Needing Your Own Space

needing your own space

Needing Your Own Space

Finding and Needing Your Own Space

“Instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.”

This is Virginia Woolf writing about her time at Oxford in the extended essay A Room of One’s Own. It’s now dated in many ways, being set in the era around WWI (although she does have a serious obsession with describing food that outdoes any of the foodies on Instagram today). However, the overwhelming premise is still there…we need both the space and the money to create, whether that be books or our own rich and full life.

Virginia Woolf’s essay was a ground-breaking publication questioning why the life of a Napoleonic general was more important than that of a shop girl, why football is taken more seriously than shopping, and why women fail to reach the ranks of great novelists (her thoughts were that they lack the life experience as they are too often caring for children.) She also made that famous edict that women need a room of their own and their own income of 500 pounds a year.

Virginia Woolf was definitely on the right track. We all need space of our own to breathe, reflect and just be ourselves.  The Human Givens approach focuses on our needs, and privacy is up there along with intimacy, security and meaning. Without privacy, our mental wellbeing is under threat.

Types of Space

Some of us are lucky enough to have rooms of our own, even if they are time in the shed or a corner where we park our laptop. However, even if we live with others, in cramped conditions, fighting for that space – even if it’s in the form of a daily walk on your own – is vital to our wellbeing.

When I grew up there used to be a running joke amongst the mothers about the husbands retreating to their garages or sheds for some alone time, mirrored by many sit-coms on TV. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, space of your own is a human need.

This space comes in many forms. For one of my clients it is time at a life drawing class, for another it is skateboarding. Many people I know relish walking the dog on their own, whilst others often build solo visits to coffee shops into their day – time and space to themelves, but still with the buzz of people around them.

The Need for Stuff

books and needing your own spaceHowever, it’s not just space. Evolutionary psychology often looks back to our hunter gatherer ancestors and talks about our need to collect “stuff”. Yes, this can mean IPads and phone chargers, but in the context of self-care it can also mean that shawl you bought in Havana, those photos of your grandparents, the wooden parrot earrings you wore on your first date with your husband. You wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them now, but you don’t want to throw them away. Stuff that means something.

Of course, if you’re naturally a minimalist, this won’t mean anything to you. If you’d rather chuck than collect, do spare a thought and some understanding for those that like to have their possessions around them. It’s a human need, a yearning. These things are part of the story of who we are and we need space for them. This doesn’t have to mean that they are all on display, just accessible.

Taken further, this personal space is also where we can more easily slip into the silence, whether that’s to think, meditate, plan or create. Claiming some space is a form of self-care and I challenge you to do it. Even though I have my own bedroom, I would say my space is the bathroom.

My default way to refresh when under stress is to retreat to my bath. Here I read, I light candles, listen to Audible books, or relax to guided meditations. Soothed by the water and some exotic smelling bubble bath or essential oil, I drink tea, sip wine and day dream. I plan, I work through issues. It’s my own space and I relish being in it.

Things to Ponder

My question for you is where do you get that space in your daily and weekly routine? Can you get more of it, and what do you do with it? Are there ways you can make it more meaningful or restorative? If you’ve won the battle to get your teenager to cook diner a couple of times a week, do you waste that time on your phone, checking in on Facebook, or do you meaningfully take that half an hour to do a Pilates YouTube video, or just sit and relax with a cuppa or glass of wine?

Seeing a counsellor like myself is, of course, another way to craete space for yourself. Please do set up a chat if you would like to see if we would be a good fit for working together.