For successful living, we must know how to express ourselves to our own satisfaction as well as to the satisfaction of others. One of the arts of life is the art of self-expression. Many people have much to give to life but fail because they are frustrated in their capacity for self-expression. Of course, we express ourselves in everything we do, even in the most trivial acts, but it is our ability to express the creative spirit within us to others that really matters. You may have interesting ideas and fine thoughts, but these will remain sterile and profitless, if you cannot give them form and so be able to communicate them to your fellow creatures. To have something worth while to say and to know how to say it affords an intimate satisfaction which enhances our personalites not only for ourselves but for other people.
Adequate self-expression is a means to a happy and successful social life. The man or woman who can converse in a bright and interesting fashion is always sure of a welcome in any society. The power of words is not to be despised. True, it can be abused but this will not arise if behind the words there is Tightness and clarity of thought, and sincerity.
Now, sound thinking depends in part upon knowledge. Therefore, we must constantly seek for new facts and new ideas. To be a good conversationalist, you must be knowledgeable, and today with newspapers, journals, periodicals, the radio and television, many opportunities are afforded to acquire information easily. But a mind merely full of bits and pieces of knowledge is of little value. Knowledge must be integrated and built up into our total mental structure, and when we are able to add values to the digested knowledge we may become truly cultured.
Then, to express ourselves, we must learn to think clearly. Confused thinking leads to confused talking, loss of self-confidence and embarrassment. For clarity of thought, there is nothing so helpful as the exercise of expressing your thoughts on paper. Writing requires concentrated effort and implies the logical assembly of your ideas. By such effort you may not become a brilliant stylist in writing, though you may discover you have talent, but you will certainly improve your capacity for lucid and direct thinking, which in turn will give you confidence to express yourself in the spoken word. One of the most enjoyable ways of practising the written word is by letter-writing. Master this technique and you will find your capacity for conversation much improved.
It is by what we say that we are judged as personalities, more than by any other form of self-expression. Speech is the main method of contact with our fellow-creatures. In every aspect of our lives we need to speak well to achieve success. It is often said that to-day conversation is a decayed art. That is because so much of our leisure tends to be taken up by passive entertainments. Radio, television, and the cinema are certainly competitors to conversation, but whenever intelligent people foregather there will be good talk. People who cannot talk well are greatly handicapped socially and occupationally and remember that conversation like all arts requires to be practised: hence the value of social group activities, study circles, societies and clubs where people of like interests can assemble for the interchange of thoughts and views. We should all apply ourselves with seriousness to learning the art of conversation.
There are, of course, many other forms of self-expression. Indeed, every creation of man is an experiment in self-expression. The vital force within us all is constantly urging us on to activities which reveal our inner selves. Human progress would be impossible without our experiences being transformed, shaped and expressed in speech, writing, doing and making. We conquer our environment through self-expression. We must express ourselves to live, and to implement the potentialities of our being.
Most of us have something in us that is worthy of expression not only for our own good but for the good of others. Self-expression in the best sense is self-giving. Colourful personalities are expressive personalities, but we must be aware of over-dominating our environment with aggressive self-expression. We must temper our self-expression with tact, sympathy, and consideration for others. People who constantly express their views in an over-assertive way are never popular and sooner or later will find themselves cold-shouldered. Self-expression is a gentle art which helps us to maintain good relations all round.
Hindrances to self-expression may arise from conflict and anxiety within the personality. Nothing is more destructive to mental productivity than long-continued anxiety. A mind preyed upon by anxiety can never give of its best. On the other hand, controlled emotion, composure and a reasonable belief in oneself, lead to a mental attitude which makes possible the expression of one's individuality in a graceful and efficient manner.
There are numerous ways in which we can express ourselves apart from speech and writing. There are a host of artistic forms of self-expression, painting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, photography, dressmaking, gardening, and crafts of all varieties. We can express ourselves in the furnishing of our homes, in collecting, and not least in our job and profession. We should endeavour to place the stamp of our personalities upon everything we do in a creative way. Man's greatest satisfaction is in creation. We must, therefore, always try to exploit our abilities and talents. That may require much experiment but most of us will discover something that we are good at and we should practise to become expert at it. We can all leave behind us some footprints in the sands of time which will have made our lives worth while. The chronically dissatisfied people are those who have never found ways and means of creative self-expression. They feel unhappy and frustrated, always finding fault with things external to themselves. Their attitude to life is negative. They cannot receive because they do not know how to give. Let such people discover a hobby, a recreation, a cultural pursuit, an altruistic social activity and their lives and outlook will be transformed.
One of the great problems of today is the proper use of leisure. With a general shortening of working hours, most of us have time to spare, but these can be squandered on passive, merely distracting entertainment, or wasted in boredom. We must educate ourselves to use our leisure so that it will add substance to our lives, and contribute to our greater satisfaction. Not that we do not all need some relaxation. We cannot exercise our intellects all the time, but we should so plan our lives that a part of our leisure is directed to a worthy and constructive objective. That way lies happiness and contentment.