how to take up space: experiments in visibility

8th October 2018

‘Boob Mug’ from the brilliant + talented potter @jessicacooperceramics

I have been experimenting this week – creating a series of live videos, exploring the typical ways we respond to Self-doubt (all five videos are available for free right here).

This process has left me pondering my relationship with visibility.

Take up space. Use your voice. Be seen. These are the sorts of things that feel necessary if you happen to operate a tiny global empire from your spare room (and your entire sales and marketing department is you).

Visibility is also highly encouraged in office environments. Put up your hand for projects. Say yes. Get noticed.

And influencers tend to get that wide-eyed look, as apps finely tuned to trigger dopamine receptors, produce a twitch in the nether regions for every like, follow and retweet.

Most of us have a problematic relationship with visibility.

The potential for judgment, rejection, vulnerability and disappointment (core aspects of psychological risk) are exponentially higher when we are under the spotlight in our respective fields.

No wonder we tell ourselves we are not ready, not qualified, not acceptable enough, to speak up. These are very effective ways to keep ourselves safe.

For a long time, I believed I would need to lose many kilos before I could be visible. But for you, it might be the belief that you can’t speak up at work meetings unless you are certain of the answer. Or perhaps, you will only be able to market your creative work when you’ve accumulated x-number of Instagram followers.

These beliefs may be noble excuses to not take any risks.

But what if you are in a toxic work environment, have been shamed for your creative dreams, or feel separate from and ‘othered’ by, the mainstream culture?

This is where concepts like visibility take on their own nuance and complexity. Its where our personal self-doubt meets societal narratives about power and control. About who gets to take up space.

Feminist Marketeer, Kelly Diels wrote in her newsletter last week:

I do not think fear of visibility is psychological or individual or your unique personal defect. I do not think it’s an upper limits issue or self-sabotage or insecurity or success blocks. When your very self is not welcome in our oppressive world, then, of course, it’s a challenge to self-express in the public arena. But this visibility problem? It’s probably not you. It’s our world. The world that seeks to make you invisible.

This visibility problem. It’s probably not you. It’s our world. The world that seeks to make you invisible.

Kelly’s words were a nudge for me to say ‘even if it feels vulnerable and I am not the most polished of speakers, I’m showing up anyway’. Because I want to use the privilege I do have, in the most productive way I can.

Watching Dr Christine Blasey-Ford show up in the most brutal of public spaces last week, was a push for me to be more courageous.

And frankly, I owe it to you, dear reader, to keep showing up.

To be visible with loving intention AND without every single duck in an orderly formation, and trust that this will be enough.

So I spent a few hours last weekend figuring out the story I wanted to share, and each morning I imagined an open and receptive audience, took a deep breath and got myself on camera.

And now I know I can do that. I can show up live and talk about my work, so I can support you to do yours.

By questioning the limits we put on ourselves and especially those handed to us by the culture we are part of, by asking for support, taking it one step at a time, doing our bit to take up space – this is how we create a life (and a world) that feels like home.

What is your relationship to visibility?
Are there places in your life where you are hiding, staying quiet, waiting?
Is the risk related to your self-doubt? Or to the world that seeks to make you invisible?
What can you do to support yourself to take the smallest, most doable step?



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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