Safe Space

February 24, 2023

Eri Ikezawa (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer


As I have gotten older, I’ve gotten better at localizing sectors of toxicity in my personal life. 


Since I view my internal world as a factory that I need to keep well-oiled, serviced, and maintained to be a functional and happy human being, any source of negativity is like a loose lug nut to me—one that could cause the cog to fall off before causing catastrophic destruction. And so, in order to preserve the sanctity of my internal world, what I need—as any human does—is to feel truly safe.  


As per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we all first require our basic, physiological need of being sheltered and fed to be met. But once these needs are fulfilled, our next immediate requisite is security—or in other words, safety. That is, we need to feel safe before we are able to make it to higher levels on the hierarchy of general human needs—something I truly believe and subscribe to. Just as how a rose will not bloom when it is left unwatered and thirsty or how an abandoned cub will not flourish without its mother in the wild, people will also find it difficult to grow without some optimal conditions being met.  


With all that said, what then does a safe space mean to me? 


I would personally describe a safe space as anyone or anywhere in which a person—or any other living creature—has the capacity to exist comfortably, without concern of judgment, conflict, prejudice, or animosity. In the same vein, Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm”.


My past personal experiences have had a profound and lasting impact on how much I now value the safe space my family and friends provide me—the environment I sought to nurture and nourish, the place I always return to when I feel most vulnerable. As lucky as I feel for what I have now, this was diametrically opposed to how I felt in high school. 


Back then, I genuinely didn’t feel like I was surrounded by the most reliable, consistent friends—not to mention, I emotionally didn’t feel all that stable at that time either. I just never felt safe around the people whom I chose to surround myself with. I was so skittish—I was a horse ready to rear onto its hind legs, instincts buzzing cacophonously as a forewarning to gallop away into the horizons. I was plagued with depression and anxiety, feeling there was no safety net for me at any angle. Surviving was my sole focus, the only aspiration I had energy for at the time. 


With all that said, I guess the analogy that best describes my delayed self-progression is the process of building a house. If one is equipped with the proper tools and a supportive team, they feel comfortable enough to go at a steady pace, their focus completely on finishing the task at hand. But then again, if someone is trying to build a house but their tools are old and broken with a sparse team of lazy workers, it is hard to feel motivated. And it’s easy to become distracted by everything going wrong. 


And so, feeling unsafe, small, and trepidatious with my social surroundings, I found it difficult to take steps forwards and onwards. 


The thing is, once you really gather yourself and get even the smallest taste of existing in a safe space—where all the occupants inhabiting that comfortable lacuna accept and love you (whilst gently keeping you accountable)—it gradually becomes easier to sense when anything noxious comes along. And not only that, but you also become less complacent towards its existence. 


Perhaps where you were once able to convince yourself that it was too much work untangling yourself from the spindly net of a toxic individual, you now recognize that it’s actually too much work conceding and compromising your peace of mind to placate somebody else. 


I began to gradually realize it wasn’t worth trying to wrench water from a stone to pour into someone else’s cup. And it wasn’t worth tiptoeing around to avoid stepping on the mess of eggshells, shrapnel, and glass shards that someone else wasn’t willing to clean up, leaving it for someone else to tidy. Even if I tried to be as vigilant as possible, I was still cutting my feet to accommodate someone else.  


And this kind of prolonged wariness is taxing—it’s just not sustainable.


The first time extracting a toxic individual from my life was the most difficult. A seemingly insurmountable task since I was so emotionally attached to that person at the time, it had to be an impossible, herculean undertaking. It felt like I was trying to swallow down a colony of angry hornets, each stinger scraping a long wound down my throat as I spoke my truth into existence— “it’s best if we go our separate ways.”


What followed the initial declaration of separation is a period of grieving for the attachment and bond I’d lost, but I am eternally grateful for having committed to the healing process. That decision to choose myself, my mental health, and my inner peace fostered a newfound modus operandi for future relationships. 


But with all this said, after referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the necessity of safety before progressing further in life, I do want to quickly elucidate that it’s not impossible for people to go through hell and back and still come out these amazing pillars of society to look up to. I am only saying that it is a lot harder for people to focus on goals higher up on our pyramids of needs when our most basic ones aren’t being satisfied. 


At the end of the day, it is our basic civic duty to become better than the poor circumstances we find ourselves in. With great effort and commitment, we can create our own safe space—with the right people—in order for us to become the best versions of ourselves. 

My name is Eri Ikezawa and I have an extended minor in psychology and a major in linguistics. I’m still on the path to quelling questions about myself and the direction I want to head in, but in the meantime, I have always wanted to find a way to help others and contribute to a community dedicated to personal development and self-love.

One thought on “Safe Space

  1. Loving this. There are so many useful points that will be surely useful to me
    So proud of you Eri♥️

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