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Identity vs Self-expression

Like your identity, your self-expression is not static. It changes over time, and I’m sure you’ll see exactly what I mean if you look at a few old pictures of yourself, or even reflect on how your interests and hobbies have evolved over time. Need I even mention style?

Identity and self-expression are closely related, but they are not the same.

Your identity is who and what you believe yourself to be and the meaning you attach to that. For example, “I am a writer, I am a parent, I am a partner, I am an artist…” and so on.

Your expression is how you exist and show up in the world. It is the parts of yourself you reveal to yourself and the world. It is also what you don’t reveal. Expression includes where you show up boldly and confidently and where you hide. It is the sum of it all.

Your expression is the how to the what that is your identity.

For example, I am a cat mom, and I express that part of me by loving endlessly on my cats.

Or, an previous version of me could have said, “I am a sexual being, but I am not confident about that, so I reveal very little of that side of me. I do not dress or move in a way that feels sexy for me.”

Experimenting with expression is a great way to test truths, beliefs, and your own assumptions about yourself.

Maybe you are convinced that cottage core is definitely your style, but it’s been so long since you dressed any other way. Perhaps there are other ways of dressing that evoke different sides of you and your expression.

You won’t know for sure until you – literally and figuratively – try something else on.

I use the phrase, “trying something on” to refer to testing out different ways of being and expressing your Self. We can try on different moods, characteristics, clothing styles, communication styles, etc., to see how it really, truly feels for us.

I’ve compiled a (non-exhaustive) list of ways to experiment with your expression.

  1. Close friends list 

    • Create a close friends list on Instagram (or other social media platforms with similar functions) and use this as a place to be even a little more unfiltered. For example, I created a close friends list on IG to express more of my “dirty” humor and share sexual memes. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to have this outlet until I had it. Now, I’m able to express all parts of myself (that I’m aware of so far!). You don’t need to express every part of yourself super publicly in order to experiment with it.

  2. Blog/TikTok/IG page focused on a specific topic you’re curious about

    • This can be completely anonymous, and like #1, this gives you a space to express another aspect of yourself and explore an interest that you might feel no one in your life would relate to.

  3. Podcast

    • This can be focused on a specific topic or could be more like a verbal journal. It can also be completely anonymous if you choose! A podcast is a great way to use your voice. If you’re someone who would typically say, “I hate the sound of my voice,” this could be an especially good area for you to experiment with your expression. Why? The areas where we feel a lot of resistance are often the areas that enable the greatest growth and expansion for us.

  4. YouTube Channel

    • Similar to a podcast, but this adds a visual element! The YouTube videos do not have to be edited all fancy-like. You can use your phone and do zero editing. This isn’t about how good the videos look! This is more about allowing yourself (if you appear in the videos) or your creations to be seen. It doesn’t actually matter if people watch the videos or subscribe to your channel. The real magic is in you allowing yourself or your creations to be seen in the first place.

  5. Outfits/style/accessories/makeup

    • Our appearance is a huge part of our physical expression here on the 3D plane. Whether it’s something we spend a lot of time on or not, how we choose to appear in the world – in public or private – involves conscious choice. EVEN if this is something that “isn’t important” to you. Chances are, you live in a place where clothing is considered necessary, and so you make conscious choices about what to wear when you leave the house.

      Experimenting with different looks and styles can help you embody different characteristics. No, you don’t NEED external things to embody different aspects of yourself, but when you’re experimenting, the “things” can make the process easier. And since clothing, makeup, etc., often become routine and habitual, mixing it up in these areas can literally take you out of your comfort zone (in a good way!).

      Psst: I use my TikTok page as a place for a mishmash of things, one of them being experimenting with my style! Style is one area I hadn’t really explored much in my teens and 20s, so this is one way I personally experiment with expression. This is the first “style” video I posted on my TT page!
  6. Saying what you feel rather than keeping silent

    • What you say and how you communicate with others is 100% part of your expression. How you assert yourself in conversations (or not) is expression. Are you bold, honest, shy, reserved? Do you hold back? Do you bite your tongue so you don’t ruffle any feathers? Do you keep silent, rather than voicing your needs, desires, or concerns?

      Your voice, your needs, your desires, your thoughts and opinions all long to be expressed through you. They are part of YOU. (Note: I don’t mean thoughts and opinions/judgements about other people.)

      Here’s an example of what I mean: You’re with a group of friends and you’re deciding where to go. You heard about an event that you’re super interested in and you’d really like to check out. Several of your friends suggest going to a movie, and others nod in agreement. It seems like that’s what everyone wants to do, so you don’t mention the event. But what if you did?

      Another example could be in a relationship (of any kind – friendship, romantic, sexual, business, familial, etc.). If there’s conflict or disagreement, or if you simply have a desire for something, and you consistently keep quiet, you are limiting your expression. You are restricting your expression to prioritize the expression of others.

  7. Dancing or singing 

    • This can be another way to use your voice (singing) or simply to move your body intuitively. Getting out of our own way and allowing ourselves to be in flow opens the door for our expression to shine. It is not about being what you think is a “good” singer or dancer. It is simply about allowing your Self to be expressed in different ways.

  8. Mirror work

    • Mirror work is great because it can involve zero other people if you choose, and it requires very little time. You can do this with a spare 1-5 minutes throughout your day.

      You can make mirror work be what you want it to be, but I’ll share how I use it.

      I typically combine mirror work with dancing and singing at home alone. I have a variety of playlists that evoke different moods or vibes, so I’ll choose one that feels right in that moment, and get my groove on.

      Adding the element of self-observation to the way your move your body or sing your heart out means you are witnessing your Self and your expression. When you allow yourself to BE and to be expressed without judgement – whew! – that is powerful stuff

      On a similar note, this is exactly why I LOVE exploring self-expression through self-portraits. I created a free course on this, as well!

  9. Arts and crafts or random hands-on projects just because

    • Physically making something allows you to get into a flow state and add your own creative spin on things, even if you’re following an instruction manual. Making something real that was previously just a thought in your head is also kind of how the whole manifestation thing works. You allow yourself to be the channel for the expression of something in this physical reality. It’s a great way to play with expression!

  10. Creating mood boards or collages

    • This is such a fun one and very low-effort! You can do this with Pinterest, take screenshots of things you see online and save them on a folder, take photos of things that inspire you, or go the “old fashioned” route and use clippings from magazines and various physical objects you come across.

      This is a great way to simply indulge your senses, desires, and curiosities. You can start with a theme in mind, or simply let the theme reveal itself as you go.