The word “trapped” by itself can conjure up in our minds various dangerous scenarios. We might imagine a mine collapsing and trapping miners. We might think of being closed in a tiny, dark closet. Maybe an avalanche of snow with its victim helplessly buried beneath. Each scenario causing us to feel a small slight of fear as we transport ourselves to how the trapped scenario might play out. There is a natural red flag alert in us as we understand the dangers of these types of entrapments.

In these cases, trapped individuals understand what’s at risk— survival. They understand that to break free means to live and not die in the small space. We would do almost anything to ensure our freedom in these situations. Trapped individuals have been known to go to extreme measures— even to remove a limb so that they would ultimately live. It seems grotesque and extreme. To these folks, however, the greater good was at stake. After all, what good would it do to save the limb and lose the whole body?

Might I pose another scenario?

It is one in which we do not feel the danger but we are indeed trapped. There exists another sinister kind of entrapment. It is the one that comes with ease and the lack of danger. No red flags. No heightened awareness. And certainly no fight or flight but simply waning away. What happens when you stay in a small space not meant for your survival? You may adapt to conform to its boundaries and you limit yourself to the lack of the space. Moving and shifting about contorting ourselves to the confinement.

Take Up Space

Several months ago I started a new corporate position. If you’ve been following my writing you can get a sense of the leap of faith I had to take to make this move. I snuck into my new position, not quite sure if it was all I’d be looking for or a passing through. After several weeks, a kind co-worker of mine finally erupted with a single phrase that has stayed with me since. He looked around my office and commented on its “sterile” nature.

I hadn’t placed a single picture on the wall, moved around any furniture or personalized the space in any major way. I was waiting. I’m not sure what I was waiting for but my lack of decoration in my office had become apparent to a few others. Another supervisor politely mentioned I should put up some pictures of my family. I still refused to “move in”. Every other workplace I’d ever worked in bore the same lack of commitment from me. I had refused time and again to move in. What my co-worker had been trying to tell me quite emphatically was— TAKE UP SPACE.


In all my previous jobs, I felt a sense of being trapped. Silently I went through each day completing the tasks and bearing the unhappiness. I realized recently that my lack of moving in was my way of resisting the trapped feeling. If I never fully moved in then did that actually mean I was fully there and not trapped? It sounds like good reasoning to a caged person. I felt I couldn’t do anything else to change my situation. I’d tell myself it was somewhat bearable because you see here were all these other trapped folks with me. We were all fine. Just fine. Not trapped. Not moving in. And consequently not taking up space.

Silent Scream

I’m learning there’s a silent scream of trapped people. They smile really widely but it never reaches their eyes. They show up to events well but they never fully commit. Like me they own a space but don’t truly “move in”. Where might some of us hang out in these small spaces? Our small space might be a loveless and failing marriage, a dead end or thankless job, a lack of commitment to improving our minds and our health. There are so many small spaces for women to stay trapped within. It’s also very easy to convince yourself you aren’t in a small space because after a few seasons of contorting and denying yourself it becomes your new norm.

Move In

Here’s what I’d suggest to anyone who has even an inkling they are in a small space— move in. When you fully move in the space begins to let you know it cannot contain you anymore. You feel your joints ache-the ones meant to be stretched out. Stretch out your arms, take a wide stance and test its boundaries. See if there is room left for you. If so, then great it isn’t too small yet. But if you knock up against a wall or two then that’s life signaling to you that the space is becoming too small for you. Raise your voice louder and listen for an echo. Is there one? The space should echo back your words to you in confirmation of who you are in all your fullness. It should affirm you have great ideas and are valuable in it.

Though we won’t always feel the imminent danger while being trapped in small spaces, we need to be aware of their propensity to stunt us in immeasurable ways. Our very survival is dependent on our ability to recognize and break free from confinement whether its flashing neon loud or dimly blipping across the screens of our lives.

Read more by Sonja here.