I love Strictly Come Dancing. For the uninitiated, it’s the BBC’s reality TV show where celebrities who don’t usually dance are paired with professional dance partners for a dancing competition that will go on till the run up to Christmas. Others would say it’s the answer to the X-Factor, the ITV’s reality TV show that seeks to produce pop stars over the same period.
I’m not usually a fan of reality TV – most of it is more unreal than fiction. However, I would watch the X-Factor when my girls are home. When they both left for University, I discovered how much I really loved Strictly such that I record it if I’m going to miss it and catch up on it later. That was my plan today, having gone back to bed at about 5pm following my battle with flu/cold symptoms all day. (I feel much better, thank you!)
So, when I woke up and eventually got out of bed, my thoughts went to what I’d be sharing with you tonight. And I concluded it would be ‘Lessons from Strictly Come Dancing‘, after watching tonight’s episode. So, I got my dinner ready, but wouldn’t watch Strictly with my meal because when I watch what I love, I give it my full attention and that would require having my glasses on, which would be inconveniencing as I have to have them off when I’m eating. So, in the end I decided to leave the X-Factor on while I ate and watch Strictly afterwards (which I haven’t yet!)
However, the theme of tonight’s X-Factor: Express Yourself, appealed to me as a subject for tonight. So I stayed with it to the end, rolling my eyes at some of the acts, wondering what their judges/mentors had in mind with such choices (in particular the duo that did I’m a Barbie Girl – that was painful for me to see and hear) and reminding myself why I still didn’t really like the X-Factor. Yet I know there’d be others who’d love them. And that’s ok.
It is interesting when we express ourselves. People might not like what we have to say, but might listen anyway. And they have the choice to turn away if they don’t like what they hear. Yet, how often do we censor ourselves out of fear of what somebody else might think or say or do? How many times do we bite our tongues for fear of causing offence? And we just went with the flow because we didn’t want to rock the boat, yet, we’re seething on the inside?
I’m not saying we need to be rude or confrontational or aggressive to express ourselves: I am saying we can express ourselves and our truths with courtesy, with liberty, with grace. And I would go as far as to say that sometimes we even have a responsibility to do so, to speak up, speak out in truth, our truths, how we see it, how we experience it…to take a stand for ourselves and also on behalf of others.
Self-censorship is a learnt response. Have you ever seen a new born that didn’t express themselves when they were hungry, dirty, too hot, too cold or just plain tired? Yet, we grow up and learn to silence our voices … until the day when we want to speak and discover we’ve lost the art or we swallow it up for so long that one day we just explode in aggression towards somebody else. Or implode in aggression towards ourselves and the body breaks down and gives way to various ailments or the mind gets overwhelmed with illness as a result…
The good news is that, you can recover your voice if you want to. How? By making the decision to do so. And then to practice doing, a little bit at a time, as the opportunity arises, as you create opportunities so to do… until it becomes natural again for you to express yourself.
If you are a writer (or an aspiring one) and find you are hitting that ‘writers’ block’, it is worth checking out where you may have learnt to self-censor in other areas of your life and begin to reclaim your voice and free up yourself in all of those areas, one step at a time. Same goes for public speaking. Uncensoring yourself in your normal day to day living and especially in your mind will free you up to speak your truths freely, whether you are speaking to 1 person or 10 or 100 or 1000+ people.
I am speaking from personal experience: it is possible to reclaim your voice after years of self-censorship. Perhaps one day I will dedicate a piece to my journey from self-censorship to self expression.
For now though my encouragement to you is: Stop the self-censorship! Express yourself! Freely. Gracefully. Truthfully.
Yes you can!