How to Express Yourself
THREE TOOLS FOR AUTHENTIC SELF-EXPRESSION
If you struggle with expressing yourself, knowing how you feel, and speaking up, I know how painful it can be. You agonize over decisions, you second guess yourself, you punish yourself for not saying what is on your mind, and berate yourself for not knowing how you truly feel. I have been there.
I am Larissa, and for much of my life I had a hard time expressing myself. I kept saying and feeling that I did not know how I felt or what I wanted. I deferred to others to make decisions for me. When I had to make a decision I was a procrastination machine and a vacillation engine. You could count on me for not making up my mind. And if I did, you could count on me for changing it within minutes, hours, or days. Gosh, even going to a restaurant and picking a meal was mini-torture!
I don’t know if trouble with self-expression is unique to women, I suspect not. But I am part of a women’s group where we recently dove into the topic. As part of this group, we come in with video to share something with the group. And one of the members confided that she had a hard time doing this. It wasn’t because she was critical of her video presence or how she looked. No, she admitted that the thought in her mind was “who would want to hear anything I have to say?” Just WOW! Just about every one of us could relate.
The hidden costs of not expressing yourself
Now, you might be thinking this is not such a big deal. After all, keeping your thoughts, feelings, and opinions to yourself does have some benefits. You do not rock the boat. You do not draw attention to yourself. And if you are a person who likes to keep the peace, keeping quiet may have been an acquired survival skill. Likewise, if you experienced the disappointment of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, that pain may have trapped you in silence, believing that if you did not admit your dreams you could not be hurt. I get it. Like I said, I was unable to express myself authentically for most of my life.
But there are hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden costs to keeping quiet. When you are unable to express yourself authentically you can:
— Have a hard time making authentic and deep connections with others. This means friends, family, and even partners. You may find that you are the good listener, the supporter, rarely opening up and receiving that support from those closest to you.
— End up with results that truly upset you and feel that life happens to you rather than you creating your life.
— Perpetuate the message that what you feel doesn’t matter and what you have to say is not worth hearing. In other words, you are not worthy.
— Find yourself with physical manifestations such as stress, heart, and throat issues from bottling up your feelings, thoughts, and ideas.
Learn how to express yourself with these three tools for authentic self-expression
So, what changed in my life that I went from a silent, suffering, indecisive procrastinator to an expressive artist, speaker, and writer? First, there was an awakening. You may have already had this in your life. If you are here, I am guessing you did. The awakening can come in many guises. For me, it was being laid off from a job I had had for 17 years, followed a year later by my son’s early departure for college. But the awakening can also be a deep depression, the unexpected end of a long-term relationship, a health crisis, death of a loved one, or a natural disaster just to name a few.
The awakening will propel you on a journey of the soul. You will seek your higher purpose, you will yearn for more meaning, authenticity, and honest self-expression in your life.
To reach your goal will take a new mindset…and requires a shift from logical thought and self-limiting beliefs to intuitive and body-centered wisdom. Gut feelings. Intuitions. And creativity is my favorite way of accessing this kind of wisdom. What follows are three tools to help you find your voice, connect to your feelings, and begin the practice of authentic self-expression.
1. Self-expression with intuitive painting: An exercise to connect to your move stuck emotion
– A jar for water
– A long-handled paintbrush
– 2-4 colors of acrylic paint that you like
– A canvas. I suggest at least 24 x 36, but go with what feels good. Larger is kind of easier, actually. And allows you to really move your body as you paint. Mine was 36" x 48".
– Something to protect surfaces you don't want paint getting onto. I use newspapers or old paper grocery bags. A thick canvas drop cloth is great, too.
– An easel or place to lean your canvas
- Set up your canvas, ideally so you can stand at in front of it, like perched on an old chair, on an easel, or even hanging on a wall. But remember, this will get messy so cover all the surfaces you want to protect.
- Get your music going. I like listening to a few favorite tunes I use to inspire me. Then try some tribal drumming music or flute music. Something that has rhythm and is perhaps unpredictable. Change it up and see how that shifts your energy and painting.
- Start with one color. Put that on your palette, and make a mark on your canvas. Notice how you feel. Are you scared? What is your inner critic saying? Continue to add more of this color to the canvas. Experiment with how much water is on your brush. Let the paint get really watery and run down the canvas. Then, turn your canvas 90°, paint more.
- When you are ready, switch to your second color. If your second color is complimentary to your first, know that when they mix you will create a brown tone. If you do not want this effect, wait for your first layer to dry. If you are using primary colors (red, yellow, blue) your second color will harmonize with your first, no need to wait for it to dry. For example, if you start with red and change to yellow, you will get some really nice oranges where the two overlap. See the image below for how yellow, red, and blue mix to make green, orange, and purple. To see color mixing in action watch this video.
- Allow your mind to release the need to make something recognizable and enjoy the abstractness of what your soul is creating. You may find that dripping paint completely captivates you. You may feel a rise of deep emotion and make a violent mark on the canvas. Everything is acceptable and right!
- Now add your third color. Remember this process is about moving the energy (emotion, feeling, thought) that is in your mind and body out into physical form. This is an experience, not a job. This is an expressive art form, not a finished product.
- When you are at a resting place, step away from your canvas. Let is sit. When you look at it, notice what thoughts and feelings arise. You have just created energy-medicine art!
Allow your body to move as you paint. Step back so your arm has to reach to get the paint on the surface. Breathe! If you have an area of your body that is tight or painful, move gently to stretch that area while breathing into it. Move only as much as you feel you are able, and see what feelings arise.
If negative or self-critical feelings and thoughts surface, use your journal to note them down. Getting them out of your head, out of your mind and onto paper will free space for you to connect with your soul more deeply.
Hop over here to see an example of this process and read about my experience freeing up frozen shoulder.
2. Learn how to express yourself: self-expression through affirmation
In some cases, difficulties with self-expression manifest as energetic blocks in the throat chakra. This can become an actual physical issue with the throat, and even manifest as an over- or under-active thyroid. In addition to including creative expression in your weekly routine, you can also introduce new thoughts to your mind through affirmations such as these from Louise Hay.
Throat: Avenue of expression. Channel of creativity
New Thought: I open my heart and sing the joys of love.
Sore throat: The inability to speak up for one’s self. Swallowed anger. Stifled creativity. Refusal to change.
New thought: It’s okay to make noise. I express myself freely and joyously. I speak up for myself with ease. I express my creativity. I am willing to change.
Thyroid: Humiliation. Feeling like you never get to do what you want. When is it going to be your turn?
New thought: I move beyond old limitations and now allow myself to express freely and creatively.
TIP: You can add these new thoughts to your painting and create an intentional manifesting painting!
3. Learn how to express yourself: self-expression through energy medicine
Donna Eden teaches exercises for helping move energy in your body, and in her book Energy Medicine for Women, she teaches an exercise to clear, balance, and move energy in the Thyroid. Her daughter Tatanya Dahlin demonstrates in this video.
Final thoughts on learning how to express yourself
As you begin working with your creativity and your energy to heal your self-expression, another important component is your intuition. Trusting your gut feelings and intuition is a cornerstone of being able to express yourself authentically and confidently. A great exercise for building your intuition is the 5-Minute Scribble exercise here.