In a culture where sharing is encouraged to the point of TMI, you would think people would have little trouble expressing themselves. Aren’t we encouraged to do that at every turn? Post the picture on Instagram. Share the video on YouTube or Facebook. Add your voice to the conversation on Twitter. We think the message is clear: express yourself to connect. But are we really connecting and if so, are we doing it honestly?
Here’s the problem: while much of this expression is indeed authentic, it can be superficial. How often to do you feel hesitant or discouraged from speaking during in-person meetings or conversations with friends? How often do you have to censor what you wear – from clothes to makeup – to conform to society’s expectations about how you should present yourself based on your job title? How often do you feel pressured only to reveal the “happy and pretty” side of your life instead of a well-rounded perspective that includes struggle, loss, and failure?
Hiding who you are allows you to literally and figuratively play it safe and sometimes for a very good reason. But on a deeper level, it stunts you. Here are five reasons why you should stop hiding and start expressing yourself, all in the name of personal growth and learning.
Hiding is a Veil of Truth
Hiding acts as a veil of truth; it stunts you, withholds you from using your gifts, and douses your inner light. Hiding takes thought, planning, and constant monitoring; in other words, it robs you of energy you could be using to do important, meaningful work and make real connections with others.
When you stop hiding you free up both energy but time. And time and energy are such precious resources! They are all we truly have while we’re here on earth and it is our responsibility to use them as wisely as we can.
If you find yourself feeling as though you are constantly living a life of untruth, restriction, and are being told to tone it down, ask yourself where you can safely express even a little more of yourself. How can you shine, as only you can, in ways that allow you grow and spread joy? How can you share your gifts in ways that help those in need all while remaining safe?
Living a meaningful life is about being yourself, warts and all, even if that means you can only safely shine a sliver of what is inside you. How can you stop hiding and start sharing authentically today?
Expression Depends on Discernment
Learning when and how we can express ourselves often begins as children and over time we develop an inner knowing of what is and is not appropriate. The challenge comes when we are repeatedly asked to not express ourselves, through appearance, speech, ideas, etc. and then end up feeling disconnected from ourselves.
It is during these times that we have to make hard choices. How can we balance our need for expression with the needs of our workplace? How can we maintain respect for others all while not necessarily agreeing with them?
Each of us has a threshold for how much we need to express ourselves, and we may be forced with hard choices if, over time, we feel too throttled and cut off from expressing our true nature. We may have to quit a job in favor of a different environment. We may have to end relationships and seek out others who are either more like-minded or more tolerant of our expression.
Expressing ourselves is a balancing act that requires us to live with respect and compassion for others but also for ourselves. Living in a state of perpetual hiding weakens us over time, so we must discern what balance works best and make choices that allow us to live freely within that balance.
Frustration = Lack of Alignment
Frustration arises when you’re forced to hide too much of yourself or only express one side of your multi-faceted humanity. Frustration at its core is caused by a lack of alignment; you either cannot express what you really want, or you are unsure of what you want and need.
Constantly having to hide who you are is a recipe for pain, suffering, and frustration because it represents a restriction. It makes you feel as though you’re unheard, unappreciated, or not valued. It restricts you because you can’t move forward in the way you’d planned.
Frustration usually represents an obstacle or boundary; instead of trying to go over, below, around, or above it,
ask yourself how you can slowly work through it to get beyond it.
Getting back into alignment may sound like some technical service you need to have performed on your car, but as a human being, it simply means you need to get back in sync with who you are. This may also mean there is no quick fix; figuring out the root of your frustration may take time and turn out to be something you hadn’t considered.
Frustration forces you to face your expectations. It requires that you think about what you value, what rewards you, and what your real end goal is. What do you need to express and why? What do you need to accomplish and how will that make you feel? What is really keeping you from moving forward (it may not be what you think). Taking time to figure out the link between expression and alignment allows you to live truthfully and goes hand in hand with being able to discern when you can and cannot express yourself.
Releasing Old Fear Frees You
Many times we continue to self-censor out of habit. Each time we change jobs or start a new relationship, we drag our old conditioning along as baggage and often never stop to ask if we should be bringing those suitcases along or flinging them out with the garbage.
Living on autopilot with our old fears keeps us from growing and learning so it’s important when fear strikes to work on getting to the root of it (abandonment, rejection, reprimand, being made fun of, etc.) and asking if that risk is a) still there and b) if it is, is it still as great a threat as it once was. Many times the point of us changing jobs and moving on to new relationships is to fix issues with expression; don’t you owe it to yourself to at least try and face your fears and test out whether they’re still valid?
By releasing old fears, you again free up energy and time to do other more important things that bring meaning, joy, and purpose to your life. You also gain slowly gain confidence in yourself and shore up the foundation of your self-esteem. Outdated fears are like chains tied around your ankles, unlock and toss them away, so they no longer hold you back and drag you down.
By releasing old fears, you reinforce the fact that you have inherent worth regardless
of how you are viewed by others.
Your worth is within you and does not need external validation.
Letting Go of the Past Makes Room for the Future
You are a work in progress, and because change is inevitable, it’s important to understand that what worked in the past may not work in the future. What you feel compelled to express now may not be what was important to you in the past.
Expression works like a kaleidoscope; turn the dial a click or two and some things change, but some things stay the same. Some things come into greater focus, and some things recede into the background. Certain colors become brighter while others fade.
Evolving who you are and what you express changes. If it doesn’t, you’ll stagnate. And if you’re stagnating you’ll know because you’ll feel frustrated, out of alignment, and you’ll be spending way too much energy trying to fit in with the crowd vs. understanding when and where you can best be of service.
Commiting to express who you are is a daily exercise. It engages you on every level – mental, emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and financial. It allows you to draw from the past, be in the present, and build the future. Allow yourself to honor the old, discard it, and move confidently toward the new.
Expressing ourselves as human beings is a critical part of living a meaningful life. It is only when we hide that we lose connection with ourselves and ultimately with others. Without expression we essentially give up on ourselves; we stop learning and growing. We stop living. By stepping into our truth, discerning the best ways and places to express ourselves, realigning with our values, letting go of old fears, and making way for the future, we can continually use our time and energy in ways that allow us to grow, learn, and improve our world.
To express yourself needs a reason, but expressing yourself is the reason.