I typically choose my blog post topics the way I choose my look for the day. I wake up one day and think to myself: this week I would like to write about this… or that. It certainly isn’t as planned as it should be, but unless I’m asked about a particular topic, I tend to write from the heart. The idea of being bolder in the new year felt right to me. So I jotted down How to Take Up Space and then Andre Leon Talley passed away.
If you grew up loving fashion and reading Vogue as I did, you know exactly who he is, and if fashion or following fashion isn’t your thing then I’ll just say Andre Leon Talley was a fashion icon and the former creative director of the fashion magazine Vogue. What made Andre stand out was not only his size-he was 6’6, the fact that he was often the only black man in many of the elite social fashion circles (nicknamed The One), or that he had a masters degree in French Literature. It was his effervescence or je nais se quoi. He didn’t just try to fit in, he stood out. He dressed boldly and with pizzazz, wearing luxurious capes, robes, and kaftans; Tally was always a presence in the room. This was of course intentional. He intended to make his presence known in a way that felt true to him. So how do the rest of us who aren’t 6’6 or who don’t plan to don ourselves in chiffon robes take up space too?
If you have been following along for a while you might remember my post about my grandmother. She was a very small-framed woman standing less than 5 feet tall, but she was always a stand-out and a presence in every room. Here are a few tips to help you stand out too.
State an opinion– If you know me IRL you know I am not short on opinions. And in times where I have voiced one that went against the grain and I sat there with a lump in my throat after spouting off my thoughts, it worked out just fine. I can think of a time recently when I spoke out in a zoom meeting. My opinion was met with a round of well…crickets. But later that day I was asked to lead a project by the group president. And many of you know the story about how I met my husband when I chose to share my opinion on how our committee’s extra funds could be used. My idea conflicted with his and resulted in a game of verbal ping pong until I finally conceded. But after that meeting, many of the head honchos in the room wanted to know more about me-including him of course. Now to be clear I’m not by any means saying be a jerk or be the person who always pipes in with something that isn’t relevant just to say look at me- that certainly will get you remembered in all the wrong ways, but stating a thoughtful honest opinion even if it goes against the grain is a good way to take up space in a room that you’re obviously meant to be in.
Learn to take a compliment– This might seem like a small thing but you shrink yourself when you aren’t able to accept a compliment by offering an authentic “thank you!” “This old thing or who.. me?” Or any other self-deprecating comment doesn’t really honor the person giving the compliment and it makes you look and often feel small and insecure. If this doesn’t come easy to you, just be cognizant of it and practice until it feels more natural. All that’s needed as a reply is a simple gratitude-filled “Thank you!”
Drop I’m Sorry from your vocab– along that same lines drop the two words I’m Sorry-unless of course you really are. Have you ever had someone bump into you and the first thing out of your mouth is “I’m so sorry. “ I’ve done this. What am I sorry for besides being in the actual space? Now don’t get me wrong I’m a stickler for manners and please and thank you will go a long way but “I’m sorry” is often just a knee-jerk response and isn’t genuine at all. If you stop yourself from saying “I’m sorry” at every turn, your real apologies will hold more value. I’ve learned to take a beat when an automatic I’m sorry tries to rear its head. And I’ve also replaced I’m sorry with Apologies in writing when responding late to an email. Using I’m sorry less helps me to feel more confident in the moment and it allows others to use their voice too. Give the person who actually bumped into you at the grocery store or on the busy sidewalk a chance to give you an authentic apology. It also allows the receiver to skip the whole ‘you have nothing to be sorry for’ line that a person on the other end of an unnecessary apology says to reassure you. Dropping the automatic “I’m sorry” will make you appear and in turn, actually become more confident too.
Choose a power color– Rich dark tones are considered power colors. While black or navy are popular in the business world you don’t actually stand out wearing black in a sea of well…black. If your work environment (or social setting) allows for more creativity, consider brighter bolder colors to make you stand out just like Andre Leon Talley often did. But if you’re not a fan of color in general just pick one and dub it your power color. Oprah’s is emerald green and mine is royal blue. When I’m wearing my power color I stand just a little taller. So if you’re heading into an important meeting or event- Zoom or In-person, throw on your power color and be ready to stand out too!
One thing I have learned about people who take up space or stand out is that they inspire others to do the same. While Talley certainly knew he had an audience that was watching him for cues, my grandmother wasn’t necessarily trying to impart any lasting wisdom by the way she moved through the world. But the fact is that by just being her confident self-just like Talley, she did.
So when working on this keep in mind that every time you choose to take up space you make room for others to do the same!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on taking up space too.
Until next post,
Xo Tonya Parker