Forming self & encountering difference

  • Expression and Forming Self
  • Encountering Difference
  • Students

Forming Self & Encountering Difference

Art is a beautiful mode of communication that allows us to express ourselves. Within that, we can express who we are in our identities but also communicate our differences, which in turn allows us to overcome them.

expression and forming self

Expression is important for anyone but especially for students still trying to figure themselves out. The middle and high school years were such a stressful time for me being exposed to all those new emotions that I really valued having an outlet to express myself in art.

I could create characters as an extension of myself and imagine stories of her doing things I wanted to do but couldn’t due to limitations of self, confidence, or rules. That then allowed me to express frustrations or to develop goals for my future self. And with other forms of art expression I can also explore and experiment with what I like to do to develop my personal art style and express my personality through that. I can also explore and discover who I am by reflecting and thinking critically about myself and expressing that in my art, or I can do research into my past and explore how my past or my family has impacted my identity.

I think that expression can then be very valuable to students in discovering themselves through that reflection while expressing and making art. This can lead back to play in art by meditating and reflecting while just having fun with art. I’m 23 and still learning things about myself and learning new things to improve myself every day. Meditating and reflecting while making art or communicating those things in art helps me track my personal development and acknowledge those ideas about myself.

Encountering difference

And, when I express myself in art or see how others express themselves in art, you start to see the differences between people and their experiences. Those differences add to our identities too by setting us apart from others and making us unique individuals instead of a result of a factory. I can discover that I have different emotions about something from someone else when I see how they address or depict something differently than I do.

When art is used as communication of stories and experiences, I can also start to see how other people experience life differently from me. I can see things in life that I hadn’t noticed before and see other perspectives about a topic that I hadn’t considered. This opens you up to an opportunity to develop empathy too in seeing reality as someone else sees it and how situations can affect others through their expressed stories. For example, I can’t fully know what it’s like to be black in America, but I can start to try to understand by seeing the art created by individuals who are black and listening to what they have to say about their experiences through their art. I can then learn a little more about them and what they go through via the issues they address in their art.


Students experience and understand more complex experiences than we give them credit for and no two people experience life or express themselves the same way. So, I think it’s important that we give them opportunities to express themselves with open-ended art projects and opportunities to share their reflections or statements about their artwork and, as a result, their identity from what and how they express. If we allow this expression, reflection, and discussion about our art and make a point to not censor out controversial topics that students still experience regardless of what we think then we can hear what others have to say and let them tell us who they are, and let them discover who they are.


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