Learning to Master My Expression by Joshua Warren
I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about how I show up to others. I've been so stuck in my head worrying whether what I see will bring value, or if it will be viewed as a laughable piece of trash that no one respects. The stress of it all begins to take a heavy toll on my psyche because I have so much that I want to express, and yet I recognize that I'm allowing my fear of communicating effectively get in the way of taking action and just expressing.
A few years ago I was in this same space. I was learning how to use my voice and grant myself the freedom and liberty to say what's on my mind. I wanted to show the world who I was and that what I had to say was as valuable as someone with tons of dollars and backing behind him. I started to get comfortable just creating and expressing rather than worrying about what it sounded like, who was reading, and what everyone thought. And today, I'm back in that space, but without the same freedoms.
I truly believe that COVID had a major impact on how I think, what fear looks like to me, and who I think myself to be. Although I know that what runs through my mind brings value to myself and those around me I can't seem to fight this feeling that, I don't belong, nobody cares, or these conversations are boring. I continue believe this even though so many of my peers have taken the words that I have said and lessons I have taught and created miraculous marvels within their lives. So why do I continue to believe this?
When I examine that question deeply, the answer consistently points to me. I take more time thinking about how I want to express what I want to say than I do actually just expressing it. It's as though I don't trust myself when I know that I've never steered myself wrong. It's even present in when I think about going full time with this business instead of maintaining my 9-5. It's that sneaky little self-doubt monster!
It sneaks in and tells me that my experiences aren't "edgy' enough or entertaining. It tells me that the people that would benefit from my services wouldn't want those services from me when there's better out there. It even makes me feel like everything that I have accomplished, I just did it by chance. All of these paint a picture of insecurity and fear.
That's right! I'm bold enough to admit it. I'm insecure in how I communicate! It took me a long time to admit that it's this that keeps me in a chokehold.
When I express that sentiment to those close to me, they have a hard time accepting it because I'm such an outgoing person. I get a lot accomplished and seem to make the impossible possible in a short amount of time. When something is on my mind, I have no trouble expressing my opinion. However, what they don't know is that it's easy for me to give my opinion on something that is simple like a movie, event, or situation when I'm comfortable but not so much when I'm not.
I am confident up until the point that it is time for me to sit down and talk about things that I think about to the world. That's when it runs out. I spent so much time thinking "where does this come from and why do I have such a hard time seeing the value in my voice?"
When I reflect on those questions it's simple. It comes from my experiences as a kid and has carried over into my adulthood. My childhood was riddled with a lot of fear. I was introduced to the fear of being myself really early in life through religion. Religion told me that everything that I felt inside of me was abnormal, wrong, and a sin. It showed me where I would end up if I "chose" to live a life loving the same sex, speak my truth, and follow what I enjoy.
Another introduction to this fear came from school. Growing up I was a nerd! The kind of nerd that knew all the answers to the assignments and got all A's. I was in the gifted programs, accelerated programs, and even honors up until high school and I cared more about learning than I did getting people that I didn't know to like me. A lot of the kids bullied me for being so smart, being husky, and having a "flat nose." I was always the butt of a joke because of who I was which added to the fear of expressing myself brought on by religion.
I began to realize that my childhood was met with an excessive amount of individuals telling me who to be, how to be, how to talk, what to say, and how to look but never curated space for me to be myself proudly in all the areas of expression. There was so much about me that wasn't allowed that I adopted the belief that I wasn't allowed and the only time I could truly express myself how I wanted was in an argument or debate, in my writing, or in my head. Anywhere else, I had to play a role.
This lasted up until college where I started to push myself to go beyond just showing up and being present in the room. I wanted to show that I can be smart, creative, loud, extra, and gay and still be considered a professional. It was a tough journey that started to take a huge toll on my mental health. I joined a fraternity that only promoted the fact that I had to show up like the quintessential black man in order to be seen as valuable. But I never truly fit comfortably into any of the standards that were presented to me.
Now, I sit here after years of that type of lifestyle and added life experiences that caused me to be locked in survival mode and it's time for me to show up and the fear cripples me more often than not. A relative called me one day and asked me what I was seeking in my business because it was unclear. This was triggering for me because I tend to overthink how I express myself so much that what does finally get out is extremely edited to ensure that I'm not misunderstood and it's what people want to hear. I expressed that I seek to help people like me that have never felt comfortable and completely confident in expressing themselves. To help those that have always been great at checking the boxes of intelligence, looks, body type, career, or status but has never been encouraged to just be themselves at all times.
It gave me perspective of myself. How I tie my deepest passion to my greatest fear. But I release that today. I release the belief that I can't be myself authentically at all times. I release the belief that I have to show up a particular way in order to be received. I release the belief that I am not valuable in my own unique expression. It isn't about what other people think of who I am, it's about what they think about the message that is being conveyed. I'm not perfect, I wasn't created to be perfect. I was created to be perfectly me. Full of flaws, wounds, lessons, but most importantly full of light, greatness, creativity, intelligence, uniqueness, beauty, passion, and universal knowing. I am full of the very thing that God intended for me and am ready to honor that.
No more for the worrying about how I'll be received. Not everyone has to like me, but that should respect me as long as I give respect. My gifts are valuable. My expression is valuable. My experiences and the lessons that I've learned from them are valuable. Although I keep forgetting, I have to digest that fact. I am good enough to be here and I matter! The work that I do matters because so many of us are living lives unaware of what we allow to keep us from living the lives that we dream. Life is meant to be easy and free flowing, as gentle as a calm stream. So why continue letting what someone in 5th grade dictate the person you are today?
Personal development may not be the most popular work that makes people throw their wallets at you, but the value that it brings is priceless. It transform the little child that felt insecure and hopeless into an all star that understands their true value and the liberty they have to show up as they feel comfortable in every moment. There is no standard, it is all an illusion. Who do you say that you are and what's keeping you from learning to master your ultimate expression?