This page will address the barriers to experiencing meaningful expression, and their solutions. We all find our voice squandered from time to time. Let’s grow wisely forward, and work toward a more purposeful life through the Expression cornerstone.
“Fear and creativity are conjoined twins. What holds people back from being creative is that in order to murder the fear, they end up killing off the creativity as well.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
You could argue that fear only has a place because we manifest it. By enabling our fears, we may become the barrier to our self expression. And yet, fear is a necessary bi-product of our creative growth. We may feed our fear before singing a song, writing a sentence, or starting a business. It’s there to protect us, after all. Yet in this context, fear may be an overwhelming barrier that can take control of nearly every attempt to express ourselves. Over time fear can foster isolation and attach itself to self-expression; which may lead to a fear of ‘the other’. This manifestation of fear can then inhibit our ability to see the array of options available to us.
Everyone is creative! As children we find great ease in accessing and expressing the creative spark. However as we ‘grow up’ through adolescence to adulthood, the fear of consequences can begin to inhibit that same creative spark that ignited our senses when we were young. Despite an inherent craving for creativity, in society and our minds, we can still be hampered by fear. Embarrassment for example, a form of fear, can dampen our desire to sing or speak in front of a large group. We still though seek out innovation. What would happen if fear wasn’t holding us back?
We break down fear, not only as a hindrance to expression but as a hindrance to meaning as a whole, in another section. We strongly encourage you to check out that area of the website, where you’ll learn how to address fear, increase your fear literacy, and even learn about the 4 Keys to Conquering Fear.
Below are a few fears related to our own expression and ways we might challenge them.
I’m afraid I’m not a creative person
This idea may have started long ago when out rational minds dulled out any possibility of creation.Try broadening your definition of expression, and explore past examples of times you’ve overcome a difficult situation through creative means.
I’m afraid to fail
Don’t pass your exams and you won’t get employed. Don’t have a job and you won’t have a place to live. These precarious situations, although important in the game of life, make the prospect of failure seem vast. This kind of fear can be crippling; yet some of the best entrepreneurs, artists and innovators fail often. New things come with failure. So find ways to cultivate a sense of resilience, and you may find your fear of failure becomes less and less daunting.
I’m afraid of the unknown
Expression inherently involves a level of unpredictability and uncertainty, we cannot know how something we are creating will turn out until we have finished. Drafting an essay, painting a watercolor, filming a music video, or starting a company all require untold forms of self-expression that we cannot account for until we manifest them.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood
Let go of the preconceived ideas and venture into unknown territory. Enjoy this journey of unpredictability. Do things without planning. Ride your bike or drive around without a map or GPS. Wander aimlessly. Get lost. Do the things that are next to normal.
Rejection Therapy was invented by an IT tech in order to curb his fear of rejection. The game has only one rule: you must have one person reject you every day. This means asking radical questions and making requests, to the point that you will get rejected. Sit and steep in this feeling of rejection or for greater potency take the 100 Day Challenge. Note how the imposition of fear can be significantly reduced through this exercise.
What fears are getting in the way of my expression?
Are my “should’s” getting in the way how I express myself?
Am I willing to experience rejection?
*Questions above adapted from Willingness Questions at Conscious Leadership.
The Wall of Cool
We’ve all been around someone who is encased by a Wall of Cool. The wall is strong. The water of meaning and life is not flowing through. They’ve created a blockage.
You, standing down at the bottom of reservoir, ask that they open the waterway a bit to give the flora and fauna some life-giving water. Yet they stand at the top of their Wall of Cool and shout, “No!”
Metaphor aside, the Wall of Cool can be a hindrance to Expression as a cornerstone of meaning. And it usually has to do with turning down an invitation, thinking something abstract and weird may be lame, or simply offering up a big fat no.
Luckily there are a few cures. Well, more so ways of expression that can help you be less of a “no …” person, and more of a “yes, and …” kind of individual.
Five Ways to Break Your Wall
- Remember, life is too short to conform to myths of ‘cool’. First things first, learn more about the Wall of Cool!
- Embrace your weird. Researchers have found that being unique triggers exploration and learning. Create a culture of weird around you. Oscar Wilde once said that “the imagination imitates.”
- Be yourself. When you are you, honestly assessing your limitations becomes a standard. Be authentic and give your 100%. You’re not perfect, and you will make mistakes. Be humble and know thyself. In that way, you’re Walls become more transparent.
- Redefine your concept of self-expression. Experiment boldly. Think creatively, not reactively. Try to not self-criticize so much. Doubt may always be there; you must create, despite those feelings.
- Be free in your own actions (freedom of expression, one might say). You are in control of your own feelings and actions. Most of all, you are in control of your own voice. To be a true creator, you must find your unique voice. Tone, style, vocabulary even … these all inform the ways you express yourself and your personality.
Disconnected Culture & Language Barriers
You may run into some cultural barriers in how you effectively communicate and express yourself in the world. Below are a few ways to think about culture and how to connect/express in different contexts than you’re used to.
Create a Nourishing Culture
A barrier to expression lies in a lack of exposure to nourishing culture and people. Some argue that globalization is one of the main reasons for our diminishing culture. Cultural Imperialism occurs when a more powerful civilization imposes and promotes their culture on a less powerful society. Cities become clones of one another. Fast food chains become gourmet food in foreign countries. Multinational corporations exploit workers and degrade societal values. Today, you can find a myriad of examples of how the imposition of Western commercial media and their products drown out local cultural history and influences. Some, like Yuval Noah Harari, argue that in a century or so, we will essentially have only one global culture.
Focus on Cultural Literacy
Cultural literacy plays a key role across societies, by helping us understand a sense of place in society. If you are culturally literate, you have a solid understanding of beliefs, customs, and values of another society. You are able to understand the differences and are able to communicate without bias, prejudice or judgment.
One avenue of attaining cultural literacy is through literature. Reading historical records or novels by native authors, may be one of the best ways to help you understand how other people express themselves. Humor, diction, flow … all of these literary elements can help clue you in to how to connect with other cultures.
Three books we highly recommend for putting culture into perspective are:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” – Mark Twain
There are a host of reasons to travel. That said, we may still experience a sense of anxiety when traveling to a strange land, because of potential barriers we’ve imposed on ourselves over the years. Take some baby steps. Book a train ticket to a major city and explore a restaurant that piques your curiosity. See how people express themselves culturally through their offering of cuisine. Try an Airbnb Experience, where locals can take you on unique cultural immersions in countries all around the world. Get Google Alerts for cheap tickets at random times throughout the year. Kaizen your curiosity. It may lead you to some remarkable places.
“To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative – to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception – is worse.” – Malcolm Gladwell
If you have an inherent fear of people, you may isolate yourself and build walls of emotion. This omits the possibility of self expression, and that of expression to others. Your relationship to your partner, children, co-workers, relatives and friends are all possible outlets of expression. Here are a few ways to be more open with people.
In an age of cramped necks, from looking at our smartphones for an average of over 34 hours per week, take a break from the electronic world and ease into a conversation with a stranger. Where are you from? What’s your story? We’re not alone in our curiosity for the world, and we benefit from friendly reminders of that.
Express yourself and your story. Surrender to and remain with the joy of cultural expression.
Some of us may have barriers in our lives that disable our ability to experience compassion or love toward ourselves. When we are able to love ourselves, we value our happiness and well-being. In these cases we are able to harness an unconditional support, caring and compassion for ourselves. Having self-love enables us to overcome difficult emotional situations, develop positive relationships, and improve our problem-solving skills. Without a barrier to self-love, we’re better equipped to recognize negative behaviors and habits in our lives which lead to negative thought patterns. Fear of being vulnerable is lessened.
You can learn more on the subject of Self Love within our section on the subject. Click the below button to check it out.
Try Some Suggestions
Being mindful allows you to understand what you think, feel and want.
Act on needs rather than wants. This allows you to move beyond automatic reactions and behavioral patterns that keep you stuck in the past. Focus on what keeps you centered, strong and in forward motion.
Forgive yourself and accept that you’re human too.
- While maintaining a facade of connectivity, our media landscape has been scorched, largely bringing out the worst in us. It can be a relief to find some ways to connect the online world with actual life again.
- Social Media isn’t going away any time soon. Don’t be afraid to disconnect from your online, news or social media. It will all be there when you get back!
- Don’t turn to social media to quell your loneliness and isolation.
- Reclaim conversation and lean in to a world of better connection. In a divided world, we have the responsibility to reshape communication into something more engaging and respectful. Meaningful conversation that is relevant to you can be intentional and transformative.