Do you feel the freedom to be completely yourself, expressing your full range of thoughts and emotions in any situation?
If you are like most people, you may notice that you tend to act one way in certain situations, and a completely different way in others. Between work life, family life, love life, and the world of personal interests and passions, many people feel they need to adapt themselves to accommodate each of these different facets of life. Because after all, “What would people think if they knew this about me?” Thinking this way is so common we rarely realize we even do it.
There is nothing inherently wrong with thinking this way – but it is worth noting that when you edit yourself in this way, it ultimately limits the depth of your relationships and your overall experience of life.
You will be limited in your ability to experience the sense of freedom that only comes from having confidence in allowing your own full self-expression to show itself. And you will also limit other people’s ability to truly know the real you – which in turns limits their ability to love and experience you fully. So from this perspective we can see that a lot hinges on your ability to experience the freedom of self-expression.
No matter what your personal life philosophy, we all want to end life with the fewest regrets possible. As a dying friend of mine recently said, “I have a hundred regrets, but none are significant.” Now that is a life well lived.
Along his life journey my friend accomplished many noteworthy things.
He got the training to be a leader in business. He discovered the information he needed to manage people effectively. He learned to ride a Harley. He did the work to attract a life mate who he loved and enjoyed and who was his best friend. He bought a house and then a cabin to retreat to. He learned to work with wood. He learned to laugh. He learned to cry. He championed people and allowed others to support him. He did a lot with his life.
But in the end it all came down to this:
He fully explored his inner world so that he could fully express himself to his outer world.
As a result he was himself fully and completely. He lived his dreams while projecting the expression of himself into the future. He seized the unique opportunity of living his own life and held onto that until the end. And then he died at the age of 48. Shocking, isn’t it. Yet he died complete.
So what steps can you take to build a foundation for having the freedom of self-expression?
Here is a short list of practical, lifestyle habits. You can implement these over time, and they will help you gain confidence in expressing your inner self more freely in any situation or circumstance.
- Reading books that enhance your experience of life.
- Having close friends who will support you and call you on your B.S.
- Creating opportunities to play in life at things you care about (card games, sports, dance, exercise, etc.).
- Developing a spiritual practice that you utilize consistently (if you have that belief). This can be as simple as a walk in the woods.
- Awareness and management of your favorite ‘numbing agents’ (food, TV, sex, drugs, alcohol, worry, control, apathy, soda, coffee, cigarettes) and the ability to manage them. Fasting from them on a regular basis to remind your self you have a choice.
- A place to support your consistent self-expression (performing, volunteering, leading, creating, singing, writing, etc.)
- Forming groups of like-minded people to support each other’s journey of self-expression.
- A daily program of self-care that moves and feeds your body in multiple healthy ways.
As you practice these habits keep this in mind: the price of freedom is the work it takes to create it. And though it’s not cheap, the alternative is a price you don’t want to pay.
So what does the work of self-expression look like?
Any artist will tell you that creating a great work requires two things: First, you must possess a high level of dedication to hone your craft over time. And second, you must choose appropriate boundaries for the work you want to create. This latter one might sound counterintuitive –after all, isn’t creativity all about the freedom to break boundaries. Well, sort of.
But the inevitable truth is that the first thing an artist must do is to define the type and size of canvas they want to work with. And they must choose their tools, materials and processes carefully to get the artistic outcome they seek. Once these decisions have been made, they can set out in complete freedom to do their work as they see fit. And they are likely to create a powerful reflection of their self-expression, as a result of the structure they create to support it.
But it is within the boundaries they carefully establish that they can create anything they want. It is about complete freedom within defined boundaries. If the artist never decides on the boundaries of their work, it becomes impossible to ever complete it.
In life, boundaries can look like a lot of things – but the most obvious are the boundaries you set in your relationships and with your time. The topic of boundaries is beyond the scope of this article, but we bring it up to make you aware of this: the process of self-knowing will always bring with it new frontiers of joy and excitement, along with new sets of challenges to overcome. So the question isn’t can you do it – but rather, are you ready to get a new set of problems? The kind of problems that are worth having?
Only you can decide.