nuisance, a burden or less-than, or is believing that LIE today. The enemy may be speaking through the passive or active behaviour of other people around you to convince you that you are ‘taking up too much space’. But that is not what my God says about you. 

Here are six things to remember when facing that lie.

  1. Remember your worth. The lie that you are a nuisance is linked to the lie that you are not worthy of the space you occupy. But you are worth every inch—every millimetre—of the space God intended for you to occupy. He gave you life so that you could occupy and transform the spaces He places you in. You are to have dominion (see Genesis). You are most precious in His sight, worth more than life itself, hence His son died willingly for you. You are not a burden; in His hands, you are feather-light, and so are your worries, so give them over to Him.
  2. Remember the expanse of your creator. God takes up eternity, so you can feel free to occupy and OWN your space. Space is His to give—not the people around you!
  3. Remember God’s perspective. You couldn’t be a burden to God if you TRIED. In His eyes, you are eternally a pleasure. He took a thousand years to think you up and to create every sinew of your being and existence, and He took delight in it, and He still delights in You. You are and will for as long as you’re alive be a seed of limitless and unstoppable potential. You hold the power to guard that truth, and it cannot be taken from you unless you choose to give space to lies.
  4. Remember you are free. As my mum told me on my Year Abroad: remember you are free, and that you are nobody’s victim. You have choice. No-one can take that from you. Be assertive when people are trying encroach. Walk upright, shoulders back, head high, and smile like a child of the king. Match your posture to your position: that of a child of GOD.
  5. Remember you are good for people. Don’t isolate yourself. You are GOOD for people; people enjoy your company, and someone out there needs what only you have to give in a social situation. You are wired uniquely. You are like a light on a hill; God did not create you to be hidden away. Shine, and you shine His light and the light of His beautiful creation, of which you are a prime example.
  6. Remember this isn’t uncommon. I’ve learnt that people project onto others what they are going through in their own head. Sometimes, people with shadowy insecurities will see your light and will be drawn to it simply to try and devour it. That might be out of envy, or a genuine but problematic cry for help. They will often be the first to switch when they see your light cannot be devoured, or that you have boundaries. If this happened to the Light of the World, Jesus, then you are not exempt, but the good news is you have boundaries at your service; love freely within them, and don’t feel pressured to let anyone progress past them at speed. In my experience, it’s best to use discernment and be wary of anyone who tries to.

To conclude…

Lastly, I want to address the mindset of distrust towards others that can come out of the ‘nuisance’ lie and lead people to isolate themselves. Understand that you have talents and gifts that He placed in you and that only you can bring to any situation. I’m talking that ability to encourage others, to comfort people, to give compliments, to see the bigger picture during moments of crisis, to speak words of wisdom even when you are downtrodden, to reach out to others and offer kindness when your own circumstances are seeming most unkind. Those seemingly ‘small’, sociable gifts are just as important as the big ones, and can only be shared when you allow yourself to trust and be around people. The devil is the main advocate for you isolating yourself from others. You isolate yourself, and it’s harder for God to bless you through others and others through you. It’s also easier to fall into sin or things like depression. The Bible says that it is important to fellowship and that we must not neglect it—Hebrews 10:24-25 reads:

and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

It’s important that you UNAPOLOGETICALLY take up all the space necessary and gifted to you by God to live out your God-given purpose. Life to the full (John 10:10) means life that spreads out, spills over, overflows and reaches others. Shed the lies. Take up your space.

On this journey with you,

Imani x

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Photo credit: Karl Loftus