28 Apr SELF-EXPRESSION IS INTIMIDATING AND SCARY
In high school chemistry class, my friend and I would neglect our classwork by going on our phones. She didn’t have Spotify Premium, but I did, so she wanted to use my phone to play music and avoid the ads. That would send a jolt of pure terror through my body. What if she saw my music library? I would always navigate away from my playlists to the specific song before letting her use my phone as if I was hiding incriminating information.
One of the only words to describe the situation was bizarre. I didn’t know why I was so weirdly protective about my music taste, and I could tell my friends were confused by my interest in maintaining my privacy. I felt equal fear at the prospect of doing something new with my appearance, like wearing makeup or trying a new style. If you measured my heart rate when I unlocked my Spotify account or changed my hairstyle, you would think I was facing one of the world’s worst nightmares – but no, I was just attempting the bare minimum of self-expression. Granted, teenage years are notorious for angst and self-consciousness, so that could explain my strange reticence. Still, I didn’t have any problem talking to people about anything else – so, why was I mortified about my artistic interests?
I could tell you about myself with the regular information – hi, my name is Freda, I go to Queen’s University where I study Health Sciences – and you could extrapolate from those answers that I’m a student and I like health. This information is safe and non-controversial to share. However, these aren’t the questions that piece together my identity beyond the standard introduction. What is important to me? What inspires me? What do I find beautiful? How am I feeling, honestly? Those answers are quite personal to me, but they are also painfully apparent in the music I listen to, or the way I like to dress, or the ideas I write down. These are the important, vulnerable questions that cut right to the core of your individuality. What makes you an interesting and distinctive human being?
There is a vulnerability in sharing that information with others, who can judge and make incorrect assumptions about that deeper identity. I was always impressed and mildly intimidated by the people around me, who seemed so much more comfortable and confident in themselves than I could ever hope to be. Not in their surface-level identities – like their school, or their friend groups, or their work – but in who they were as unique people. I wondered how they could cheerfully blast their music on the aux cord or talk about their interests with no embarrassment or anxiety whatsoever. It is so much easier for me to be inconspicuous – to hide and indulge my interests in private, where no one else could diminish their significance.
However, within that risk and vulnerability lies the ultimate reward in self-expression. Sharing those individual viewpoints and interests allows you to find the people who will uplift and inspire you. Even more, self-expression is an important affirmation of personal identity and freedom. It allows you to explore your sense of self against what others may think or expect of you. It allows you to declare what you stand for and that you have no problem showing it. That, to me, is an incredibly powerful statement to make.
If you’re anything like me in this fear, I hope you find your creative freedom! We’ll learn to be confidently expressive together.