30 For 30/30 #12 – The Daily Practice of Cultivating Self-Expression

This is the 12th post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link

For the past days, I’ve been writing a series of posts about the daily practices for a contented and happy life, and include:

  1. Spending time in solitude
  2. Embracing simplicity
  3. Engaging in kindness
  4. Cultivating self-expression
  5. Respecting the body

These came to mind about a month ago as I was casting about for potential book ideas and I’ve been exploring them to see it that might be possible.

Today I want to address the fourth of the daily practices, Cultivating Self-Expression.

Daily Practice #4 – Cultivating Self-Expression

About this Practice

Each of us has a perceived identity reflecting the components of our personality, genetic traits, and goals for the future. If we possess self-awareness, we may view our identity as something to be celebrated.

Self-expression can take many forms of physical expression, including mode of dress, tattoos, hairstyle and color, accessories, piercings, and relationship partners to name a few.

Other less obvious forms of self-expression might be reflected in our choice of career, hobbies, favorite recreational activities, personal belief systems, and overall world view.

Cultivating a practice of self-expression might seem like it doesn’t fit into this schema of the contented and happy life, but I’d argue that it’s essential to both recognize and celebrate.

Regardless of whether or not your personal belief system acknowledges the ‘self,’ I think it’s healthy to celebrate our identity in ways that create positive feedback loops that chiefly benefit ourselves.

Why You’d Want to Engage this Practice

A quick Freudian refresher

The Freudian theory posited that our mind/psyche was comprised of three main parts, the Id, Ego, and SuperEgo. While the Id, Freud said, was like an infant continually exalting our base instincts such as self-gratification and directing other life-sustaining activities (respiration, sex, eating), the Ego was busy satisfying the Id’s desires in a safe and socially acceptable way.

The SuperEgo is the moral arbiter of both the Id and Ego and eventually, the mind survives and develops through this rather complex negotiation between the three components.

OK, that was excruciating, right? Sorry, but it was necessary to make this vital point about self-expression:

Our need to be self-expressive emanates from how our mind/psyche arbitrates the development issues underneath.

Pithy, right?

In my view, engaging in the practice of self-expression helps solidify and direct our personality development and is as vital as the life-sustaining demands of the Id.

When we engage in a regular practice of positive self-expression, we are becoming more fully human. It is the path to self-realization, viewed by psychologist Abraham Maslow as the highest form of human development.

How to Practice Self-Expression

OK, now comes the fun stuff. In truth, you are probably already engaged in this practice and in many ways. Above I stated that Self-expression can take many forms, including mode of dress, tattoos, hairstyle and color, accessories, piercings, and relationship partners to name a few. But also those attributes of our personality that make us uniquely us can also be incorporated into our practice.

Here are some parameters for engaging in a daily practice os self-expression:

  1. Give yourself permission -many religious traditions instruct followers to refrain from drawing attention to oneself. It’s seen self-serving and detracting from Deity’s role. Personally, I think that works against our positive human development and should be discarded. However, if you want to engage in this practice, you need to give yourself permission to be who you are and to express your identity in as many healthy ways as you see appropriate.
  2. Take an inventory – take stock of how you are already expressing your personality. Look at the forms discussed above for a starter.
  3. ‘KonMari’ what you find – Marie Kondo is the Japanese author of a few books that ask you to look at each one of your possessions and ask whether or not it brings you joy. KonMari is the term for the process of sifting through the ways you’re currently engaging in self-expression. Ask yourself whether or not this form of self-expression suits you and brings you joy, enjoyment, or satisfaction.
  4. Ask others for feedback – if you’re brave enough, ask your bestie about what they perceive your various forms of self-expression to be. They might bring up modes that you’re not aware of and that can be helpful in moving forward.
  5. You be you – be proud of your modes of self-expression; they are, for the most part, what sets you apart from the rest of the human beings on the planet. Go forth and do good and always be YOU!

Case Study: Baz – let’s see how this works:

  1. I gave myself permission…years ago. 🙂
  2. My inventory of self-expression includes:
    1. choosing to remain single after two marriages
    2. my writing
    3. multiple tattoos
    4. my own practice of kindness
    5. my surface emotions
    6. my empathic wiring
    7. my minimalist lifestyle
  3. KonMari on the above modes of self-expression:
    1. choosing to remain single after two marriages – although I have a wonderful relationship, I have no desire to get married again
    2. my writing – writing most definitely brings me joy; 
    3. multiple tattoos – my ink is a definitive form of self-expression and it definitely brings me a great deal of satisfaction – I have zero regrets around getting inked.
    4. my own practice of kindness – kindness is like breathing at this point; it’s wired into my personality and it brings me deep fulfillment
    5. my surface emotions – I am brought to tears easily. It brings me satisfaction to be wired in this way and I have no shame in letting this be a public form of self-expression
    6. my empathic wiring –this is an example of a form of self-expression that I don’t appreciate as it can be personally painful and upsetting, but it’s how I’m wired.
    7. my minimalist lifestyle – OMG, YES! 😀
  4. Others have told me that their perception of my self-expression includes wisdom, kindness, rebellious, philosophic, and a bit crazy
  5. I love being me.

The daily practice of self-expression is a way to not only to connect with our deeper self but to respect it as well by remaining true to who we are and expressing our identity in healthy, positive ways.

What’s coming up next

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up this series of post with a look at the final practice, Respecting the Body.

If you’re enjoying this series, please let me know. Hate it, let me know that, too!

By Baz

writer | coach | practical buddhist


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