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Self-Expression The Bane of Your Existence or a Gift in Disguise

Have there ever been times in your life where your emotions have overwhelmed you to the extent that you have not had the ability to express yourself in an appropriate manner? Have you ever found yourself left speechless by something so extreme happening to you? This means there is a problem in your self-expression and you might need to get a proper understanding of it in order to start appropriately expressing yourself in different situations in your life.

Your self-expression is greatly affected by various environmental and personality influences. Environment influences include the situation you are currently experiencing and even your past experiences. Personality factors that have an influence on your self-expression include how introverted or extroverted you are, the coping mechanisms you use to cope with different situations, how educated you are, etc.

Thus, self-expression, especially appropriate self-expression is very important if you want to live a functional and normal life.

Emotional Expression

Emotional expression is one of the components of self-expression. It is the most basic level of self-expression because it is something humans learn from that start of their lives (that is, infancy). Infants cry because they feel a certain way and require the attention of their primary caregivers, so humans learn very early on how effective emotional expression works.

Emotional expression is quite simple to understand. It is the expression of your emotions in the current situation. However, your emotional expression needs to be adequate and applicable to the situation for it to be deemed appropriate. There are certain situations in which exceptions are made to this rule, for example, the death of a loved one might evoke many different emotions that can even be inappropriate (like disappointment in the loved one or even anger or resentment at them instead of expressing sadness).

Emotions can be expressed in many different ways, including simply telling someone how you feel, crying, laughing, smiling, grumbling, etc. Emotional expression can be done using the face, through actions and even using your words. The way one expresses their emotions varies greatly from person to person.

It is very difficult to have balanced emotional expression in all situations because humans are meant to form reactions to different situations and no matter how calm and collected one might claim to be, there will always be at least one situation that will evoke intense emotions. There are also gender and age differences that occur in emotional expression. For instance, men usually do not cry when watching a sad movie (for reasons related to societal norms and the masculine label), while women do.


Assertiveness is another component of self-expression. This particular component involves appropriately expressing one’s emotions in a situation which requires you to stand up for yourself. Often, such situations evoke anger or even submission depending on the person and assertiveness is starkly difficult to achieve for this purpose. Situations which are meant to test one’s patience and require for one to stand up for him or herself are particularly difficult to remain calm enough to be assertive.

Assertion is the mid-point between aggression and passive. Aggression and passive are what humans commonly experience in situations where they should be assertive.

For example, Allison’s co-worker is taking the next two days off and she asks Allison to cover her shifts for the next two days. If Allison is passive, she will most likely accept her co-worker's demands on the spot. If Allision is more inclined towards an aggressive reaction, it is likely that she will get angry at her co-worker or curse at her. Finally, if Allison has learned assertiveness, she will politely decline her co-worker's demands and tell her sternly that she is unable to help her out.

There is a stark contrast between the possible consequences of each scenario, but it is clear through the example that the best course of action is to be assertive (instead of taking the aggressive or passive route).


Independence is the final component of self-expression. It is one’s ability to stand on their own feet and understand their standing. Independence is particularly tricky to understand because everyone’s definition of independence can be different. Independence can also be achieved in several different domains, including financial, emotional, physical, mental, relational, etc.

Independence can be achieved at each age and at different levels. For example, in infancy, a child learns to stand on his own and eventually walk independently. In adolescence, one learns to show a certain amount of emotional independence. Independence is particularly important in adulthood, where financial, relational, emotional and mental independence are essential to be achieved for a practical and useful lifestyle.

Independence is also a balanced deal that needs to be achieved. When independence is not achieved, it means one is still dependent and this dependence can lead to over dependence with the passage of time. For example, Bob is 40 years old and he is still living in the basement of his parents’ house, depending on their income for the financial support he needs and playing video games all day instead of looking for a job.

Independence, when it comes to self-expression, means that one is fully aware of themselves and has an understanding of how to appropriately and independently express themselves in different situations. Such independence usually comes with emotional maturity. It entails the ability to express your emotions and thoughts without being influenced by what others say. It can also mean that you understand how to express yourself in a way that is purely your own.


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