How (And Why) Self-Expression is Communicating Your Inner World
What is your expression saying?
Yesterday, I saw a quote on Instagram that said, "Confidence is not posting endless selfies, or repeatedly protesting how happy or in love we are, it's a subtle yet noticeable sheen that emanates from our being - our eyes, our words, our body language." I can only halfway agree with this, and because these kinds of messages matter so much to me the way they're worded (because I know you're seeing them too), it also matters to me to explain how a phrase like this is only half the truth.
First of all, selfies aren't bad in and of themselves. Let's just get that out of the way. Yes, there are people who are so self-absorbed, that's literally all they seem to be able to share (you know what I mean - there's not a whole lot of substance there). And there are those who haven't nor ever will, post a selfie. You see both sides of the spectrum.
But selfies, in and of themselves, aren't bad. Makeup artists use them to show their handy work. Eyebrow artists use them. Bloggers use them. Other creatives use them. People post pictures of a lot of types of art, but all of a sudden when it's a face, it's viewed as self-absorbed. Interesting....
My point is this - whether it's a face an artist is showcasing, hair, or a dancer on paper who's animated, it's all art. Why are we judging the selfie? As soon as it's someone's face, we want to label them self-absorbed and soul-less, which isn't fair. I disagree with this mentality.
To the point of the quote however, confidence is NOT posting endless selfies - that statement is true. But confidence is also not completely avoiding expressing who you are in the world either - it's a nice mix of soul eminence and artsy expression.
In the same vein, to address the line in the quote about what confidence IS: "a subtle yet noticeable sheen that emanates from our being - our eyes, our words, our body language." That's not entirely true either. Again, it's a mixture. Not everyone who's confident has a subtle, yet noticeable, sheen emanating from their body. It sounds nice, but it's not the entire reality. Many confident people are actually viewed the opposite of what this quote states - cold, distant, mad, or even bitchy. I've heard it all personally myself, so I'm speaking from experience.
Sometimes confidence exudes energy that is misunderstood by others.
Expression comes in many forms, and it's not always this particular way. Some people express their being with flowers, some with fashion & style, some with knitting, some with singing. My Pinterest boards have even more expressive elements you can explore.
So what we begin to see from this quote is that, confidence is actually part internal, part external. Here at Modernity, we consider (and teach) this equation:
Confidence is 80% internal development and 20% external expression.
With this in mind, let's look at HOW your expressions communicate your inner world, then we'll look at WHY they do.
How Self-Expression Communicates What's Internal (Metaphorical Expression)
Basically, this is simple - you're going to be expressing what's going on inside somehow. It may only be noticeable to a select few, but even if it's just non-verbals, trust me someone is noticing. But most of the time, it's expressed many other more obvious ways - like with what you wear or how you live.
There's actually a biblical scripture that says, "from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." So this principle of inner to outer is more than true - it's practically spiritual law.
What's internal manifests - always and somehow. You know that saying, "trash in, trash out?" Well this concept is what makes that true, too.
In more conscious form, self-expression communicates through metaphor (or ideas that are reflective parallels of what's internal). I call this metaphorical expression, because what people see can be a metaphor of what's going on internally.
Here's an example from my own form of expressing myself through personal style that demonstrates this concept of metaphorical expression:
External: Consistently classy, yet trendy outfits I wear are a metaphor for....
Internal: Consistently classy, yet trendy ideas about life and ways of seeing the world (in other words, sometimes I am fairly traditional, other times I'm playing on the edges that make others uncomfortable)
External: Sometimes ripped jeans, sometimes slacks are a metaphor for....
Internal: The modern woman with a free spirit, yet not without her boundaries. If you cross one, you'll know it, but I'm pretty hard to anger.
External: Comfortable and functional clothes vs. Uncomfortable, unexpected or "for the sake of the outfit" type looks are metaphor for.....
Internal: Sometimes like having it all together and take pride in that - other times like that I'm unpredictable and keep people guessing. I like being the type of person people can't figure out but if they do, I'm honored they are skilled and took the time and I might consider letting them stay.
Do you see a trend? My personal style is a direct metaphoricalreflection of many internal values I have.
You can conduct this same exercise on yourself in whatever areas you'd like. Just do what I did and evaluate the external expression & what it's a metaphor for internally. You can learn a lot about yourself just by doing this exercise!
Something else it will do is help you understand how or why others may perceive you a certain way.
This is HOW self-expression communicates an internal state. Now, let's look at WHY this happens in the first place.
Why Self-Expression Communicates What's Internal
An excerpt from A Course in Miracles that almost made me cry when I read it:
The Bible repeatedly states that you should praise God. This hardly means that you should tell Him how wonderful He is. He has no ego with which to accept such praise, and no perception with which to judge it. But unless you take YOUR part in creation, His joy is not complete because yours in incomplete. And this He DOES know. He knows it in His Own Being and its experience of His Son's experience. The constant going out of His Love is blocked when His channels are closed, and He is lonely when the minds He created do not communicate fully with Him.
THIS explains the why of self-expression to us. Communication is and always has been the central currency of Creation expressing itself. If self-expression didn't exist, neither would our ability to receive and/or even participate in the Creation we see - we would all be emotion-less robots all naked and I guess without eyeballs or faces at all, since we express ourselves with body language too - I'm not sure what that would look like!
Self-expression is not an accident.
We know that something beyond us exists by the mere fact that we have the capability to RECEIVE and COMMUNICATE out at all period. The mind was created for this purpose.
All the facets of self-expression then, are just various forms of communication. They're ways of communicating which God has beautifully distributed to enhance our communication with Him and each other - it makes Creation WORK. This is why not everyone has a good voice or can play basketball or loves to study or watch the stars or chase storms or keep up with the hottest trends or likes jewelry or is good at dance. I could use a million more "or's".
No. Self-expression has its purpose and function, and both are to communicate the internal being it embodies - with other human beings and with God, in order to be complete.
Why This Matters
This matters because this understanding completely frees you to be exactly who you are. It reminds you why you have the SET gifts YOU have and why the world needs it. The exact space YOU inhabit in the earth is accounted for in the overall design. Without you, we lose certain elements that are needed. Isn't that powerful? Isn't THAT fresh perspective?
It's my hope that you can take this and never again question why we need you to show up and express this gorgeous person we all want to know and do so CONFIDENTLY.