Today, I am writing all about how to effectively express yourself and how it can improve your life.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”- Bruce Lee
Yes, expressing yourself out there for other people to gawk at and judge is just about as terrifying as it gets for many of us. It’s the point at which your thoughts, ideas and opinions are exposed, and that’s the point where shit gets real. They’re no longer just your thoughts, ideas or opinions; they’re parts of you that you’ve made public. It’s something I’ve had to work on (and agonise over) over the years due to my working roles in particular.
Expressing effectively can help us to connect, navigate and grow with others. Researcher Judith Glaser agrees on the importance of self-expression; she notes that authentic self-expression not only encourages us to be the best we can be, it allows us to work effectively with others.
It’s this feeling of exposure and vulnerability that keeps people back from the brink of expressing themselves out there, and it’s something of a tragedy.
So many thoughts and ideas are held back because people fear what might happen when they’re in the spotlight. You might be afraid that you’ll be judged. Perhaps the idea of promoting yourself fills you with dread, or maybe you just don’t trust yourself, or your voice (or even think you have one!).
This fear is natural and understandable, so here are 10 ways to help you overcome that and go on to express yourself more effectively.
1. Learn to let go your fear.
First and foremost you should realise that expressing your feelings is natural and there is nothing wrong about it. In some cultures it may be perceived as weakness or over sensitivity, you may well benefit in learning how to overcome such limiting cultural stereotypes. Look for people that don’t judge you when you express your feelings and spend time with them. It will train you to feel fine with it.
“I think if you
have any fear or shame, it’s really hard to want to express yourself.”
– Rumer Willis
A lot of discomfort comes from the fear that others will think badly of you in some way. Again, this isn’t a problem by itself, it’s okay to care about what others think and feel. It’s tactful. But you have to learn the difference between care and fear. The fear is rooted in the idea that someone can hurt you. The care is about you trying not to hurt others. To fear less you have to unravel the fear itself. Simply ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that can happen to me if I do this” and “may I hurt somebody by doing it”? Then reflect and consider how you move forward with those answers.
2. You’re allowed to have opinions and ideas.
It’s not a crime to have an opinion, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking that they’re not allowed to have one, let alone voice it. You’re an individual with valid thoughts, opinions and ideas, and thinking that you might be wrong or might fly in the face of what others think will only serve to dampen your voice. Your opinions and ideas are all yours, and that’s plenty good enough.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Get comfortable voicing your ideas and opinions. Remember also, they are not necessarily who you are. You are more than your opinions and ideas.
3. It’s never too late.
Some people hold back from expressing themselves out there because they convince themselves that the moment has passed or that it’s too late. That’s like thinking that you might as well not bother walking down the street because you just saw someone through the window who’s already gone that way, or thinking that it’s pointless to start eating the delicious meal you just paid a fortune for because it’s already getting cold and way past its best.
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
4. You don’t have an Achilles Heel.
Many people resist expressing themselves out there because they believe they have a fundamental flaw that will be exposed to the whole world and his wife as soon as they publish, send or launch. This sense of being vulnerable and having the whole world see your fatal flaw is a compelling and terrifying one, and while you’re as fallible as the next guy or girl, you don’t need to go looking for or create an Achilles Heel.
You don’t have one. All you have is a fear that you might. Big difference.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.” – Maya Angelou
5. Shape your environment.
You won’t put yourself out there if your environment doesn’t support you doing in your endeavour. Allow yourself to create and think at your best and stop being surrounded by the kind of clutter that makes you feel heavy and slow, have the right kind of support when you need it or even have your favourite music nearby to give you a boost of energy. An environment that flies in the face of what you want to create is only ever going to turn things into a struggle and hold you back. Instead, shape a congruent environment that brings to life what matters to you.
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey
6. Find your voice.
There’s a moment in the much-derided M. Night Shyamalan movie “Lady in the Water”. The titular lady in the water (played by the amazing Bryce Dallas Howard) is coming to grips with her place in the world and trying to explain the nature of things to Paul Giamatti. Softly asking if she can say just one thing, she says, “The moment a person finds their voice, is the moment their life takes on grace.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
The grace that comes when you find and trust your voice is breath-taking, but the sense that you don’t know what your voice is or that you don’t trust what it could be is enough to stop you from expressing yourself out there. Truth is, you only get to find that voice through exploration and hearing what’s there to be heard. In the meantime, it comes down to trust.
7. Don’t wait until an idea is perfect.
Perfectionism is a damaging fantasy. As author Oliver Burkeman puts it, it’s a “fear-driven striving to avoid the experience of failure at all costs”.
Perfectionists associate their identity with a perfect picture of how something will turn out so they can maintain the illusion of being in control and keeping fear at bay, when in fact that control is an illusion and the fear of failure is real.
Waiting for a time when your idea achieves a deific level of perfection that makes everyone weep tears made from starlight will see you waiting a really long time. And as you wait and procrastinate, you’ll be getting mightily frustrated at reality’s apparent lack of co-operation. Don’t wait for perfect. There is no perfect.
“The mask can be a limitation, but you just deal with it. You do get superhuman strength and pumpkin bombs and all this other stuff to express yourself with.” – Willem Dafoe
8. Build a layer of what matters.
Expressing yourself out there is a lot easier if you have a foundation of values. That is to say, you know deep down in your bones what matters to you most in yourself, in others and out there in the world. You know what stirs you and moves you. You know what drives you and compels you. And you know what matters to you most in yourself, in other and out there in the world.
“Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening.” – Nelson Mandela
Without that layer of what matters, you’re untethered and shifting, with no core or foundation to come back to and no real sense of which thing to try or which thing is “you”. It’s this layer of what matters that will help you find your voice, inform your expression, and do great work; all with a not-going-anywhere sense of confidence that knows you’ll be okay regardless of what happens.
9. Practice expression.
You’ve probably encountered the meme of mastery, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to really master a skill. The point is that expressing yourself and putting yourself out there takes practice. Whether teaching, painting, managing, blogging, strategising or singing, at first it feels awkward, clumsy or uncomfortable and the temptation is to stop because you clearly don’t have it down.
But writing an article, building a business, knitting a bonnet or getting to Carnegie Hall all require practice, and the stretch and discomfort inherent in that practice should be welcomed in the same spirit as the fruits that practice brings.
10. Remember being brave is just letting go.
When it comes to expressing yourself out there, there’s a point where you need to cross the threshold between what’s been in your head and what’s real. That moment takes courage and is where most people turn back, but this notion of courage and being brave isn’t as ethereal or mythical as you might think. Being brave is simply a letting go.
If the point of expressing yourself out there is creating genuine value for others, let go of the expectation that you’ll receive recognition, validation or status from the value you create. Let go of your need to prove yourself to anyone. Let go of your craving for approval. Let go of your intent to be seen as successful.
This letting go is a skill that can be learned just as you practice any other, and the freedom that comes from letting go partners beautifully with expressing yourself and putting yourself out there.
“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” – William Arthur Ward
Despite any doubts, fears and second-guessing, you’ve always been free to express yourself out there. Now you just need to let go. Go and express yourself and enjoy the liberating effect it has upon your life.
Have some of these themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
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Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book, it’ll help you live with integrity!