Milestone Mind Personal Insights: Self-Expression and America

By Dave Nelson
Milestone Mind

When a great song comes onto your speakers, do you ever get the feeling of tapping your feet or snapping your fingers or even to outright start dancing?

This is a rhetorical question. Mind the cliche of opening the post with a thought-provoking question.

The answer to the question is obviously yes (unless you're a rock). We all do. You might fight it, but somewhere deep within yourself, your body wants to express the song through your physical body. You may be a terrible dancer or have bad pitch, but that usually doesn't stop one from trying (or, at least wanting to try, or wishing they did try at the last wedding, but rather chose to sit at their table watching everyone else have a great time).

What else do we all do that seems as normal as wanting to dance, snapping our fingers, or singing in the shower? Well, a lot actually, starting with authenticity, self-expression and individuation (see The Benefits of Being Yourself: An Examination of Authenticity, Uniqueness, and Well-Being for deeper research around this).

What is great about dancing is that it is socially acceptable to express yourself through this movement, no matter how good or bad you are. In fact, the worse you are, the more fun usually! And, fun to watch when the person is carefree about either their lack of beat or their ability to dazzle with their moves - we appreciate this freedom we are seeing in them. 

Dancing is about as human as breathing air; and so is self-expression, of which dancing is a form of this. 

This notion of self-expression has me really thinking, especially as Milestone Mind gets underway, about the opportunity America provides people to self-express - meeting a very real human need we all have. It seems like every time we peel back the onion during one's Milestone Mind journey, or witness an immigrant wanting to come to America, we find what they are really looking for is the ultimate expression of self - no barriers, no dogma, no doctrine - just being themselves without fear.

What is required to dance at a wedding? Not caring what others think. But, you hope through your moves (expression), good or bad, you give others the freedom to express and to let go. 

Next thing you know, guys have their ties around their heads, women have their terribly uncomfortable heels off and are barefoot and everyone has sweat pouring down their faces like they just finished a basketball game - they're free, and never happier. 

Sticking with the basketball analogy, how do you feel when you're sitting on the bench, watching everyone else play?

Not good.

It's almost like you get this growing feeling in your chest that feels like you're going to combust. You remain on the bench - or, at the table you were assigned to at the wedding - and only later regret your inaction, almost feeling guilty and bad about yourself (of course, in basketball, playing isn't always in your control, making it even harder to sit back and just watch).

Life is no different, and in America we've been given the ultimate dance floor to self-express. Truly, no matter our circumstances, we get to say what we want to say, live how we want to live, dance how we want to dance. This is exactly why America was founded, and why immigrants from all over the world want to come here: to be themselves without fear.

But, many of us who were born here have forgotten that we've been given this blank canvas to paint, that in many other parts of the world, this ability to express oneself is suppressed, and often illegal! It's illegal to be yourself. Wow.

How would you feel if that freedom to express was taken from you? 

Going off of this notion, then, how come people in America are not allowing themselves to fully express who they are? Who they were meant to be? You have the opportunity to do this, so how come you are not?

Often through hurts or pains or poor choices that led to daunting circumstances, people stop self-expressing. They put their heads into a hole, and just stop, and in a weird way, become the paradoxical version of who they're really meant to be, and want to be. And, most dangerously, discourage others from their pursuit of their ultimate self-expression because they themselves have resorted to being expressed (defined) by others, rather from within, and are mad because of that, and often where a lot of the hate we see today is being generated.

So, here we are, living on the ultimate dance floor, which on the floor itself (not the people) it doesn't discriminate against wealth or poverty, race or creed, to allow self-expression - it's just a dance floor - that is, until people sitting at their tables give you a dirty look and you stop. I'm here to say, don't stop. Keep dancing. Keep expressing, because that is where the real freedom is. For all of the chaos as well as the beauty that can ensue in America, it is this dance floor that gives people a platform to create this.

Freedom is a choice. It has to be taken. It won't be given to you unless you get out of your chair, and hit the dance floor.

Nothing is stopping you; you have the platform; be free, allowing others to be free in the process.