The Power of the Emotional Selfie

Using Art as a Tool for Transformation and Healing

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Every day I take a selfie. Not the angled, duck lips, “damn, I look good” type selfie. It’s more the unfiltered pure unknowing of my inner world sketched on a blank sheet of paper selfie. This selfie is made with my hands and created with ink sourced from the deepest well of my being.

Every morning, I sketch. I sketch to express the emotions I’m feeling each day. The emotions that used to overwhelm me, but now underline the punctuated narrative of a new visual language. I call it SketchPoetic, a daily practice of sketching through what I go through.

This daily commitment didn’t start as an art practice. It originated from a sole (and soul) desire to confront the growing anxiety permeating my life. This anxiety became even more evident in my debilitating fear of flying. Unconsciously, I knew it wasn’t about turbulence. It was a much deeper fear showing up in an external way. Due to stigma I held about therapy, it took me decades before I finally decided to seek it.

In our sessions, my therapist helped to connect how anxiety manifested in my life. It manifested in frenetic, nervous energy, an inability to be in the moment, and a general lack of awareness of the emotions swirling within. What’s interesting is I had always prided myself on my level of awareness. In hindsight, my awareness came from a rational, logical place of observing my emotions, but never really expressing them. This foreshadowed the egoic lessons leaving me humble to my messy, yet redemptive unfolding.

After therapy, I was ready to find my own way of expressing the emotions I tightly held inside. The challenge was I had explored many ways to release them. I tried journaling, exercising, yoga, and even meditation. Yet, somehow, all of these tools, while incredibly potent, didn’t strike a chord in the way I was intuitively seeking. I was searching for a tool of expression that felt light to counter the heaviness of what I was feeling. At the time, light meant something easy, playful, child-like in its wonder. Unknowingly, I was also searching for a light to illuminate a path back to my shadowed existence.  It was in this search that I uncovered the memory of art and the light it embodied.

Sketching had always been my happy place. I would get lost in the meandering, uncertain lines of my colorful marks. Marks made without fear or reason. It was a fitting tribute to lock eyes with my inner child once more. The inner child who had created during times of violence and volatility, darkness and despair. Sketching was exactly what I needed to confront the turbulence in my life once more. But, this time, I knew it was different. I no longer wanted to escape the world around me. This time I wanted to dive deep inside myself with my pen serving as a lifeline.

Thus, the journey of SketchPoetic began. It all started with a commitment to sketch daily ­–to sketch the emotions longing to be seen. My first sketches were seemingly shaky and uncertain, but it didn’t matter, because I was creating for me. Even when I started my Instagram page for SketchPoetic as a way to track my progress, I didn’t do it with the intention of building an audience or following. I did it because I felt the need to share it, and without realizing how it would help me  grow or give my sketches purpose and meaning, it did.  

Close to three years later, I am still taking emotional selfies each day. That is – I am still sketching daily. This type of “selfie” that makes me feel good about myself and doesn’t require a filter. It is the most honest portrait of who I am today. A snapshot with my eyes wide open and a smile so big even a sketchbook can’t contain it. Pages upon pages of sweet expressions flow through my pen each day. The lines I mark on paper with intensity and passion give my voice new power and strength. Instead of being intimidated by the negative space in between, I am emboldened. My sketches give my emotions a place. They dissipate shame, fear, and darkness. They have become a part of who I am and how I have learned to express myself at work, in my relationships, and in my life.

Will you join me? Take an #emotionalselfie today and share your creative expression. Can’t wait to see it!

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