The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

It’s okay to take up space

Molly Parker

For so many years, I strove to take up as little space as possible in both my own life and the lives of others. 

I didn’t contribute in conversations to avoid any judgments others would have about me. I felt that when I said something, it had to be mind-blowing or revolutionary.

I restricted what I ate to shrink my body so that I was confined to the form of a child. 

My wayward curly hair, which had a mind of its own throughout my childhood, fell to the fate of being brushed down and pinched into ponytails. 

Most of all, my needs and opinion didn’t matter: I always needed to serve others in my actions. 

I placed other people’s thoughts about both me and the world in general on a pedestal when compared to my own. 

I kept my body thin, my hair tamed and my values hidden deep inside me.

Thirty-five percent of Americans say attractiveness is a woman’s most valued trait, followed by 30% saying it’s being empathetic and nurturing, according to a Dec. 5, 2017 Forbes article

Only 9% of Americans identify ambition and leadership as the trait they most value in women, according to the Forbes article.    

While these statistics might just seem like numbers, they have an impact on the way young women view themselves. 

Over time, I slowly began to realize my importance and attributes. Beyond that, I began to love who I was and found confidence in my appearance, personality and beliefs.  

Untangling the roots of inferiority, politeness and insecurity is something that no one should have to do. Each person deserves the freedom to be uniquely vibrant and unapologetically themselves. 

Sadly, the journey I had to discover my worth is not uncommon, as it is shared by women of all walks of life, even those who seem untouched by the societal pressures placed on them.

Girls are taught to demote themselves, uplift the ego of their male counterparts and to feel shame towards their bodies, which results in a destructive self-perception, according to an Apr. 12, 2013 TEDx Talk by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

When these girls become women, many struggle to decondition and move past these strictly ingrained beliefs, stated Adichie. 

As a young girl, I remember experiencing constant feedback. 

Though my family allowed me to run around the neighborhood in clothes covered with holes and a face painted with mud, I was expected to suck in my stomach in ballet and to generally have a presence that was sweet, cute and never loud. 

Years later, I realize how harmful this truly was.

When compared to men, women are more likely to be affected by depression and twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, according to a Feb. 27, 2023 Health Assured article.   

Changing the societal expectations placed on women is not something that changes easily. It takes girls being empowered from an early age by their peers, families and themselves. 

A woman’s beauty is not defined by her ability to be molded into the form that society labels attractive: it is in her passion, potential and confidence in herself. 

Young girls should be reminded that their worth is not defined by their body and having everyone like them, but rather by their interests and all the aspects of their personality that make them one of a kind. 

I hope someday all girls recognize their own power and everything they can bring into this world. 

I hope that they won’t feel inclined to shrink the space they take up, both physical and emotional. 

And most of all, I hope they learn their value without having to suffer from years of disordered eating, keeping quiet and feeling the need to dilute who they truly are as a person. 

Each one of us is worthy and has great individual value. 

Be loud and proud. We all deserve to take up space.  


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About the Contributor
Molly Parker
Molly Parker, Illustrations Editor
(She/her) Molly Parker is a senior studio art and anthropology double major from Hopedale, Mass. She had been a member of the illustrations team since the spring of 2020 before becoming editor of the section in the spring of 2023. Molly also creates prints and zines that she displays in the Burlington area as well as her hometown. Apart from illustrating and creating art, she loves watching horror movies, cooking and crocheting. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Molly.