Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and right in the midst of taking summer classes. My summer this year has been full of empowerment because I’ve gotten the chance to see the bigger picture of how the world works. I’ve been granted the opportunity to reflect on how the way I think about myself, and the way I act as a result not only influences my mental health, but the mental health and lives of everyone else around me.
This morning, I started thinking a bit more about what exactly it means to be free to think and do as I please. One of the forms of self-expression people most commonly hear from me is my laughter; I’m not lying when I say its my gut reaction for almost anything. My sister always tells me that she can recognize my laugh from literally anywhere. One time, she heard me come into the library laughing- she was on the third floor, in the quiet section of the library.
My laughter is loud, and far from “lady-like”, whatever that means; it isn’t light and delicate and pretty and any other type of feature women are expected to have. It’s a strong, loud, deep sound that pours out of me whenever I hear, see or experience something funny or something that makes me happy. And regardless of how it might seem to other people, it’s the laugh that I was born with, and it’s not going to change even if I ever wanted it to.
To me, the sound of my laughter is one piece of proof that people were born with the fundamental freedom of self expression, whether they want it to be there or not. I keep mentioning this wanting of self-expressive rights because sometimes we do call into question whether we want some of the parts of ourselves and our personalities that allow us to self-express. Someone like me, who might have been criticized for the way they laugh or for their loud voice might work hard to quiet down or become more serious to appease others. Someone else who lives within a very conservative social group that does not approve of gay marriage might try and make themselves like the other sex. A woman who works in the government might be told to be “softer”, or “woman-like” and less argumentative might work hard to be this way, even though she knows that it’s within her personality not to be.
S e l f E x p r e s s
I define self-expression as the right to be yourself, to live the way you want to and do what you think is best and right. It is a quality of life that that I believe is vital for everyone, but many might disagree. Should everyone always have the right to say, think, act and dress the way that they want to?
Think about the number of times that you’ve judged someone for the way they look or the way they talk- if you believe in self-expression as a fundamental right, shouldn’t they be able to express themselves without judgement from others, who hold no authority over them? And, if you believe in self-expression, shouldn’t you be allowed to think what you want about the way they talk, act, or physically express themselves without judgement from others? How often have you been told to judge others by people who are judging you to judge others? How often have you told someone off and judged them for judging someone else?
Mental Health and Self Expression
Who has the right to judge? There are many answers to this question. Many who are religious say that only God’s judgement matters, and others say that everyone has the right to make the best judgement for themselves.
I talk about the qualities of self-expression and and judgement, and the importance of these rights to our lives through the scope of mental health because our ability and willingness to exercise these rights heavily influence the way we think about ourselves, and others. It influences the way that we act, and the way that we think, which side of the political spectrum we most agree with, and whether we do or do not support those that govern us. It also affects the way we act towards others. In turn, all of these things are determinants every single person’s psychological and emotional well-being, not to mention the type of treatment they are able to receive if they ever fall ill.
One side of the conflict about government and the right to self-express is that all people are entitled to be individuals, and to look after themselves. The other side is that because we are all people who naturally find a way to live together, we need something that’s bigger than all of us to watch over us, to protect us, and in return for protection of the entire herd, we must give up some of our entitlements, such as the right to fully express ourselves.
I’d love to hear other opinions and thoughts on this: what do you think? Would it be better if all government and judgement was abolished, and we all lived our separate lives without any consideration for the thoughts feelings of those around us? Or is it better the way it is now, when our individual interrelationships matter and influence the way we all are governed and judged, but we must give up some of our right to freedom of expression in order to gain protection for ourselves and everyone else? Which road is a healthier one? Which one is a fairer one?