Self-expression is a topic I’ve mentioned in passing in the odd article, but I wanted to collate all my thoughts in one place – so that’s what I’m doing here.
In this episode I talk about why self-expression is so important, how it breeds confidence and share some tips and activities to help if this is an area you struggle with.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading
- How fashion helped me recover from anorexia
- Dress to express – a challenge to pull you from your WFH slump
- positivepsychology.com (for self-expression activity ideas)
- Jamie Windust shares their journey with self-expression and acceptance
Today I want to talk about the incredible power of self-expression – how it reduces stress, how it can increase confidence and even help with self-acceptance. I have a lot of thoughts on this and am really excited to dive in, so let’s get started.
Hello everyone, I hope you’re all doing well – welcome to episode 38 of seedling, we’re getting up there with the episode numbers aren’t we? I’ll have to do something fun when we get to 50.
Anyway, for today’s episode I wanted to talk about self-expression. It’s a topic I’ve explored here and there in various articles, but I wanted a place to collate all my thoughts on it and all the great things about it – and I thought this would be a good place to do that.
So let’s start by talking about what self-expression actually is. As usual I headed to Google and found the following definition:
“the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.”
And I also found another quote that mentioned self-expression including the choices we make and the actions we take. So at its core then, self-expression is really about sharing who we are. It asks us to tap into our feelings, our values, our beliefs and let them out, somehow. This can be in a public way or a private way. You might dye your hair pink and sing in a punk rock band to express yourself, or you might quietly journal about your feelings behind closed doors.
The key is to ensure you’re making space for self-expression. Because when we don’t, if we restrict ourselves, it’s like we’re burying part of us. This can lead to frustration and raised stress levels which can really damage our mental health over time.
Self-expression is also about acknowledging our feelings and this is important because we can only deal with the feelings we allow ourselves to feel. This is something I’ve been learning the last few months, we have to feel to heal and sometimes that can be the hardest thing but ultimately it helps us.
On top of all this, expressing ourselves helps with self-acceptance. It encourages us to shine a light on all the different parts of us, the glittery, shiny, happy parts and also the darker parts. It gives us the chance to embrace them all. And you know what follows self-acceptance? Confidence.
The more comfortable we get with sharing and expressing who we are, the more we believe in ourselves. We realise we have something to say and that it’s worth listening to.
This has certainly been my experience. Self-expression had a really key role in my recovery from anorexia. I remember vividly when I first felt the darkness I was experiencing briefly lift. It was when I was in London shopping for clothes for college.
That was the day it sunk in that I was never going back to school. I was going somewhere new. I was getting away from the people and environment that made me feel so caged. Plus, after years of being restricted by a school uniform I would get to choose what to wear, every day.
My friends and I went to cool surf-style shops, I picked up logo tees, black cords and an electric blue top with black flames creeping up the torso from Punky Fish.
I felt like I was getting a chance to create a new version of myself. Kat version 2. The Kat that studies subjects she cared about. The Kat that was fearless, happy with who she was and proud to express herself.
I saw how my future could be if things didn’t change and that terrified me. So I changed. I zipped up my cords, donned my Punky Fish top and strolled into a new beginning.
The rock music I was listening to at the time helped me tap into my angst, writing in my diary helped clarify what I wanted from life and I started to sink into who I was. The later I started getting tattoos, which felt like a form of self-creation – each one meaning something special and sharing a slice of me somewhere everyone could see.
And even now, I rely on these things to express who I am. When I was in a working-from-home slump a few months ago, I turned to my wardrobe to help me feel more me. I created a ‘dress to express’ challenge where I encouraged my followers to join me in dressing intentionally every day for a week, sharing their outfits on Instagram. And it helped immensely. I actually wrote an article on the whole experience and the psychology behind the effect our clothes have on Medium so I’ll include a link to that in the show-notes.
And at the moment I’m turning to my wardrobe, make-up and hairstyles to help shake things up a little because like many of us I am feeling stagnant being surrounded by the same four walls day after day and am craving CHANGE.
And yeah – if all of this has made you think about your own relationship with self-expression and you’d like to make more room for it in your life, here are some thoughts on ways you can do this:
Firstly you need to get in touch with how you’re feeling emotionally. You can do this in whatever way feels good to you, journaling, meditation and listening to music are my go-tos, but you might find it helpful to work with a professional, talk to friends, pull Tarot cards or go for long walks in nature, whatever helps.
And I mentioned music here because the arts are a huge part of self-expression. Even if you don’t consider yourself ‘creative’, this is an amazing area to explore. Try drawing, painting, making music, writing, taking photos, making up recipes, crafting – anything that you feel drawn to that makes you feel a little more ‘you’.
This is where things like fashion and tattoos or piercings come into play too. How do you want to express yourself to the world? What hairstyle makes you feel like your best self? What piece of clothing have you always wanted to wear but haven’t? This is the fun part too – experiment, try something on, see what fits.
If you’re struggling with any part of this I also looked up some activities that can help with self expression and some of my favourites are:
- Inside – Outside Boxes: Decorate a box with images and words on the outside to represent the qualities you show to the world. Decorate the inside of the box with images and words that represent the inner qualities that are hidden to most people.
- Inspired Poem: Think of a quote that is meaningful to you and write it at the top of a piece of paper. Add your own lines below it that expand on the quote in the way you understand it – continue for the rest of the page.
- Four Elements of You: Fold your paper into four sections. Label each section, The Earth of Me, The Air of Me, The Fire of Me, and The Water of Me. Use image and color to express your passion in life as symbolised by the four elements.
I found these and a lot more on positivepsychology.com so I’ll include a link to that in the show notes. So yes, hopefully something here will be helpful.
As you can tell, I’m a big believer in the power of self-expression, but it would be naive of me to say that it’s easy for everyone. It’s not and for some people it may not even be safe for them to be their full selves. Those in the LGBTQ+ community and those in the BAME community will no doubt know only too well what I mean here.
It’s easy for me as a white, straight, cisgender person to express myself. A lot of who I am fits with what society deems as ‘acceptable’ or ‘normal’. Those who don’t have a much tougher time. And this is why I continually want to learn more about experiences outside of my own and discover how I can fight for equality even if it’s in a really small way.
Self-expression is incredible and it should be accessible to everyone. If you feel able to, I hope this episode has given you whatever permission slip you need to express yourself because you’re awesome and the world needs to see that.
That’s all I have for you today, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, but until then you can catch up with me over on Instagram, I’m @katbluejay over there. Thanks for listening and take care.