How to really express yourself
Do you ever feel like you are not expressing yourself to your maximum potential? You know that if you could unleash something inside you, you could achieve so much more.
You wish that life could be more. That you could be more.
If only you could be more passionate, joyous, and courageous, life would be so much more fulfilling.
New doors would open to you.
The world would become an exciting place.
Are you expressing all of you?
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
Gospel of Thomas
When I was a financial analyst, I felt like a robot, cranking financial models all day. The empathetic side of me was neglected. My most cherished values of love and compassion were not given a channel for expression.
There was big gap between who I was and what I was doing.
What about you?
You also play a role in your life. You could be a boss, an employee, a manager, a mother, a daughter, and so on.
Do these roles allow you to express who you truly are? Do your roles allow you to express your deeply held values?
Expressing the full spectrum of life
Imagine that life is a grand piano keyboard. Each note represents a different experience, a different possibility.
There’s emotions like despair, anger, sadness, happiness, joy, bliss, and so on.
There’s states of clarity, wisdom, euphoria, inspiration. Of course there are also negative states like depression and emptiness and hopelessness.
Then you also have values like love, courage, beauty, compassion, and discipline.
But we do not express the fullness of life in our daily lives.
While life offers us 88 notes, we are singing a 5-note song.
Why you do not express yourself
Why don’t we express ourselves fully, in all our glory and fallibility?
Why do we only show a part of ourselves?
The truth is, we express only the parts of ourselves that get approval and recognition.
I was a very timid child.
To make things worse, I had a very emotionally expressive mother. When she got angry, she would yell. If we disagreed on something, she would shout louder and louder to get her point across.
One day I decided that I would never be heard. I felt that in order to pacify her, I had to be agreeable and pleasing at all times. I stopped speaking up.
I lost my voice.
The part of me that was independent and had its own desires grew silent. I no longer told people what I really wanted. I simply obeyed.
Do you have a similar experience?
Perhaps you are rewarded for being hardworking, happy, and compliant. That’s the side you show to the world. But then the lazy and sad and rebellious parts of you get suppressed.
Be obedient, diligent, pliant. Keep your head down and keep working. Perform. Get promoted and work harder, please even more bosses.
We try to fit ourselves into narrow definitions that do not celebrate the fullness of who we are as human beings. We wear a mask every day to face the world.
Then we wonder why we are unhappy and unfulfilled.
The most common form of despair is not being who you are.
You are not a pre-defined role
Having been trained to conform, we try to fit ourselves into pre-determined roles in society.
As undergrads, we assess the job market. Based on demand, we decide our academic concentrations. At one point the hot job was being a trader. Then an investment banker, then a programmer, then a data analyst.
We let society’s needs determine who we can be and how we develop ourselves.
But these roles only allow us to express a part of who we really are.
You can’t be silenced
If you do not act upon your dreams, what happens to your desires?
If you do not say what you need to say, what happens to your words?
If you do not cry when you need to, what happens to your tears?
The unexpressed parts of you do not simply disappear.
They remain within you.
Hurt that does not find expression through tears may cause other organs to weep.
Sir William Osler
Emotions not expressed become locked away, stored in our bodies, bones, tissues, muscles and organs. Then we feel dis-eased, and get a disease.
For example, my anger and sadness and pain shows up as red rashes on my skin.
These same emotions may show up as diabetes or cancer or some chronic ailment in others.
Our values and dreams also require a channel for manifestation in the world. If we do not express our desires and our joys, they get twisted and frustrated.
Sometimes I feel a nagging discomfort which only disappears after I write an article.
Once, I had a headache that did not subside until I danced with joyful abandon for two straight hours.
We need to express our truth in this world. We need to communicate who we are and what is important to us. We need to express ourselves. That is why we are here.
Create your own expression
To truly express yourself in the world, you can’t just fit yourself into a pre-existing role. You need to first figure out who you really are.
First you go deep within yourself, and figure out who you are. What do you want to express? What are your values? What brings you joy?
When you find the answers, your work will become a natural expression of you. Your work will flow from your core. Your innate gifts and talents will shine.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is widely known for composing the popular Moana soundtrack. He rose to fame with his hit Broadway musical Hamilton. The musical was written entirely by him. He also starred as the titular character.
Miranda did not wait for someone to write a role for him. He simply went out there and created his own musical.
Dare to be you
So allow yourself to express yourself, just as you are.
Deep within your heart there is a song. How does it sound?
Deep within your bones, there is a dance. How does it flow?
Deep within your soul there is a rhythm. How does it beat?
It is time to bring forth all that is within you. You are perfect in this very moment.
It is not about the perfection of your expression.
It is about having the courage to be who you are, and to know deep within your being that you are beautiful.
Discover and express yourself
You can work on your self-expression by expressing yourself creatively. These forms of expression require you to take a risk. There is no right or wrong, only what you express in the moment.
Let your voice shine. Don’t keep all your feelings bottled up. Don’t keep all your words within. Your throat is a pressure valve for your body, where your inner truth takes form in the world through sound. Singing frees up your inhibitions so that your emotions can find expression in the world. With music, you are free from the conventions of every day speech. You have a blank check to be yourself, truly.
Let your body speak. It has a wisdom of its own. Your body stores your unexpressed emotions. Let it show you the way. Let yourself go, surrender to your instincts. Celebrate the primacy of dance and the immediacy of physical expression. Feel the energy shoot through your legs, your chest, your hands. Turn on the music and go! Find somewhere to dance freely. Learn about your natural rhythms and your feelings through your faithful body, your physical home.
As you write you discover all that is unsaid within you. You find thoughts you never knew you had. You find emotions you never knew you had. You gain access to your own depths. You gain access to your own wisdom. Let your words pour forth. Write and write and write, whatever comes to your mind. Keep writing and writing until you feel satisfied. Keep writing until your deepest desires and fears make themselves known. Meet yourself on paper, between the letters.
You can also try any other creative endeavour, like cooking or painting.
The more you express, the more you discover. The more you discover yourself, the more you express who you really are.
Originally published at www.betterself.sg on March 24, 2019.