Professional women that I work with, stay-at-home moms, retired ladies and those who run their own businesses at any age have at least one thing in common: they want to express themselves. We want to express what we have boiling, scratching, howling inside and bring it into the world. Through giving birth to a child, running a new project, dancing as a hobby, designing interior for the place where we live or gardening. Knowing that insatiable need, a big chunk of media is dedicated to cater to it: magazines and TV shows on hundreds of woman’s hobbies. Though it’s still not sufficient: this inner buzz for more creativity and better self-expression is manifested through: “I’m stuck/not challenged enough at work”, “Children are great, but how else can I express myself”, “What I’m doing is okay, but I know I am capable of something more and better”, “I am not a creative person”, “I work at the office and it’s not a place to express myself.” The list goes on.

 

Looks like we are doing something wrong or the environment around us doesn’t allow to share our creativity with it. So I decided to talk to a group of women on how they express themselves in today’s world. The women I talked to were from different countries, of a wide age category (27-68) and coming from absolutely different professional and social backgrounds: doctors, bloggers, moms on maternity leave, women who cannot go to work because their husbands doesn’t allow them to, successful entrepreneurs. So, yes, when I said different backgrounds, I meant really different.

In this article I’m not going to share the results of that study (it will be published later), though some of my observations from our conversations that entailed self-expression. In most cases we started talking about career transitions, success for a woman, overused concept of “work/life balance” and it all touched this inner itch for creativity.

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❶ IMPRESSING OR EXPRESSING?

With a change in career, improving your skills in (photography as an example), how much do you care about how others perceive this change? I’ve seen a lot of examples when women start something new and give it up or, even worse, never try to pursue what’s “itching” them just because it’s “silly” and “nobody needs it.” The world around us seems to be so protective about our current identity. Is it really or this is one of the safe pretexts that we have created for ourselves not to feel rejected or hurt in some shape if we try something new? I found the best example of self-expressions when women were less focused on acceptance and how they look, and cared more about bringing what they’ve been “hiding” into the world.

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❶ CREATING DOES NOT MEAN ARTISTIC

In today’s world we overuse and misuse the word “create” and “creativity” to the point when it means something solely artistic: through writing, painting, designing or taking pictures. Today’s world is about shape, format and, foremost, visual expression. It is overwhelming to the point that other ways of self-expression are underestimated. If I love to deliver presentations, cook, play with kids, work with numbers – that’s not a creation, that’s a part of my life/work and it is not artistic. What creating means to you? How do you express yourself at work? When do you feel truly satisfied with yourself?

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      ❶ I WON’T DO IT BECAUSE IT ALREADY EXISTS

There are thousands, if not millions, doctors in this country. Why should I change my career track and become one, even if I dreamt about it all my life? Why to learn dancing as there are so many professional dancers in the world – “I won’t create anything new.” This theme of novelty buries our already well-hidden dreams that have no potential to transform into intentions and actions unless we give ourselves a chance, allow to just follow what I am constantly asking myself about.
Yes, creating means to bring into “existence from non-existence”, bring something new into the world. Although that doesn’t mean a new type of things, another original class of phenomenon. It is more about your personal signature, your “voice” as unique as your handwriting.

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❶ IT SHOULD PAY BACK

Depending on your own definition of success (you already have it and live it, even if you don’t have a crafted crispy ready to share definition), self-expression should be pragmatic. It can pay off in money, fame, praise or any other kind of reward. If I put myself into something, it should be rewarded by others. There is nothing wrong about expecting a reward for something that you created, though what are your expectations? What kind of reward do you expect? From whom? I observe a lot of examples where expectations do not correspond with reality: if I take on this project at work, I want a promotion. Did you express your expectation some form with decision-makers? And who are decision-makers after all? What kind of pay back do you want? Is it really all about the money? Not suggesting anything, though putting some seeds with these questions in your mind.

As a summary, I would like to ask you a personal question: 

WHERE DOES YOUR CURIOSITY LIVE?
Women are very curious creatures: we are about curiosity which in some families and companies it is not appreciated: “you don’t want to be noisy”, “you ask too many questions”, “just follow what others are saying”, “don’t stand out.” Feels like the less you ask the world about, the more rewarded you will be. Really? I don’t think so. Multiple organizations try to expand so called learning agility that is based on one’s curiosity as one of the assets for the company’s sustainable financial success. Why? Curiosity fosters innovation and by innovation I do not mean creating something like a brand new source of power; of course it looks “smaller” in a routine set of things at work. Keep asking questions without being discouraged by the “size” and “scale” of things: there is no “small” or “big” when it comes to your self-expression. Ask the ones that you are ardent about, follow your curiosity: it is the best beacon to “what can I do with my life” type of questions.

 

Self-expression is original and powerful as it’s yours. It’s time to own it and you will find the way to present it to the world (your bosses, family, friends or social media followers.) Do you still need a permission? Okay, here is one: own it, mean it, express yourself.

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Iris by Albert Maysles, 2015.  More than a fashion film about Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style icon of the New York fashion scene. Story about creativity, free spirit, courage to express yourself and inspiration.

Iris movie