Finding Your Expression

Photo by Vanessa Feng

Loving yourself is often said to be the key to happiness, but it’s hard to do when you restrict your self-expression. Valley sat down with Miya Matsui, a former classically trained ballerina and current artist and yoga instructor at Yoga Lab, to discover how to create that space within yourself to be able to truly express who you are to the fullest.

Miya Matsui has always been comfortable with self-expression. Starting at three years old, Matsui studied classical ballet until she was 17, and from the age of 12 she planned on pursuing a career as a professional ballerina. Dance expression was her entire life, but she realized that there was a difference between, “giving a performance and then actually feeling something visceral and expressing that.”

While studying one summer in Moscow at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Matsui came to the realization that dance was no longer satisfying the need for expression that she desired within her career path. “It got to the point that I had sucked the life out of it too much,” she says.

She wanted to live her life the happiest that she could, which was greatly inspired by the passing of her brother, Max, who took his own life when Matsui was in the 10th grade. “I felt a responsibility to live so fully for him,” she says, because he died so young.

Coming from a lifetime of practicing dance, Matsui knew she needed to find another outlet of expression. Two years ago, she turned to painting; something she says was inevitable as her mother is an artist.

“When you can allow yourself to enter into that mode of feeling, it is a very intuitive place. Then when I started painting, it was such an intuitive thing — and I feel that way every time when I paint, if I let myself get to that point.”

Her first painting was a self-portrait she did while visiting family in Japan and was created through intuition from emotion. Matsui reflects that it was raw and scary, but allowed her to self-explore her emotions that had been building up since the passing of her brother.

Regardless of the art form or practice they choose, Matsui thinks that it is important for people to have an outlet or space to go deep with their emotions.

“There is a stigma of allowing yourself to be emotional, or in touch with your emotions, or vulnerable, or soft, or compassionate towards you and other people around you, and that it is a feminine thing, which makes it a weak thing. But that is so wrong because to explore yourself and take that time to do those things, that requires a lot of strength,” says Matsui.

When people who allow themselves to enter into that space, they feel their strength because of it. To Matsui, it is not a superficial strength.

Matsui believes that in order to truly find satisfaction and happiness, you have to explore the sides of you that are embarrassing, the sides you might think are shameful. If you don’t ignore that voice in your head that tells you you are not worthy, you will end up missing out on the most intuitive and creative sides of yourself.

“I think [Max] was just embarrassed to express himself, he didn’t find a lot of value in himself. Which of course is so wrong,” Matsui says. An expression shouldn’t take a ton of effort — she believes it is an internal exploration that opens into an expression.

“The idea of finding yourself in general is wrong. It is more that you create yourself,” she says.

You can create yourself by letting yourself be who ever you were born to be.


If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts please reach out to the resources available: National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 | Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services: 814-863-0395