Why You Keep Trying to Take Up Less Space Than You Deserve


Many people experience the desire to shrink and hide away from the world on occasion. Maybe they have made a large blunder or are incredibly anxious and want to disappear from sight.

But what about those who feel this way all the time? Trying to shrink yourself from the world and take up less space is common for those who have a history of trauma.

Why Do People Try to Take Up Less Space?

Everyone deserves to take up space in the world. Even if it is hard to believe, it is true! However, it can be a struggle to acknowledge this, especially if you have a traumatic history.

People may try to shrink themselves for many reasons:

  • To avoid showing weakness – people may feel vulnerable when expressing their emotions or wants, so they hide them away to avoid appearing weak.
  • To avoid getting hurt – some people may take up less space to avoid getting hurt. This might be because they do not want to get shouted at for voicing their wants or opinions, or because they have been manipulated in the past.
  • A lack of confidence – those who grew up being told that their opinions and feelings don’t matter mask their wants and needs and restrict the amount of space they take up.

Trying to shrink yourself and take up less space than you need and deserve can have many unintended consequences. Many people can experience physical symptoms, such as muscle pain and tension, nausea, fatigue, and appetite changes. They can also experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Trauma and Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is also one of the main reasons people try to take up less space than they deserve. Trauma can lead to chronically low self-esteem, with one study finding that the higher the tendency for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the lower self-esteem tends to be.[1]

Along with trauma, low self-esteem can also be influenced by:

  • Bullying
  • Physical health problems
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Stress

Those who have experienced childhood trauma or ongoing trauma such as domestic abuse commonly feel that they are not good enough and are worth less than others. Other examples of low self-esteem include:

  • Thinking that people who are laughing are laughing at you
  • Not understanding why your friends or family would care about you
  • Focusing on negative comments or feedback and disregarding anything positive
  • Thinking that no one wants to spend time with you
  • Feeling that you are worthless and undeserving of anything good

Many people who have experienced trauma consistently undermine their own needs, emotions, and wants. They often believe that this will inherently give them more worth as they sacrifice their desires for those of other people. They may also struggle to look after themselves and refuse to acknowledge that they deserve help or support as they do not consider themselves worth it.

Everyone deserves to be supported and should be able to prioritise their own emotions, feelings, and desires. However, it can be a difficult pattern to break for people so used to shrinking themselves and trying to take up as little space as possible.

How to Take Up More Space

It isn’t easy to learn to take up space, but it’s worth it. Taking up the space you deserve and learning to communicate openly can have many benefits, including improving your relationships and processing difficult emotions. The emotional suppression that comes with taking up less space than you deserve is also associated with a risk of early death and multiple health issues.[2]

There are several ways to break negative thought patterns and teach yourself to take up the space that you deserve:

  • Be mindful – utilising mindfulness can help you experience things as they happen and acknowledge your emotions as they arise. Sitting with your feelings and increasing your emotional awareness allows you to understand them and explore potential solutions.
  • Challenge negative thoughts – many people struggling with self-worth can struggle to manage negative thoughts. By challenging them when they arise, asking yourself questions, and considering what you would tell someone else who was feeling that way, you can change your thought patterns and develop more compassion.
  • Use positive affirmations – affirmations are sayings and phrases that challenge negative thoughts. By repeating them every day, they can change the way you think about yourself, renew your self-identity and give you a lens to see yourself in a more positive light.[3] Pick three to five affirmations and write them down throughout the day or repeat them to yourself several times in the morning and night.
  • Be self-compassionate – instead of berating yourself for making a mistake or convincing yourself that everything will go wrong if you try, talk to yourself kindly. Reframe your thoughts – tell yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes rather than being harsh on yourself.

This shift in mindset is not an easy task for many people. It takes repeated efforts to achieve a permanent change in perspective, but the changes that people can see are huge.

However, these techniques may not be enough to combat the negative thoughts that drive them to shrink themselves for those with a history of trauma. Do not hesitate to reach out for professional help – you deserve to heal from trauma and reclaim your space in the world.


Shrinking yourself and taking up less space than you deserve can have many negative consequences to both our mental and physical health. It can lead to loneliness and isolation, as well as chronically low self-esteem.

Taking up space is not an easy task when you are used to shrinking yourself. However, by using mindfulness techniques, affirming your inherent worth, and challenging the negative thoughts that tell you that you don’t deserve any space, you can learn how to expand in the world and stop shrinking yourself for other people.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with trauma and self-esteem, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).


[1] Omasu, F. , Hotta, Y. , Watanabe, M. and Yoshioka, T. (2018) The Relationship between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Self-Esteem along with the Importance of Support for Children. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 8, 95-101. doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2018.84009.

[2] Chapman, Benjamin P et al. “Emotion suppression and mortality risk over a 12-year follow-up.” Journal of psychosomatic research vol. 75,4 (2013): 381-5. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2013.07.014

[3] Cascio, Christopher N et al. “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation.” Social cognitive and affective neuroscience vol. 11,4 (2016): 621-9. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv136