Who Are You Holding Space For?
I'm sure you've heard the quote (usually credited to Jim Rohn) "you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with", or a a similar saying "show me your friends and I'll show you your future". Both pretty much emphasizing the influence and impact the people you surround yourself with have on you. And although I certainly believe the power of influence, today I'd like to take it a little deeper and focus on who you are holding space for.
Holding space means to be present for someone; to be whole-heartedly present, unapologetically honest, to withhold judgement, lead with empathy and support them through an emotional, physical and mental journey. You likely hold space for close family and friends, spouses and children. They are often people you've invested time and energy into. By holding space you are creating a safe haven, a place that welcomes hardships, offering a moment to allow that person to feel seen, understood, and loved. More often than not, holding space for someone goes both ways. You also find yourself seeking validation, encouragement or simply an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, from someone you most likely yourself hold space for. One of the biggest and most affirming characteristics of holding space for someone (I believe) is reassuring them you believe them. Better yet, you believe in them. When you are vulnerable and sharing openly to someone, it can be hard not to feel like you need to justify yourself, explain your reasoning or get caught up in convincing them of your struggle. Openly expressing that you believe someone when they say things is an amazing tool in effectively holding space.
Once in a while however, you find yourself holding space for someone who seems to be emptying your cup more times than they fill it. Recognizing this in itself can take time, finding the root cause may be both difficult in uncovering as well as accepting. It's definitely rough territory when you are exhausting yourself supporting others who seem to take more than they give. I've never been a fan of the whole "if you aren't helping me, you're hurting me" type logic, in the sense that unless you surround yourself with people who will always be giving to you, then they aren't worth your time. It's unrealistic and quite egotistical to live life with your nose so high in the sky you become ignorant to the fact everyone is somewhere in their journey, and everyone's journey contains pain. Of course we are all working on becoming better, some more intentional than others, and so I caution you to be mindful with who you hold space for. I'm certainly not recommending you to cut all ties with the friends and family that seem to suck you dry every chance they get (things will not always be balanced, and there will be times you give and support more than you receive- I'm more touching base on a consistent theme), but I am encouraging you to be practical and conscious with who you continue to hold space for. Just a simple push to reevaluate and question how your time and energy is dispersed.
Holding space can only be done well if you are also holding space for yourself. It can take time and practice to learn where your boundaries lay, and needs are. You know when you're on an airplane (really think pre-covid life... haha an airplane? What's that?) we hear the flight attendants sharing some variation of the oxygen mask rule: 'should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.' Of course, these are steps to take in an emergency on board, but we can surely adapt the same logic when we find ourselves in a circumstance where we are having to be present in emotional vulnerability. Holding space for yourself will ensure you can effectively hold space for others. That can look like providing yourself with opportunities for self-reflection, check-ins, readjustments, recovery and recharge. When this happens you are far more open when holding space for others. When you find yourself struggling with balancing yourself and others, you may feel resentment, heavy from others burdens, burnt out, fatigued (in all senses), and even become apathetic. These are clear warnings that you've lost fundamental balance between holding space for yourself and overloading for others. 2019 in particular called for an incredible amount of support and co-dependancy to make it through the year (and still), so if you are finding yourself tapped out on the weight of others, I encourage you to take some time to recover. Clear your mind, drink some water, practice some deep breathing and reset yourself to be in a better space- whatever that looks like for you- to regain some balance.
I will say, it can be difficult at first figuring out where and why you may be feeling emotionally exhausted. And once you practice taking those steps, you will begin living more intuitively to the emotional baggage you carry for others (and yourself). Let me be clear, holding space for others is an honour. And one that, if you aren't careful, can offset your balance. So I will leave you with this, if someone seeks a place in your mind and heart, what a privilege it is for you both. Connection, intimacy and community are all beautiful by-products of holding space for others. Be patient, be mindful and be honest. If you do, I promise you will feel lighter, stronger and more supported. It truly takes a village, and when you choose to be a part of that village the benefits are endless.
All my love,