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Self-expression is not just about you, the person. It’s also about the environment you create, the environments that allow you to be yourself in ways that feel authentic to you.
This idea of self-expression is often put in the parameters of reacting to something. As a result of feeling stifled in some way, then you speak up and you express yourself. Someone does something or says something. then you react in a way that allows you to express yourself.
I wanted to use this video to share that self-expression can be a proactive practice and to give you three ways for you to utilize and honor self-expression, both online and IRL.
The three ways are:
- to own and share your story,
- to seek your tribe, and
- to practice what you seek.
The first way is simply by owning your story. Often times we have life-changing events, positive and negative, and for the ones that we don’t view as positive, we often tuck those away or either pretend it didn’t happen, or consider ourselves survivors of that thing, but we never actually work through all the emotions attached to that experience. So as a result of that, and you probably know where I’m going, you get your own emotional baggage.
But sharing your story, whether it’s through a blog or in person, is a great way for you to take ownership of that. It allows you to go through the experience not from the space of the person that it’s happening to, but now as the observer of the experience, which is often a more empowering place.
Why? Because, contrary to popular belief, time does not heal wounds. Time just goes by. You heal wounds by addressing the thing and being able to own your story allows you to work through any guilt associated with your part in that story, as well as, of course, giving you an opportunity to inspire, motivate, or even just help someone acknowledge their story.
How? Simply by saying what you feel. As someone who provides information for a living–I don’t sell a product, I sell services primarily. What I remind myself and what I encourage you to do is instead of just thinking of things to share, share what you think about.
Do you see that difference? One of them kind of feels like it’s about just adding to the streams of information, to try to stay relevant and connect with people and say what you think, and those are good. But if you really want to feel your way through the experience, instead of just thinking of things to share, share what you’re actually thinking about!
What things are of interest to you when you’re going about your day, whether you’re on your computer, or talking to friends, or you’re in a school environment or at work: wherever you are, what are the things that you would actually talk about? If you initiated a conversation, what would it be about?
Or, what existing conversations stay top-of-mind for you? Focus more on that. It’s not about staying tuned into what’s going on, it’s about staying tuned it to what’s catching your attention constantly, and then sharing your perspectives on that.
So that’s how you do that very first step of sharing and owning your story.
The second way is to seek your tribe. For me, that tribal seeking started when I had my first daughter and left corporate and realized that who I was being all those years in pursuing law and all that–who I was being was a version of myself. It was the version of myself that needed to feel validated in her professional choices and I didn’t want to be her anymore.
For me, becoming someone’s mother held this big mirror up to my face to hold me accountable for who I wanted to be. And my choices, whether they were going in the direction of who I wanted to be, or the direction I thought I’d better become.
So seeking my tribe gave me access to the resources I need to shore up that decision. Making a choice is often just that first step. Then you have to stand in that choice repeatedly, and seeking your tribe helps you to do that.
For me, recognizing that people like Leo Babauta were out there living this location independent life as an unschooling parent; finding out about people like Hiro Boga who constantly is all up in my heart space with what it means to really take ownership of yourself in so many ways; people like Celia Ward who are out there serving up vulnerability as a vital resource for authentic expression and showing up as a reminder of that for herself and for others.
Those are the things that happen when you seek your tribe: you see yourself in various stages of your journey, and you get to support other people in various stages of theirs.
Why? Because seeking your tribe is about creating community, and community heals. Being a part of a tribe of women and men and everyone in between who is looking at life through a similar lens–for me, it affords me an opportunity to feel like instead of me walking along a path like this and having to hold my head high, I’m walking hand-in-hand with millions of other people who have similar lenses through which they see the world and different priorities that mesh with mine.
So that’s how being a part of a community offers you an opportunity to heal.
How? Well one thing that I do is utilize Google Alerts. Whatever topic you’re interested in, adding to that dialogue or just following that dialogue–whatever level of participation you want to include–having a Google Alert allows you the opportunity to make that choice on a daily basis.
So I have a “radical self-expression” Google Alert, I have a “self-expression” Google Alert, I have a “woman’s intuition” Google Alert. Just go wild with it and then narrow it down as you start to really refine your focus. But Google Alerts is one good way.
Another thing is to join a meetup group or just some community group that’s really focused on what it is that you’re interested in, and you can again meet likeminded people. I think it’s really important to recognize our tendency to defend our vacuums–to say, “I’m the only person who feels like this and I feel like this and this is why I’m upset,” and you can feel all of that. But when you start to create community around it, start to build a tribe around it, then you get outside of your own head a little bit and you start to learn and you start to share, and hopefully you start to grow in whatever your practices or interests are.
And then the last way is to stay curious. Stay in alignment with your desires. I think there’s so many instances where we’re not really sure what we want, but we’re pretty clear what we don’t want. We know what doesn’t feel good. And curiosity is a great way to stay attuned to what feels good for you, or just what’s interesting to you constantly, because that’s how we grow.
I think self-expression and self-inquiry and self-awareness, all of these resources offer us the opportunity to take ownership of ourselves and our stories and to create community around ourselves and our stories and to be able to support other people who follow along the same path or view things through the same lens.
So that’s the why and the how and the what for that second one!
And the third way to practice self-expression is to be the environment you seek; in other words, practice what you seek. One easy way that I do that constantly is to check my energy around self-expression. So let me go into the how and then I’ll back up a little bit and tell you why.
So my how is if I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed and I see a woman dressed a way that I don’t feel connected to, or maybe she has on a shirt that’s just cut really low and her cleavage is showing–just a random example–but whatever I see, I don’t feel connected to for whatever reason so I might scroll past it and be like, “Why does she do that?”
I can feel how I feel, because that’s okay and then check my energy around it and say, “Wait a minute: why?” So because her shirt is cut low or whatever the thing is, insert your potential issue here: is that something that I need to feel a sense of–an adversarial space towards it? Or can I just check it and say, “Well that’s her and that’s okay because she gets to do that. It has nothing to do with me.”
The same way that I would want someone to afford me that respect to back up as I make the decisions that I make about how I choose to carry myself and how I choose to live. I would want that and so I need to practice that environment. I need to be that environment myself and to check my energy around that.
So that’s the simple how, just constantly checking your energy around whatever you encounter.
And then the why, obviously I think is because of karma. I think whatever it is that we put out is what we get back. And the energy around self-expression is no different. So if I want to cultivate an environment where I feel that I can be myself with lack of judgement or just open dialogue, then I need to be that environment so that that’s what I’m cultivating.
So that’s it. Those are three simple things that you can start doing to practice self-expression. Try them out, let me know how they feel, or if you have your own ways that you practice self-expression, both online and in real life! Peace!
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Akilah S. Richards is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is a six-time author, digital content writer, and lifestyle coach who writes passionately about self-expression, womanhood, modern feminism, location independence and the unschooling lifestyle. Connect with Akilah on Instagram, Tumblr, or her #radicalselfie e-home, radicalselfie.com. Read her articles.
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