Self-expression is innate in every human being. Self-expression is the way we do things, whether we are conscious of it. Through self-expression we say, “This is who I am.” We share our authenticity.
We self-express in myriad ways through our hairstyle and our clothing, the way we talk and use words, body language, writing, art, music, our lifestyle, avocations and career. One person may self-express through beautiful and bountiful flower and vegetable gardens. Another person may self-express through the restoration of classic or damaged automobiles. Someone else may self-express through her or his skills as a surgeon. And yet another may self-express through her or his skills as a counselor or spiritual director. On and on the list goes. One of the many ways I self-express is through my writing, but I also use my organizational skills, my use of technology, my sense of fascination and curiosity, and my imagination.
Because self-expression reveals authenticity, it also means saying, “No,” or “Yes,” depending on our need at the time, the situation, or the people involved. Our ability to say “No” or “Yes” or to speak out is tied to our ability to self-express. Self-expression is about self-permission. We allow ourselves to say what we mean. We express our thoughts and emotions clearly with our words and actions. We let other people know they have violated our boundaries, and their actions are not okay.
Growing up and throughout most of my adult life, I did not speak up. I did not have opinions. I did not know that “No” was an option as well as a complete sentence. The same applied to “Yes.” I let other people talk me out of things I really wanted to do. Or worse, other people made decisions for me and I did not speak up in self-defense. Other people took credit for my work, sometimes with the full knowledge of those in charge. I endured the exploitation in stoic silence. When I did speak up my voice was often weak and ineffective. Very few people listened to what I had to say. Now, I am conscious of my values, my self-worth, my heart’s desires, and my freedom to speak. When I am hesitant, I search within and arrive at a decision that serves me. When I say “No” or “Yes” with conviction, I am also taking responsibility for my decisions. I take credit for my skills and accomplishments. I take ownership of things I do well. I acknowledge the Divine Presence that guides my life.
Self-expression can challenge us to be our best selves regardless of the judgment of others. Some people may deem our activities as silly or a waste of time or wrong. We may have to persevere against ridicule and criticism to let our heart’s passion express. I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father disapproved of my career choice when I earned my bachelor’s degree and became a substance abuse counselor.
Self-expression respects other people, opinions, beliefs, and ideas. Using it to hurt others also hurts the giver. Self-expression is a gift to share. We cultivate meaningful relationships. We look for solutions that benefit everyone concerned. We share our gift of individuality in ways that enrich our life and the lives of those we encounter.
Here are seven ways to self-express:
- Saying “Thank you” is a simple form of self-expression when someone treats us with compassion, kindness, and grace.
- Displaying a calming presence in the midst of dissention and chaos can deescalate a tense situation.
- Making amends and apologies can become a vehicle for our self-expression.
- Showing compassion and kindness benefits the giver as well as the receiver.
- Asking for what we want, and need, means others are in a better position to support us.
- Extending empathy and a generosity of spirit can lift someone’s mood for the rest of the day, fostering a sense of connection and rapport.
- Complimenting someone can elevate her or his spirits by sharing in their self-expression.
Be conscious of the ways you self-express. Are you sending the message you want to convey about who you are and what you are about? I invite you to spend some time celebrating your unique attributes. What life changes do you need to make to express your true Self and live with authenticity?
Conscious self-expression means allowing our true Self to shine. We temper our behavior in ways that promote amicable relationships and win-win outcomes. We express our emotions in a conscious, full, and open manner. We live our lives as art. Enjoy.