If a) we are essentially strangers, b) we grab coffee, and c) you ask me to tell you who I am or my story, I probably won’t maintain eye contact. I’ll start talking, but I’ll fidget with my clothes. I’ll mess with my hair [especially if it’s curly], and I’ll put my hand behind my neck or draw my arms around my waist because I’m nervous.
Because you’re leaning in close. Not just physically, but emotionally. Intimately. You’re peering into my soul and I’m only letting you look through the windows.
Because even if I tell you my story, even if I give you every detail and say the right things, I’m still hiding. I’m still nervous about what you think of me. I’m still guarding myself with pretty words and words I’ve used before, waiting for you to run and hide because I run and hide from myself.
And so I found myself across from someone in a coffee shop, someone I’d only known for a week, and the first thing she asks me is, “I want to know about you, tell me who you are.”
And I knew it was coming — what coffee shop date doesn’t look like a “tell me about yourself” scenario. You may tell a couple of stories, you may cry, and usually you walk away with a false sense of intimacy, that you know you should feel closer to this person than you do, but you’re realizing you just spilled your life story to someone you barely know and you walk away with a “vulnerability hangover” (shoutout to Brene Brown for coining this term).
At least that’s how it usually goes.
But this time was different. This time she asked me what I was struggling with. Currently. Not something I struggled with a few months ago. Or a year ago. Or two years ago. Something now. Something that isn’t quite beautiful yet and Instagram-caption-worthy enough to share.
And I felt my muscles tensed. I started ruffling my hair. I fidgeted with my clothes. I stared at a random poster because I couldn’t make myself maintain eye contact.
It felt too close.
And in that moment I watched a lightbulb go off in my mind, and I saw the fear of being seen, really seen, raging in me. That it wasn’t the fear of being judged for my stories, but for being judged for me. Something I can’t shape up with pretty words and words I’ve used before.
I don’t remember what I said that triggered this, but at one point she reached across the table and interrupted me mid-sentence, saying, “No wait pause. I have to say something.” She flipped her hair over her shoulders.
“You keep talking about how you’re afraid of being vulnerable and you’re afraid you’ll be annoying and that people look at you and think, ‘I don’t want to be friends with her because she annoys me.’ But you deserve to take up space. The ground you stand on is yours, and you deserve to own and occupy this space just as much as every other person because God is occupying this space. He is in you, He created you, so shouldn’t He of all people be worthy of filling a space? Which means you are so worthy too.”
It changed the atmosphere of our conversation entirely. It didn’t change the fact I still felt like I was simultaneously too vulnerable and not vulnerable enough, but the heartbeat of our conversation shifted.
Because the moment she interrupted me, she brought light to an emotion I never wanted to admit: that I didn’t feel worthy to take up space, and that I felt if I was taking up space, I was annoying the people who certainly deserved more space than I did.
And there is only one thing to say to that:
That is a lie.
And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I know I’m not the only one who stays up too late and wonders if I’m really seen and really matter.
Sometimes it goes so deep that someone’s life can be on the line. I know someone traveling to a different state right now because someone she loves deeply is on the verge of going away forever, and this is her last ditch effort to wrap them in truth and love and a lot of light.
We can’t forget about them, the ones who struggle in their dark corners and tell no one. We can’t not see them anymore, because we know what it feels like to be unseen — because we know they’re not the only ones who struggle in dark corners.
They is no longer they.
They is us, we are us.
And we can start, we must start, by telling people they matter. And showing it. That the space they occupy is theirs and they own it and should own every bit of it because they matter.
Regardless of where you’re at. Regardless of your present, not just your past. You are worthy of occupying space.
We need you to occupy space because if you moved, it would change the trajectory of the world, and you don’t even realize it.
You matter here. You matter to the people around you, even people you don’t even know that know your name. People who want to be around you and your contagious smile.
And right about now the lies are telling you that that’s not true, that that can’t be applicable to you.
But that is far from the truth. This is the truth about you:
I am worthy.
I am brave.
I am loved.
This is my space.
I own this space.
I am worthy to occupy space here.
I matter here.
And it’ll feel like a chore whispering those words over yourself, but your world will shift significantly the minute you start speaking light into the darkness.
Because the Devil likes to lurk in the shadows, behind the trees. He’s never out in the open telling you that you don’t deserve to be here. He’ll always be in places you can’t find him and can never see him. He’ll hide in places the light does not touch.
But the more you speak your truth, the more you believe it, the light grows. And he has to run further. He can’t lurk behind that tree anymore because the light is touching it and illuminating it and showing its true colors, and he’s realizing that as you begin to recognize your worth and own it, he has no power over you.
Because God put heaven on pause when He spoke you into existence. He said, “Hold up. Everyone. Look at this person I’m creating. Look at him, look at her. See this creativity and this life and this happiness and this goodness that I’m planting into them, see this future I’m putting before them. They’re going to do good things.”
Heaven paused and resumed because of you.
“Unworthy” doesn’t even have a place here anymore because of that reason alone. And I have to believe that as I begin to believe that, one small truth after one small truth, I push back the darkness just a little further and the light reaches a little farther, until one day the woods is no longer a woods but bathed in glorious light.
Because that is what worthy looks like, every day of your life.
Owning your space. Mattering here. Because you do.
You really, really do.