So in a couple of days I'll be participating in a bit of a talky session thingy about self-expression with the wife, and like good organisers, the people running the event gave us the questions that we'll have to address a week prior to the event so that we could prepare.
They're interesting questions in the sense that I've never received them before, so I know that I will personally have a tough time articulating the answers come crunch time, so I'll brainstorm some stuff here to have some sort of an idea of what I'll say on the event day itself. So here goes.
1. When did you start to really express yourself?
Tough question. I guess I've been expressing myself ever since I could remember. I a particularly fond memory would be the time when my friends and I made up a fictional chain narrative amongst each other in class while we weren't paying attention to what our teachers were saying. They were weird stories involving digimon, space pigs and professional wrestlers.
But I guess the question is, when did I really start to express myself, and I guess the question means when did I start expressing myself on purpose. And I guess the best answer I can give is when I started blogging. That was a start to a lot of things for me. Thinking about things and exploring ideas and putting those thoughts and explorations on a page, making them tangible things instead of randomness that was floating around in my head. I don't remember what actually sparked me to want to make a blog, but I do remember what opened my eyes to self-expression, and that was an English Literature course that we had to take in our TESL foundation semesters. Those lecturers taught me how to read poems and stories with a critical eye, and I've been learning ever since. I feel like I've come a long way since then, but I know that I have such a long way to go still.
2. What importance do you see in self-expression?
I think it's a human thing, to express yourself, or at least to want to express yourself, either in the form of poetry or songs or films or stories or even just conversations that we have with each other. We have this innate need to tell other people what is on our minds. Maybe that's hard-wired into our brains or maybe that's just me, but I feel like everyone wants to share stuff that's in their heads with other people.
To me, it's a question of whether or not you're aware that that's what you're doing. Once you are, you do it on purpose, then maybe you feel the urge to get better at it. And that's my never-ending struggle for the past several years. Just trying to get better at expressing myself to other people.
But why would you want to get better? Why aren't you happy with just being able to express yourself period? (I added these questions myself)
Honest answer is, I don't know. Maybe it's just my way of keeping myself from being happy. I think I secretly get a kick out of making myself feel inferior and incompetent, because I do that so often it's unhealthy.
Or maybe I want to get better so that I can eventually hear other people say "hey look at that guy, he's so competent at expressing himself in his chosen method of self-expression!" and I'll feel happy about myself when I'm validated like that, feeds my ego and stuff. Maybe. I don't know.
3. How did being able to express yourself change your life (or didn't)?
I think it opened my eyes a lot more. I feel like I notice more things, nowadays. Things that I probably wouldn't have noticed when I wasn't expressing myself on purpose. Like, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate sarcasm as much as I do now if I didn't use it myself as much as I do.
And I don't think I would be able to appreciate a lot of other art too, like songs. I write the odd song every now and again, and it has allowed me some insight into the amount of work and creativity that it takes to produce songs, and I feel like I can appreciate (or not appreciate) certain songs with more certainty now compared to back when I didn't engage in the act. I can say things like "man, that must have taken SO MUCH WORK to get done!" or "nikhirim malaih gila dia ni buat lagu camni ja," just when listening to stuff, because I have an insight into what it takes to get those things done. And that goes to other forms too, like video or film-making, writing, even sports. But of course, like I said earlier, I'm still learning so many things, so I always leave room for myself to be wrong.
4. Do you have a method to build confidence or to shake off nervousness?
I think confidence is one of the bi-products of experience. So whenever I'm nervous as eff or when I don't feel confident before a performance or whenever I'm doing stuff in front of a group of people, it helps to remind myself that I'm super super nervous right now because I haven't done this a bunch of times yet. I'm going to suck at this one right here, and that's okay, because I have to suck a whole buncha times before getting kinda sorta good at it (yes, that's a Jake from Adventure Time quote). And giving myself permission to be bad at something is so liberating, like you wouldn't believe. So yeah, embracing my mediocrity is what I do.
5. What are some common myths about self-expression that you, through experience, have doubts about?
I don't know about any common myths about self-expression, so I had to google it. The results weren't that many. I couldn't find anything relevant in the first page of the search, so they must not exist, right?
All joking a salad, I did find one thing that said self-expression was related to narcissism. I guess you can sort of see it that way in the sense that when you express yourself, you're essentially spilling your guts in the form of your words and thoughts for all the world to see and kinda sorta imply that you're saying "HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I HAVE STUFF TO SAY LOOK AT MEEEE (noodles)", but I don't know.
I feel like learning how to express myself has allowed me to be more empathetic too. I feel like I understand what it takes for me to produce a certain something and the kind of courage that is necessary to be honest about yourself and your views in a world where conformity is valued so much, that it helps me understand the plight of other people who are expressing themselves too, or at least who are trying to express themselves. I feel like we're all working towards making ourselves understood by other people when we can barely even understand ourselves most of the time, it makes it easier for me to put myself in the skin of other people and try to understand why they see things the way they do and why they express themselves the way they do.
6. What problems do you still face when expressing yourself, and what problems did you experience in the past?
One of the things that I've always struggled with is figuring out what I think. I feel like 99% of the time, my mind is a floating space of nothingness and to extract something, anything out of it requires exertion and effort. So that's always a struggle for me, finding something to think about. Like my videos. I struggle so much with them, because like I said, 99% of the time I have no idea what to talk about, especially when asked to talk about something. It just goes blank.
I go through this so many times. I'd have thoughts and stuff floating around in my head, things that I find interesting, but as soon as I click on the Word icon or the "Tweet" icon, my mind goes blank. Absolutely nothing. All of a sudden I have no memory of what I was thinking so profusely about just literally two seconds ago. And so I scroll through Twitter and think "oh look at all these people that have interesting stuff to say" and wonder how they did it.
7. How did you manage?
I still don't know. I think saying it aloud helps. And nowadays I like to record myself on the phone using the voice memo app thing on the phone. Most of my voice memo stuff are random melodies that sometimes come into my head and I hum them out to the phone so that I don't forget them in five seconds.
I also started an idea bank about a year ago. It was during a challenge I made for myself to write everyday on my blog (what a failure that turned out to be), but I feel like that helped. I needed to catch myself in a train of thought and quickly jot them down and save them in my twitter drafts so that I can go to my laptop later in the day and read from those drafts to know what I was going to write about that day. That idea bank thing was super helpful because sometimes I would have five thoughts a day, and somethings I would have zero thoughts a week, and being able to extract one idea a day from that bank was super helpful in getting me to write so much more than I had ever written before. But like everything I do, I stopped doing it at a certain point because me and consistency are like oil and water. I should probably start that again.
8. What's your advice to people who are afraid to express themselves?
I would have to ask first, why are you afraid? What are you afraid of? If it's that people are going to laugh at you, then chances are, people don't really care. All people care about is themselves, and if you're not directly affecting them in any way, then express away. if you're worried "what will people say about me?" or "what will people think about me when I do/say this thing?", chances are, those people are asking the same exact questions to themselves. Everybody is worried about their own selves, so don't worry about them. They're already worried enough about themselves as it is.
If you're afraid that nobody will care, then I'll probably borrow Bo Burnham's words: If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.
Because if I've noticed anything about self-expression and stuff, things have a way of finding their own audiences. They might be small, or they might be weird, but they're real, and they're supposed to be there. Care more about the quality of your product than what other people think about it. Because if you're happy with what you've made, then you've already gained one fan. Yourself.