Why Self-Expression Feels So Personal & 4 Deeply Impacting Questions That Shape The Answer

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Diary PhotoI recently witnessed a friend and colleague of mine online sharing vulnerably her fear and self-doubt around writing and sharing her book with others.

I remember thinking, “why is SHE nervous about anything? She’s got it goin’ on!”

Then, I had a bit of an epiphany that turned into two epiphanies.

The first was that, I realized that the fear that exists with putting ourselves, our gifts, our knowledge into the world isn’t always around the feedback from others – that some people genuinely don’t care about that, while some do. So, when it’s time for new work, ideas, or expressions to emerge, there’s typically two parts to the fear itself, and they sometimes are both present – other times, it’s just one or the other. You either have:

  1. Fear of the outcomes OR
  2. Fear of the process

HUGE epiphany – even for myself here. Because what this knowledge means is that, you may be a person who isn’t actually afraid of the outcome – your book selling, people understanding the concepts, people actually reading your blog, understanding your designs, etc. Sometimes, the fear is around the process – the how-do-I-do-the-damn-thing? And how do I do it “right” where people will understand it?

In our heads, these two modes of thinking are asking different questions. 

Fear of the process asks questions of the process…

Am I going to have to change? Why?

What if I change too much and lose friends during the process of __________________?

What if family doesn’t support how I get to the desired goals I have?

What am I going to have to give up to have this?

What does achieving what I’m envisioning mean for what is – what’s now? What has to change?

If your fear is around the outcome(s), you are likely asking questions like…

How am I going to be when this is all said and done?

What if I spend all this time developing [said project] and it fails? Then what?

What if no one reads my book? Or furthermore, wants to even buy it, and I have to pay back my advance?

What will _______________ think of what I’ve created or done?

Noticing how these two different schools of thought regarding fear take place in your own experience is a first step in understanding where your fear exists and is stemming from – no need to answer all of the questions right now – just notice what the fear is around. How are the questions you’re asking shaped? Are they outcomes-based or process-based?

Once that question is answered, then we can start to look at the origin of what we’re feeling and why, in order to get to the deeper root of this “thing” we need to bring forth in our life. 

Breakthrough, by nature, happens as we take small, incremental steps that matter, whether it matters to the process or the outcome.

So, naturally, the second epiphany I had was concerning origin of the fear – I have, for some time, been asking (for introverted women who yearn for self-expression especially), where this deep need for self-expression comes from and why it’s so strong – a much stronger need than it may be for most.

The answer has revealed itself over the past few weeks in a series of what I can only refer to as “bits of insight.”

Self-expression comes from within. It’s really that simple – we’re the ones who make it hard. And this is also why it’s so dang personal. 

Really, at its core, it’s a way of sharing deep insight with yourself – it’s about expressing insight outwardly with others you’ve internally processed (i.e. painting the raw emotion on canvas, starting the blog and saying what you feel, or even posting a social media update without deleting it).

“Pressure does increase in this intersection (of uniqueness & acceptance) where we have trouble communicating our insight. Having insight is satisfying, but it’s not fully satisfying until it’s shared.” –Susan Wilkinson of The Curated Soul

This is why assertive living and communication is so important to learn – it’s a vehicle for interpretation. With these vehicles, others are able to transparently and powerfully see what insight/knowledge/experience you possess, while allowing you to also be a part of the process – understanding fully how your experience helps them (we call it empathy).

This is where the deep need of self-expression originates – in a human drive & need to connect. As an introvert, a need to connect with yourself consistently (introspection) and a need to connect – yes, perhaps selectively – with others (empathy). Indeed, there’s a need for a safe place to risk communicating your value, ideas, insight, and internalized processes with and to others

And having that connection can make all the difference.

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four cupsOnce you and I understand whether our fear is around outcomes, process or both and why it feels so personal, then we can enjoy spending time with the deeper questions. And here are four I want you to begin asking, once you’ve moved through the other two processes above:

1. What do you desire?

This is about finally taking time to look at your desires. I recently did this in a 10-minute self-assessment that revealed to me that I had my desires on a back shelf (and totally didn’t realize it). I had such a strong acceptance about my story, my work and my why, but I had not integrated or understood that there was a clear disconnect between those and my desires. By my very nature, I was resisting my desires. And, I have to be honest here. Asking yourself “how do I want to feel” is fine, and it can even be part of the process. But please don’t think that trying to achieve some said emotion is going to really bring focus to your desires. There’s much more involved. I want you to look at the bigger picture with everything of you involved – lifestyle, family, life’s work, calling, emotions, etc.

2. What makes you frustrated?

Our frustrations can show us a lot. Where we need to grow, where there’s room for opportunity, etc. When it comes to self-expression, you may feel very frustrated. That you can’t start the thing you want to, make it how you want it, grow it as fast as you intended to. Maybe it’s around something else, like growth or that you’re constantly giving away your personal power (my two main areas). Be specific (and honest) with yourself about this area with no judgments toward yourself regarding the answers.

3. What makes you unique?

You probably already know the answer to this, but I want you to be sure. I want you to write down all of the things that set you apart from other artists or creatives that do what you do, hold a vision similar to yours, are in your industry or think how you think. Likely, this could even be a point of frustration for you and probably is (it is for most of the women who come into my work online and are drawn to it). There’s a paradox – you want to feel unique and special, yet you don’t want to feel so dang different from others all the time. But for the purpose of this question, I only want you to get real comfortable with all of those uniqueness points about yourself. And I mean really comfortable – like on-your-favorite-couch-and-with-your-favorite-throw-or-good-book comfortable.

4. What do you want to more willingly accept?

This isn’t necessarily about weakness, although it could be. And it may include the uniqueness list you just built, too. That’s okay. This is not about “passively settling” either – it’s about taking the work you’ve done from the other 3 questions and putting it all into perspective. It’s about your current identity roles and the present moment (maybe things you have to accept and cannot change about yourself). Because of what you desire, what frustrates you and what makes you unique, what do you want to more accept about any of that?

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If you’re struggling with these questions, you can get time w/ me each month to really explore these questions more and get the support of others on this same quest for discovery and freedom, if you’d also like that. 

As always, I’m deeply grateful for your willingness to listen and deep yearning to search the deeper questions and answers about your self-expression.


(Image Credit) | (Image Credit)


  • October 27, 2014, 10:26 am  Reply

    “…it’s about expressing insight outwardly with others you’ve internally processed…”

    Yes. Love it. =)

    One of the most difficult parts of self-expression for me has been with disappointment. I’ve processed internally, I’ve taken the risk to express it assertively, only to get the brush off or the blank stare. Nothing make this introvert want to do the turtle like the brush off or the blank stare.

    It’s taken me years to figure out that self-expression isn’t always about teaching (in some way, shape, or form), but rather it’s also about testing and improving my insight. My internal processing alone isn’t enough because my insight is limited to my experience and knowledge. For it to have an impact it has to meld with the experience and knowledge of those I want to connect with (that whole empathy thang).

    Seems so simple, but for many years my expectations were, “You share what you know and I’ll _____ (enjoy, reject, judge, maybe incorporate) it. And I’ll share what I know and you’ll (obviously) be grateful for it and be happy to know me.”

    Sheesh. Ego much? But when my self-expressions weren’t met with gratitude or connection per my expectations, I was disappointed, confused, and reticent to try again.

    What’s helped me in this is enlarging my mindset in my communications. I’ve expanded my roles to go beyond, “expert” or “teacher” or “the wise one” and that has made all the difference in my confidence and ability to take risks in self-expression. It’s also increased my insight exponentially and made me hungry for more of what OTHERS know.

    • October 27, 2014, 4:49 pm

      Love this, Susan. Disappointment. Yes. I too, have had this struggle at times in different areas. I do think we forget that self-expression has these two sides to it – like you mentioned earlier in the Google Plus convo we had, there’s the conscious side and the natural side – those things that just naturally flow. The conscious piece (and often times, the empathy piece – especially in business) is what can feel risky and vulnerable.

      I pretty much mostly love how you mention your communications as being the help to you – I strongly believe it’s the greatest vehicle to get to our desires. I have also found that, the safe spaces I become a part of, instead of hiding myself constantly are what have opened the greatest doors to freedom for me, both in my business and in my personal growth. Actually, unbelievable growth has happened as I’ve planted myself and expressed myself in spaces where I know my voice is honored.

      I don’t delete as much, am more confident in my own knowledge and what I have to share in those spaces, and absolutely am hungry to always be learning, just as you stated here.

      Thank you for sharing this today.

      • October 27, 2014, 5:05 pm

        Past G+ convo… I’m not sure if this is what you’re talking about, but just an hour or so ago I was thinking about the convo we had there about my dance. How my unconscious desires were reflected in my dance and I became aware of my desires when I purposed to really note what I was expressing. So important. Our behavior will show what’s inside even when we’re not aware of it.

        TOTALLY agree with you about safe spaces for self-revelation. That’s been a key thing for me as well. ESPECIALLY online where I have more control over relationships. I’ve stopped spending online time with those who don’t appreciate me and who aren’t interested in helping me along as much as they’re interested in changing me to be more like them.

        Safe places are priceless for those who are introverts for sure. But not just introverts. Also, perhaps ironically, for big risk-takers. Doubly so when it’s an introvert with a penchant for risk.

        I’m very thrilled to see your Quaintrelle Society come into being. I know it’s just such a safe place for discovery through expression.

        • October 27, 2014, 7:43 pm

          Our behavior will show what’s inside even when we’re not aware of it. Yes. THIS.

          I’ve also become selective with those online spaces in which I connect, Susan. And they are for sure priceless! I hope The Quaintrelle Society will be that for others, so thank you for the support.

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