As an artist, singer and voice coach, I’m all about self-expression, and it’s kinda become my life’s work right now to figure out how best to express myself in various media, and to also help others express what they truly desire, and discover a more authentic side of themselves through expression.
In Singapore where I’m from, I’m quite active in a local personal development and coaching community. Within this community, we have small support groups where members meet consistently to support one another as we work on individual projects to forward our lives.
Recently, the leader of my support group encouraged us to share more with one another in our WhatsApp channel — our realisations, our musings, our wins, our challenges… anything really, whatever it is we feel we want to share.
He said that the more we share, the more we extend beyond ourselves by reaching out into the world, and by doing so, not only can we potentially make an impact for others, but the process of sharing also does something for us.
It’s not so much sharing the surface-level stuff we may post on social media, but rather something more heartfelt and real, something personal, something that resonates with us on a deeper level.
But for some reason, when it comes to sharing these kinds of things, and whenever we want to engage with the world in a more authentic way, there’s always some part of us that will hold us back.
This part of us tends to be apologetic, fearful, embarrassed (some people may say “shy”)… and these are fairly common psychological barriers towards expressing and sharing our true selves to the world around us.
These arise in part from our cultural background, intermingled with the environment in your childhood household, which for many people wasn’t necessarily conducive for or supportive of self-expression.
At the same time, there were many instances in our lives where we tried to be vulnerable and share something heartfelt, honest and real… only to get rejected, dismissed or misunderstood, and when our attempts to put ourselves out there completely backfire, it hurts so much that we tell ourselves “I’m never gonna do that ever again.”
All these experiences in our lives are what eventually stop us from from truly standing in our power, and declaring: “This is who I am, here’s what I want to say, and I’m just going to say it.”
And whenever we wish to be confident and outspoken like this, that apologetic-fearful-shy persona will somehow always hold us back, and not allow us to fully get our message across and be heard.
The good news is that while such psychological barriers are deeply rooted in our psyche, they are not impossible to breakthrough, or at least become easier to manage.
One way is to confront them by constantly reaching out and putting yourself out there, keep expressing what you want to express and sharing what you want to share… to the point that it no longer feels as awkward or embarrassing, and you’re not as shy as you once were about it.
Of course, this will not happen magically overnight, and you will not somehow “grow out of” your shyness, but with consistent practice, you will certainly make progress in this area.
And real practice isn’t so much in learning tips and tricks of how to express “better”, how to “improve” your voice, or rehearsing your script over and over again… but that we keep putting ourselves in those challenging situations, so we learn little by little each time how to manage the barriers and fears that arise from within us.
Conversely, the more we allow our psychological barriers to have power over us, the less we’re able to reach out and express ourselves, to interact with others the way we want to, and to create an impact in the world.
The older we get, the more fixated we become in our psyche, which is why it’s harder for older people to get out of their comfort zone.
And this is exactly why we are especially inspired when we know of an older person who manages to do that, because we naturally assume that most older people don’t — which begs the question: Where does such an assumption even come from?
It comes from our experience of many older people and seniors getting fixated in how they do things, and how they live their lives. They are “set in their ways”, and “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” — even these sayings are based in the reality that when people get older, the more fixated they become in their comfort zone.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being fixated or set in your ways, and crafting a simple comfortable existence for yourself.
But if you dream of making a difference in the world…
If you desire to be one of those crazy lively older persons whom the younger persons admire and say “I want to be like that when I’m older”…
If you want to express yourself freely, boldly and loudly…
… it’s not something that will happen magically one day, and it’s not something you’ll eventually grow into.
It takes consistent effort and practice, and sheer willpower to keep pushing past our psychological barriers, keep stretching ourselves, and keep reaching outside of what’s comfortable to us… to say what you really want to say, express what you really mean, share what you feel inspired to share, sing the songs your heart loves, and create the life you’ve always dreamed of.
And the only way to really push yourself past your internal barriers… is to keep doing just that.
And to do that, and do that, and do that, and do that… no matter how discouraging it gets… to keep doing it to the point that embarrassment and shyness lose their grip on you, and the voices in your head that say “It’s not good enough, you’re not going to make it, why do you want to be so attention-seeking…” are finally silenced.
It’s a lifelong practice, and it’s a significant part of what the singing journey is really about — that we keep expressing ourselves and challenge our barriers each time, so we become more authentically ourselves, and share what we really want to, create the impact we dream of, and express and communicate what truly matters to us to the people who most matter to us.