The Dangers of Playing It Safe and How to Overcome the Fear of Self-Expression

how to overcome the fear of self-expression

A lot of people cannot pursue and participate in their passion because of one single word “but”. They try to stay in the comfort zone by playing it safe. Never let this ‘but’ stop you from taking risks and expressing your real self.

I’ll be the first to admit that self-expression can be scary, especially when survival instincts warn us to play it safe. Since it often feels easier to repress self-expression than risk judgment, humiliation, and even rejection, many of us conveniently hide behind masks.

However, there is an unseen price for suppressing our Real Selves and this price is paid with our precious lives, and, in fact, we might never know what we could have created if we fearlessly lived out-loud!

Rather than just “telling” you how to overcome the fear of self-expression and live as your Real Self, I’m going to share my personal story. This is how I personally faced my worst fears and came out the other side — and how you can too!

Like so many, my fear of self-expression began in childhood, and, in fact, early life experiences often set the stage for adult inhibition.

The Dark Side Of Third Grade!

Honestly, I absolutely hated elementary school, and with no “A’s,” praise, or golden stars, I was just barely skimming by, and, to make matters worse, I was ridiculed by teachers and bullied by classmates.

Playing it safe: As traumatized children, we always dreamed that someone would come and save us
Playing it safe: As traumatized children, we always dreamed that someone would come and save us

However, when I was assigned the “favorite teacher” in third grade, I thought my fate had changed; tall, blonde, and beautiful, Ms. Horvath, looked like an angel and I instantly loved her! Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the feeling was not mutual! One day, Ms. Horvath’s assistant graded essays for a creative writing assignment and hung the best ones on the wall, and to my surprise, my paper was displayed smack dab in the middle. For the first time in my young life, I felt proud and worthy, but, as fast as it came, it was taken away.

Just two days later, Ms. Horvath singled out my paper, and with her bright red magic marker, circled and corrected every mistake she could find, and then drawing attention to my terrible essay, she loudly scolded her assistant who marked it improperly. Within minutes, my beautiful work of art was tainted with bright red scars, and, worst of all, Ms. Horvath left it hanging in full view, for all to see. Shamefully, amongst the best and brightest, my failure stood out like an atrocity, and, for weeks, my classmates took pleasure in my humiliation.

Later that year, Ms. Horvath assigned a special project where we each had to invent a game at home and then present it to the class. Diligently working on my invention for weeks, I created a fun and unique game that involved moving pieces, lots of interesting details, written instructions, and a scoring system. Although I was really proud of my creation and excited to share it, the night before my presentation, I panicked!

You see, most of my classmates had already presented their inventions, and because my invention was radically different, I feared judgment, and, needless to say, I was terrified of humiliation once again. So, to protect me from shame, I decided to leave my unique project safely at home. Instead, I quickly cut small pieces of colorful paper into strips and glued them together to create a long chain. Although it didn’t really do anything, it fulfilled the assignment requirements, and there would be minimal risk of judgment and ridicule.

However, while presenting my invention to the class the next day, Ms. Horvath went into a controlled rage. She declared, “This project shows absolutely no creativity, and since it’s completely worthless, it should be thrown away!

Dripping with shame and wanting to disappear, I stood there helplessly as everyone laughed at me. Judging myself mercilessly, I thought about the awesome invention I left home, and how it was far superior to anything created by my classmates. “Why did I lack the courage to be bold and take a chance? I said silently to myself.

No doubt, this childhood trauma left a deep scar, and, from that point on, I became even more introverted – because I was petrified of being seen, I hid my Real Self in a cocoon of disempowerment.

Read: 4 Ways That Childhood Trauma Impacts Adults

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