How often have you wanted to say something but kept silent? How often have you wanted to showcase your art or your work, but decided not to?

Maybe you didn’t want to admit it, but the fear of criticism or rejection stopped you from sharing, from expressing.

You censored yourself.

What if you stopped pretending that you don’t care if your art or work doesn’t become successful? What if you stopped hiding from the world?

“I can’t sing (but I want to).”

“I’m a terrible dancer (and I’ll never be able to learn)”

“I feel so uncomfortable speaking in a group of people (and that will never change).”

Those thoughts are pretty common. Why are we all afraid of what other people will think of us? It’s absolute insanity.

I’ve even heard famous actors and musicians who say they are still really concerned about whether people like their work and like them. Even after all their success, they still find it hard to shake that doubt off.

Probably a long time ago, when we were kids, we decided that it wasn’t safe for us to express ourselves. We got criticized a few times by peers or adults. We started to hold back. Doubt gripped our minds with its dirty, ragged fingernails, commanding us to stay small, inert, frozen, expressionless and generic.

Safe, but not so fun.

How to Stop Censoring Yourself

1. Observe how often you are self-censoring. Pay attention to how often you decide not to do or say something because you’re worried about what people will think.

Do you avoid wearing bright colors so that you don’t stand out, even if you like bright colors? Were you going to make a suggestion at a meeting at work but decided not to because you didn’t want anyone in the room to think it was a bad idea? Did you want to tell someone you care about them, but then you held back (because maybe they won’t reciprocate)?

Becoming aware of how often you censor your thoughts and actions is the first key to living more freely.

2. Remove the filter. Lift the self-imposed (and unnecessary) censorship. Start to get more comfortable expressing. Take a few small risks each day. Notice how nothing bad happens when you do this. Just speak. If you tend to hold back, then experiment with speaking what’s on your mind more often.

3. Experiment with taking bigger risks such as doing something expressive that you’ve always wanted to do but felt scared to do it. Prepare for a concert and play live. Become a speaker at an event that you really care about. Take your business idea out of your head, put it onto paper and tell a few people that you really trust that you’re working on a new business. Read one of your poems at a poetry event. Say “hello” to a few people while going about your day and then let go of their response to you.

4. Believe, keep believing, keep increasing your belief in what you say and do. This is all about taking on the simple habit of positive self-talk or affirmations that resonate for you. If you’re feeling hesitant about how you express yourself in the world (style of dress, what you say, your interests, your art and work), start from where you’re at and keep building yourself up.

Grow your belief through surrounding yourself with inspiring books, videos, people and thoughts. Your thoughts need to support you, not tear you down. This is one thing (perhaps the only thing) that we really can control (even though it seems like our thoughts are often out of control).

Avoiding things you want to do but are afraid to is self-censorship.

Stop holding back. Stop playing small. Forget about false humility.

Imagine if your favorite artists, authors, inventors, entrepreneurs, writers, and professionals you look up to decided they wouldn’t share anything publicly unless they knew for sure that the first thing they produced would be a hit.

We never would have heard of any of these people. No classic songs, no cool inventions, no inspiring books and movies, no pioneering technologies and helpful services.

It’s time for everyone to “win” in life, by feeling open, confident and freely expressive. No matter what.

What is one small habit or behaviour you can start doing today to stop censoring yourself? Let me know in the comment section below.

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