What is it that gets in the way of me truly expressing myself?
- Wanting to please other people and make sure that I act in a way that makes them feel reassured and accepted
- Wanting to be the best, to be noticed or to be rewarded in some way for taking part…always after that A* prize of recognition
- Fear/shame/embarrassment of not wanting to reveal myself as some kind of inept imposter
- The ‘children should be seen and not heard’ mantra from childhood
- Not wanting my expression to spiral into an uncomfortable emotional reaction, because I’ve been holding back for so long, and there is so much to say
I used to secretly think that expressing myself through wearing make-up and nice clothes was for other ‘insecure‘ people and in my arrogance, liked to believe that I was somehow better than anyone who chose to express themselves in this way, because ‘I didn’t need to’. At the time I didn’t see it for what it was – an excuse that thinly veiled my biggest fear: criticism from others. I thought that if I chose not to express myself through my clothes or my make up, then others wouldn’t judge me. If I just stayed silent hopefully no one would notice me and I could avoid being singled out. I failed to appreciate that choosing NOT to express myself is still an expression. Regardless of whether or not I choose not to define myself through my expression, I will still be defined by other people, perhaps in a way that suits them (and maybe not me).
What if I have a responsibility to express, not just because it’s an integral part of who I am, but also because staying silent actually hurts me and others?
How do I express myself other than in words and how can I use each moment to express myself – even if it’s just to me?
What would happen if, instead of hiding behind those uncomfortable feelings of fear and shame that prevent me from speaking my truth, I acknowledged them and spoke the truth of what I was feeling?
I’m learning that when I force myself to express for some goal that I’ve set myself, for example making sure I speak up in a meeting for the sake of being heard, I get distracted by how I’m ‘performing’ and feel anxious about how I’m coming across. Because I’m so worried about the outcome, I feel panicked and communicate nervously, spluttering out garbled sentences in the most unnatural way. But when I let go of wanting or needing to be accepted by the audience and accept myself first, I allow myself to express from what I truly feel. I feel connected to the subject and other speakers and I actually enjoy expressing myself for its own sake. It feels real and others respond to that truth and connection.
I’m learning that there are a thousand ways to express ourselves as the true women that we are, and that every moment is an opportunity to express myself, if I choose it to be. As well as the more obvious ways of expressing through being more open and honest with myself and others and through physical ways such as my hair and what I choose to wear, other ways are just as important: how I move and hold my body, the quality of my smile and knowing the difference between expressing a truth and reacting against something.
What does expression mean to you and how do you express yourself as a woman?
By Bryony, London, UK