Express Yourself Better: A Guide to Self Expression

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Knowing how to express yourself is crucial for living an authentic life. It helps you to keep in touch with who you really are, and is a key component of confidence.

Therefore, it is important that you take time to understand yourself and find ways you can express yourself comfortably.

Self Expression Meaning

Self-expression is the ability to convey your thoughts, feelings, and ideas effectively, authentically, and without fear of judgment or rejection. There are various channels of self-expression, including speech, writing, music, art, fashion, etc.

Many people hide their true feelings and who they are. Avoidance and hiding are also learned behaviors due to negative responses you might have received from others when you authentically expressed yourself. Therefore, you hold back from expressing yourself due to fear of emotional hurt, being shamed, ridiculed, disapproved, or rejected.

However, suppressing who you are, your feelings and your ideas inhibit your ability to live authentically. It can also lead to communication problems or strained relationships.

Self-expression is crucial for personal development and growth and living a happy life. It requires you to explore your thoughts, emotions, values and needs leading to self-awareness and a deeper understanding of yourself. It also allows you to own your identity be authentic.

Furthermore, self-expression can inspire creativity, connection with others, and foster a sense of belonging. Ultimately, it promotes mental and emotional well-being.

How to Express Yourself

Here are some tips on how to express yourself better. Not everyone will feel the same about them, or even choose to do all of them, but that’s ok!

We all express ourselves in different ways, which is part of the fun of living and learning.

1. Understand the Ways You Can Express Yourself

There are many different forms of self-expression, including:

Verbal Communication

It is a powerful form of self-expression that includes both speaking and writing. This channel of communication allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, and ideas through language.

Verbal communication can be structural or creative. It can be used in a variety of settings, including personal conversations, public speaking, and online communication. It is also a powerful tool for establishing a deeper level of connection with others as it enables you to share your perspectives, communicate your needs, learn from others, etc.

Verbal communication allows you to convey information and expresses your personality, values, and emotions.

Improving your verbal communication skills enables you to interact and engage with others more effectively. Speak clearly and concisely. Take time to enunciate your words and avoid speaking too fast. Make eye contact with other people and use your body language effectively to support what you are saying. Practice active listening and make an effort to understand the other person’s point of view.

Although verbal communication is one of the most commonly used channels for self-expression, some people are uncomfortable with it. If it is not your preferred method of self-expression, explore other forms of expression and identify what you’re comfortable with or which is most effective for you.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication involves using your body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and silence to convey your attitude and emotions that may not be explicitly stated. Sometimes, non-verbal communication expresses more than the actual words being said.

You can intentionally use non-verbal communication to express yourself. However, be aware that non-verbal communication carries the risk of misinterpretation. It is also culturally influenced, and different gestures and expressions may have varying meanings in different contexts and cultures.

The use of non-verbal communication also varies depending on personal factors such as mood, past experiences, and personality. For example, if one has experienced trauma, their non-verbal communication can indicate defensiveness or fear.

Artistic and Creative Expression

Some people prefer to express themselves artistically or creatively through various art forms such as drawing, painting, dance, sports, martial arts, sculpting, music, theatre, etc.

For some people, artistic expression is their way of communicating their inner thoughts and emotions in ways they cannot, either through verbal or non-verbal communication.

Although artistic expression can be aligned with your career or purpose, it could also be simply an interest or hobby. Furthermore, artistic expression has numerous benefits, including improved mood, reduced stress, and enhanced cognitive functioning. It can be used as a therapeutic tool for personal growth and healing.

Personal Style

Your personal style concerns how you dress, groom, and present yourself to the world. Different factors influence it, including culture, personal preference, and self-identity.

Your style tells a lot about your personality, self-identity, values, and interests. For example, if you like to dress in brightly-colored clothes, it may communicate that you are confident and outgoing. On the other hand, if you like to dress in simple designs and muted tones, it may indicate that you are reserved.

A stylish ma in a pink tweed jacket.
Do you express yourself stylishly?

Some people’s personal style includes unconventional hairstyles and clothing to express their desire to break free from societal expectations or as a way of expressing their unique identity. You can use your personal style to challenge social norms and express your individuality. It can also be a source of self-confidence and personal empowerment.

Lifestyle Choices

Your lifestyle can also be a form of self-expression. The people you associate with, how you spend your time, and where you spend your money can reflect your priorities, values, interest, and worldview.

For example, becoming a vegetarian can express your commitment to environmental sustainability and animal welfare. On the other hand, travel can be a way to express your desire for exploration and your curiosity about new experiences. Overall, your lifestyle choices should be in alignment with your personal values.

2. Understand Yourself

When you understand yourself, you express yourself better. Understanding yourself enables you to identify your thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, opinions, perspectives, and preferences so that you can communicate them to others more effectively. It fosters authenticity and confidence.

Therefore, take time to reflect on who you are. What are your values and beliefs? What motivates you? What does success mean to you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your personality traits? When do you feel empowered and confident? Which activities do you enjoy? What is your life’s purpose?

Introspection, journaling, and self-inquiry are great tools for self-discovery. They will help you to gain insight into your emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors.

Other ways to better understand yourself include practicing mindfulness, taking a personality test, and seeking feedback from friends, family members, and colleagues.

Practicing mindfulness can help you to cultivate self-awareness. On the other hand, taking a personality test will enable you to better understand your personality traits, how you relate with others and your behaviors.

3. Choose Your Preferred Means of Expression

The best forms of self-expression vary from person to person. There is no one right way; it all depends on your preference and what resonates with you. This is why going on a self-discovery journey is important to understand who you are, what you like, and the best ways to express yourself.

When deciding on the best ways to express yourself, consider your interests and what comes naturally to you. Perhaps you are talkative and like to engage with people directly through words. Or, you prefer to write, e.g., journaling or poetry. Maybe you are good at playing instruments or drawing.

Write down the different ways you like to express yourself. Also, experiment with other forms of self-expression. You may discover a new form of self-expression that you enjoy.

4. Acknowledge Your Anxieties and Risks Toward Self-Expression

It is normal to feel anxious about expressing yourself. However, don’t let it hold you back. You can overcome the anxiety and fear. To overcome these anxieties and fears, identify what is holding you back from authentically expressing yourself. Perhaps you worry that you are not good enough. Or you fear being judged or rejected.

Recognize and acknowledge that self-expression comes with a risk of disapproval, rejection, or misunderstanding. Yet, deliberately choose to express yourself in ways that are comfortable for you.

You may also notice that your mind is bombarded with self-criticism or negative self-talk. Challenge the negative thoughts and reframe them with more positive and empowering thoughts.

Ease into self-expression in small ways that feel safe and comfortable to you. For example, talking to a trusted or expressing your thoughts and emotions through journaling. Then, over time, try other forms of self-expression.

If you have difficulty managing and overcoming your fears and anxieties of self-expression, seek support from a professional such as a therapist or coach. They will help you identify your core anxieties and fears and their source and offer coping tools.

5. Accept That Not Everyone Will Accept You

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone accepted and approved of us? Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Beliefs, values, personality, and preferred methods of self-expression vary from person to person, and so do what we consider as acceptable ways of self-expression.

Therefore, it is okay that not everyone will accept you or how you express yourself. You cannot control other people’s actions, thoughts, or how they respond to you. However, their acceptance, disapproval, or rejection does not define your worth.

You are worthy and enough just as you are. Furthermore, the most important acceptance and approval is from yourself. Also, surround yourself with people who value and accept you just as you are.

6. Put Yourself Out There

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Despite the risks and anxieties, choose to show up authentically. Express yourself in ways that resonate with you. Own who you are and show it. Self-expression is a gift to yourself and the world. It takes self-belief and courage.

Putting yourself out there can build your self-esteem and confidence, especially if you receive positive feedback. It is also an opportunity to establish healthy boundaries with people around you for what you can tolerate and not tolerate.

7. Be Considerate of Others

Be respectful and considerate of others when choosing ways to self-express. Effective self-expression is learning to safely translate your thoughts, emotions, ideas, preferences, and personality without hurting others.

For example, if you are angry with your boss, journaling about your raw, unedited emotions may be more effective than yelling at them. Once you have decompressed, practice different ways to explain your feelings to your boss without risking being fired. Similarly, overt sexual expression may be inappropriate and disrespectful to others.

It takes practice and time to find a balance between authentically expressing yourself and being respectful and considerate of others.

Start Expressing Yourself

Self-expression is multifaceted. It takes different forms, and the best method of self-expression varies from person to person. When choosing how to express yourself, consider what you are good at and forms of self-expression that you feel comfortable with. Also, explore other forms to identify if there are new forms of self-expression that you resonate with.

Self and personal expression is a life-long journey that ebbs and flows with life. Sometimes you may find it easy to express yourself, yet other times it may be difficult. Recognize and honor each phase and commit to discovering the best and new ways to express yourself creatively and authentically.

Photo of author

Quincy Seale

Quincy is KIM's editor, and has collected and shared inspiring quotes and stories since 2005. Quincy holds an MBA from the University of Dundee and an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and lives in San Antonio with his wife Natalie, son Alex, and his dog Oban.