The Struggle of Self-Expression

Imagine you are stuck behind a very tall wall on three sides. You don’t have the option of going left or right to go around the wall. You can stay behind the wall, or move backwards.

The x-factor is you have a third option: you have the ability to jump over the wall. It’s an ability you were born with. No running start needed. Just crouch down, launch your body upward and clear the wall.

But, you can’t. Something is holding you back. It’s not a villain, or a physical restraint, or even gravity. You just can’t do it.

This is how I feel every day when it comes to self-expression, and to be bold and have no filter. I’ve struggled with it for as long as I can remember. So, naturally I decided to become an artist, graphic designer, and a science fiction writer.

I’ve read a lot of books on creativity and spent years looking for the answer to my problem. The most common things I found were as follows: fear, lack of confidence, overthinking. There’s more, but I think those three pertain to me the most.

I think fear is the most troublesome for me. I’m afraid to express myself and be authentic because I struggle with being vulnerable, and I fear being judged. I worry about what others would think and say. I shouldn’t, but I do. These thoughts paralyze me and halt my progress.

If the goal is to be authentic, then maybe I’ll take a small leap and share something I don’t talk a lot about: I was beaten as a child. When I was hit, I was not allowed to cry. I’ve told this to several therapists over the years, and they’ve never jumped on it. I never understood why. I’m not even an armchair psychologist, but I’m convinced there’s a link between those childhood experiences and my trouble to express myself.

This leads to lack of confidence, and I’ll lump in self-esteem into the mix. For me, confidence is like a giant ocean with waves that go high in the air. Some days its high, some days its low. I’ve read that childhood trauma can cause self-esteem issues. I feel like this is always going to be an issue. Also in my experience, I think “taking action” is the counter-move to self-esteem & confidence issues. Constant momentum in proving to yourself that you can make art, write and be creative feels like it’s the key.

Overthinking: all I can say is that my brain can run with racing thoughts at warp speed. I haven’t done any research into this, but I feel like this is related to fear. When my anxiety kicks in, it’s racing thoughts that also pile on as though I’m on the receiving end of a negative thought assembly line.

Having just typed out all of this, I realize that I’ve held the same job as a graphic designer and creative director for over twenty years. I’ve struggled a lot with these issues during my career and somehow I’m still here. My dayjob isn’t easy, but I find ways to make it work.

I’ve dealt with these struggles since before college. I’m 45 years old now, and there’s no magic formula that I’ve been able to find that will help me get over this. I have a lot to say. I have opinions. I have truths to express. Sharing the bit about my childhood was a struggle in of itself. Maybe that’s progress.

So, here I am, at the wall on three sides, and I can’t go around. I can stay (bad idea.) I can go backward (worst idea.) Or, I can use my natural-born ability to leap over it. If I can harness the power (of confidence) there’s a forth option: reach back with a fist break through the wall.

Luis Vazquez @vazquez