“Everyone has their own ways of expression. I believe we all have a lot to say, but finding ways to say it is more than half the battle”Criss Jami
I was once asked in an interview “what do you think the world would be like if we ALL spoke the truth” and my honest answer was absolute chaos!
We are part of a society that advocates for freedom of speech, individuality and self expression, yet many of us were bought up in systems that communicate (directly or indirectly) messages to the contrary – “seen and not heard”, “no talking in class”, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” ….. and don’t get me started on the school uniform ….. I am sure you have a list of your own.
We are also inundated constantly with messages about how we should be.
– how we should look, think, speak, act
– what we should like, dislike, eat, believe
– who we should follow, listen to, associate with and buy from.
It is very difficult to hear our own mind, discern our own preferences, connect with our core truth so that we can express ourselves authentically. If we don’t spend time differentiating between what is “ours” and what is conditioned or inherited then we run the risk of spending our lives parroting the opinions and beliefs of others – that’s a bit of a scary thought!
Self expression takes many forms, but for the purpose of this prose I am talking about the spoken word and how, more often than not, we “swallow” our truth. There are times when in reality our outer expression does not mirror our inner reality.
We say nice things when that is not how we feel.
We say things we don’t mean because we think that is what others want to hear.
We pretend to feel things that seem to be acceptable so that others approve of us.
We are dishonest, to ourselves and others, in the name of protection.
We believe we are being kind when we hold back so as not to upset ….. but are we really?
Self expression is shrouded in many different fears which is why it is generally avoided by the many and when seen from the few, it is admired due to the perception that it takes great courage and bravery. The expression of what is truly in our hearts is stifled by fear of isolation/loneliness (or the need to belong); by the fear of rejection (or the need for acceptance); by the fear of being wrong (or the need to always be right); by the fear of humiliation (or the need for safety) – does this resonate?
However, somewhere deep inside us we all have a desire to be seen, to be understood and to express ourselves and our individuality, to share this and all our ideas, dreams, hopes and desires with others, to be free to experience the joy that comes with accepting who we really are, in all our messy glory.
We all have those conversations – the ones where in the moment we could have been more honest. We could have spoken in a more authentic way, but we didn’t. We held back, we held our tongue, we swallowed our needs in concession to the perceived needs of others. We put other people’s feeling ahead of our own.
Who does this truly serve?
It doesn’t serve them – glossing over uncomfortable issues and dismissing the importance of clear, concise, compassionate conversations stunts the ability of a truthful, trust relationship to grow and, let’s face it, usually the outcome is as uncomfortable or painful as the initial conversation would have been if you had been brave enough to have it.
It doesn’t serve you – when we are not fully expressive in the moment we leave with feelings of disappointment, regret and disempowerment. We ruminate for days, sometimes weeks, replaying the scenes, changing our responses, changing the outcome. In an extreme we experience rising anger, at ourselves predominantly, but this can be easily projected onto others, sometimes aggressively and at other times passive aggressively. Then we suffer the guilt of knowing that we were “out of line” – and that feels really unpleasant, all because we didn’t speak up in the first instance.
“Neuroscience suggests that self expression might be one, if not the most important ways for people to connect, navigate and grow with each other.”Judith Glaser
Life is relationships.
Self expression is a vital piece of the puzzle that contributes to creating fulfilling relationships in life.
Authentic self expression is how we embrace who we are and accept the parts of us that we label as “bad” as well as those parts we project as “good”. When our voice is heard and acknowledged, we see we are not alone in our inner thoughts – being transparent in our aspirations and our fears creates a release within us and fuels our courage to have a voice, a chance to speak and contribute an opinion, without concern for judgement.
In open expression we move from an ego state of protection to a collaborative state of partnering – it allows us to be our best selves and make a valuable contribution to our immediate and extended environment.
So instead of admiring others for their courage in self expression, why not explore how you can start to express yourself in a way that is natural to you – if you see the ability in others, the truth is that it is mirroring your own ability, you just need to connect to it.
Imagine how free you can feel when you remove the fear of expressing yourself.