If I told you to shut up, that you could speak only this way, and that you had permission to only speak in specific places or situations, how would you react? You’d tell me to take a hike, to get out of town, to get away from you and stop telling you what to do. In short, to let you live and speak as you like.
Yet there may be a part of you that does this to yourself every day. The part of you that censors what you say and how you act. You may be following a set of rules that says you must be polite, that you shouldn’t say what you think if it isn’t nice. You may allow your sense of humor free reign at home but not at work.
Many of these rules work well for you – you live in the way you want, doing what serves your values and goals, for a life of fulfillment and joy.
I suspect that many of us chafe under these self-imposed rules. When I ask clients and students why they want to write or create art, they cite self-expression as the number one reason for wanting to create. After hearing this reason so many times, I have come to believe that self-expression is vital. Yet we don’t give ourselves permission to be expressive. If you are not living the life you want, you may look at how you censor yourself.
How honest do you allow yourself to be? In what situations do you feel fully self-expressed? By self-expressed, I mean that you feel comfortable stating your opinion, even if it differs from the norm or from others’ viewpoints. You feel comfortable being humorous and in asking questions. Your version of self-expression is different from everyone else’s.
I offer some ways to assess your level of self-expression. In the tradition of my coaching, I extend a few questions for you to ponder. Feel free to write about them in your journal or engage in a discussion with a friend or your coach about them.
- Notice what stops you from expressing yourself.
- Where do you self-censor the most? (work/colleagues, your intimate partnership, friends, family, children, other)
- What is at stake if you speak up?
- What is lost or gained by self-censorship?
- If you were to be more self-expressed, where would you start?
- What permission do you need to remove the bonds of self-censorship?
I am not telling you to head out into the world with your voice as a wild gun, telling people off left and right. Speaking up requires thoughtfulness and courage. Go forward with an experimental mind.
Start small and be willing to make mistakes. As with any new endeavor, gauge your success on your efforts rather than results.
For instance, you may speak up at a meeting. You may not get the response you expected, or even be sure of the response. Beware of going home and saying, “No one said “anything when I spoke up so I failed. I won’t speak up again.”
If we are all able to speak up more authentically, then we are able to have real and true relationships with the people and situations in our lives. We will feel more satisfied and the world will benefit more greatly from our contribution.
Through coaching, I have worked with all of my clients to help them speak from their hearts for more peace and fulfillment. I work on this authentic self-expression every day, in my words and writing.
Have courage, speak up and let us know how it goes in a comment below.