Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Know yourself

The practice of journaling regularly has allowed me to get to know myself in ways unimaginable.

There’s something about the process of writing our thoughts, dreams and fears out onto the page, getting them outside of ourselves and having them there for us to look at, that enables us to better connect with and understand ourselves.

My journal is a mirror I hold up to myself, reflecting back my deepest values, highlighting my darkest fears and loftiest dreams, showing me who I am.

Through this process I have gained greater clarity about myself, about things I never knew before; I’m a highly sensitive person, an introvert, I often let resistance and fear stop me from doing things but paradoxically I also believe that anything is possible.

lesson 7When I began my journaling journey, I didn’t set out to ‘get to know myself better’, it just sort of happened along the way. And while I’m sure there are other ways of getting to know yourself and how you tick, I have found journaling to be the most invaluable tool to do so.

It’s like an ongoing therapy session with myself that I always have a record of to reread. Patterns and cycles become clear, images, symbols and words are repeated, certain themes emerge.

And by seeing myself on the page, I start to become a character in a bigger story, distinct from myself. I find this allows me to learn about ‘this person’ with compassion and acceptance, without judgement.

In short, journaling has deepened my relationship with myself. I can now listen to that small, quiet voice inside – the one that accepts me as I am and comforts me when the world is too harsh, that tells me when something feels off, when I need to rest more, when I need more self-love.

In fact, the small voice inside has gotten louder and louder. I now no longer look at my life and wonder why things are happening the way they are happening. Because I have a deeper sense of who I am, because I know myself and why I think and behave the way I do, I have a greater sense of purpose and control over my life. I find myself reacting less and acting more purposefully.

This post is a lot more rambly than I intended, so I apologise if you’ve struggled to follow my train of thought!

>>> Prompts:

How well do you think you know yourself?

What practices do you engage in regularly to maintain a good relationship with yourself? It doesn’t have to just be journaling, it might be painting, meditating, exercise such as yoga or running, seeing a therapist, etc.

What practices would you like to try to create a deeper sense of connection with yourself?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Dealing with dieting

This is a bit of a controversial topic, and I’m talking about it with the understanding that some people will disagree and possibly even get angry.

I’ve touched on this before, and I can’t possibly cover the entire topic in one post, but it is definitely one of my most important lessons.

dietingIn my personal experience over 20 years, dieting has never, ever worked. Oh sure, it gets the weight off, and usually pretty quickly. But it never stays off. Even when I’ve attempted so-called ‘lifestyle changes’ – for example with something like Weight Watchers, which seems pretty healthy and reasonable.

But over the course of my 20 years of dieting and hating my body (yes, it was around age 10 that I realised I was bigger than others and it wasn’t a good thing) I’ve learnt that it’s pointless.

It’s the same old cliche – lose some weight, gain back more. Steadily, over this time, I have gotten bigger and bigger.

You may be thinking, and indeed my thinking was similar for a long time – that it is my own fault, obviously, because if I’d just stuck with it, then the weight would’ve stayed off.

Maybe.

But given how much I have loathed being bigger, I can’t help but think that if it was just that simple, then I would’ve kept it off. I mean, it’s not a matter of being ill-informed; I know how many calories I should be eating, how many steps I should be doing, what foods to avoid, what foods to increase, what exercise is best, etc. I think most of us do.

The issue is not with a lack of education (although there are many conflicting and often confusing dietary guidelines out there, such as less carbs or less fat, 3 big meals or 6 smaller meals, etc).

You could argue it’s a lack of willpower. But honestly, having to force myself to eat less than my body seems to need forever, well… that’s doomed to fail.

Anyway, I’m not writing this to justify why I am overweight.

From my journal:

We are taught that we must try to be smaller to be good enough – we are not taught to question this. I had to find the idea and the permission to question it on my own. I had to dare to consider that I am not flawed – the whole system is.

You see, I simply decided to stop dieting. I decided to stop looking around the corner for the next diet, the one that would finally work. We are taught that if diets aren’t working, then it’s a problem with us – we just need to try a little harder, want it a little bit more.

I call bullshit. image

Dieting itself is the problem. Instead, I’ve chosen to love my body and stop punishing it for being imperfect. Does that mean I eat junk food? Sometimes, although after learning about intuitive eating, I’m eating less of it. Does that mean I’m fatter than I ‘should’ be? Yes. Is my health at risk? Well, I’ve had blood tests and they all seem to be fine. Not to mention I usually exercise several times a week.

And exercise is another thing – I now actually just do exercise I actually love, which is usually walks in nature, yoga or sometimes cycling. Gone is the guilt for not pushing myself to the point of almost throwing up – instead is the pleasure of moving my body in ways that really feel good.

I would like like to lose weight, I’m not going to deny that. But I just plan to do it gently, from a place of love, and if I don’t lose much weight when doing things I consider to be reasonable and sustainable, then that’s that. I won’t be pushing myself further.

I choose to love myself as I am, even if it’s bigger than I’d like. I believe I can love and accept who I am, but still work towards positive changes in a (mentally and emotionally) healthy way.

I once did lose a lot of weight and got down to a size smaller than I had ever previously thought possible. But I was so miserable, questioning and regretting every bite, and so insecure. I felt fatter then that I do now. Even though I am bigger now, I have more love and acceptance for myself than I did at my smallest size.

I have nothing against those of you that choose to diet, or to exercise for weight-loss reasons. Please don’t be offended by what I have said, this is simply a lesson I have had to learn for myself, about my own life.

To quote one of my favourite health at every size bloggers:

You are the expert on you.  You do not need to pay someone to tell you how to live your life.  You do not need to follow a blogger or weight loss success story to know what to eat or how to exercise.  There is no point in any of it unless it is something you personally are willing to continue for life.  What that is is necessarily different for each person.

I’ll leave you with that.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘diet’ mean to you? Have you ever dieted? Did you manage to keep the weight off? If so, how? If not, why not?

If you were to reject the idea of dieting and perfecting your body, what else could you spend that energy on? How might your life look different if you chose to accept your body as it is, and focus on other things?

In what ways do you treat your body poorly? How could you do this less?

In what ways do you show your body that you love it? How could you do this more?

If you’re interested in learning more about some of the things I’ve discussed, I recommend the following resources:

Online:

Books:

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: I am enough

It took me a long time to learn this, but when I sat down to think about what I’ve learned in my 30 years on this planet, this was the first that came to mind.

lesson 1

We are repeatedly told by our culture that we are not enough – not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, funny enough, flawless enough, sophisticated enough, and so on. We are told we don’t do enough, we don’t achieve enough, we don’t help enough, have enough, etc. I could write so many many more examples.

But I realised something, which I noted in my journal:

It doesn’t matter how much I am overweight, how bad my skin is, how many dimples are on my thighs. It doesn’t matter that I’m ‘overly sensitive’ or ‘cry too easily’, that I’m terrible at geography, that I make mistakes, that I get irrationally angry at other drivers and am not doing enough to save the planet. I AM STILL ENOUGH.

You are too. Just as you are, right now. You don’t need to do more, change, improve, acquire more, shrink down or expand. You are enough as you are now.

Accepting yourself as you are now doesn’t mean you aren’t able to change. It doesn’t mean you must stay the way you are. But it means that you can see your inherent value right now, and any changes you do make will come from a place of love.

>>> Prompt:

I found it incredibly liberating to list all the things I tend to judge myself for and then write in bold letters, I AM STILL ENOUGH. Try this in your journal. In what ways do you sometimes thing you aren’t enough? Write them all out, then declare, I AM STILL ENOUGH!

If you realised you were enough, as you are, right now, how would your life be different? What would you do differently?

What are some things you could do each day, to show yourself that you love and accept yourself just as you are, right now?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the blog posts and other bits and pieces that have most inspired me. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below.

creating a magical life

Jamie Ridler has some great advice for when you feel overwhelmed (something I’m all too familiar with!)

Akiyo at Journaling Sage is posting daily journal prompts – a great way to get into a regular journaling practice

Loving these ideas of how to be alone with your writing and how not to be too alone with your writing – great for striking a balance in your writing life

Totally crushing on Susana’s art right now

Andy shares some great ways for introverts to recharge when feeling drained of social energy

Have you got your free copy of the Journal Wild Self Love Kit yet?

Have an inspired week!

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the posts and blogs that I have found most inspiring. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below!

trees and reflection

A reminder on the importance of practicing self compassion

Naomi generously shares some of her journaling wisdom in this free ebook

Some great tips from Stargardener about how to curate words as prompts

Courtney talks about how narrowing down our choices can be better

So excited to find this art journal series by Daisy Yellow with free tutorial videos and other goodness, be sure to check it out!

Have an inspired week!

Creativity, Self Empowerment

How do you use your creative energy?

How do you use your creative energy?

I used to squander mine.

I have always been perpetually on a diet. And if I wasn’t actually on a diet, I was planning which diet was going to be next. Because, as every good dieter knows, the next diet will be the one that works. The next diet will always be the last one. Except, of course, that it isn’t.

It’s exhausting constantly going through this cycle.

So exhausting that, with work and relationships and money problems and everything else thrown in, there isn’t much energy left for anything else. Especially new and scary creative ventures.

About a year ago I started exploring dieting alternatives, without realising that was what I was doing. Actually at the time I thought I was looking for the next diet – although of course I didn’t think of it as a diet, because everyone knows that diets don’t work; I was looking for my next ‘lifestyle change’ (read: diet). The two things that really spoke to me and slowly started to make more and more sense were this woman and this group.

After a while I started to realise that what I had been doing all along was never going to work. I’m not going to list all the diets I tried, or thought about trying, or researched, or contemplated last thing at night before falling asleep and first thing in the morning after waking. Suffice it to say, I was very busy using a lot of my energy on this whole weight-loss venture, as I pretty much had been, on and off since about the age of 10.

So when I eventually made the conscious decision to quit dieting at the start of this year, I freed up a lot of my creative energy without realising it. It wasn’t until I started journaling daily and creating regularly that I realised what had happened.

I had harnessed all of the energy I used to spend obsessing about my weight, diet and exercise for my creativity!

Now I find that the more I create, the more I want to create. The way I’m using my creative energy now is so productive – it fills me with joy and inspiration, leading to more creative energy. When I was using my energy to obsess about dieting, it got me nothing (not even weight-loss, or at least not for very long).

As someone who has spent their whole life worrying about their weight, there is something so liberating about channelling that energy to something that fills me up.

The irony is that expressing my creativity does fill me up in a way that food can’t.

So in the end, it’s really more productive for my health, anyway.

I will say this: I’m not totally happy with my body. I still look in the mirror and sometimes feel unhappy, or disappointed, or even disgusted. But I’m actively practising self-love, self-acceptance and trying to make peace with my body. Dieting never helped me to lose weight – long term I’ve ended up bigger than before I started (a total cliche, but of course it’s spot on) so it’s not the solution. Maybe loving myself and nourishing myself creatively, eating what I feel like in moderation and doing exercise I actually like will make me happier, whether I’m thinner or not.

So that’s my plan from here on out.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Goodbye 2014, hello new year!

I love this time of year. It always feels like a chance to reflect on the year that’s been and get excited about the year to come.

It feels like a fresh start, a clean slate, a do-over. It feels full of possibility.

But the only real way to get the most out of a new year is to make peace with the year that’s been, then set some clear intentions for the year ahead. If you don’t let go of what’s been, you may drag it into the new year with you.

i am so blessed

I cherish this time of year as a chance to spend extra time with my journal; reflecting, dreaming and planning.

For me, this has been a tremendous year, personally. I’ve started a blog and welcomed my soul sister Kelly on board, I’ve created a regular journaling and creative practice that lights me up, I’ve gotten engaged to the man of my dreams and he and I have begun a journey to build our own little house. I couldn’t be happier with these things.

Professionally, this year has been challenging for me. I’ve been working full-time in a teaching job that I find stressful and, at times, overwhelming. While it certainly has its rewarding and enjoyable moments, as a highly-sensitive person and introvert, it is harder for me than many. Perhaps not the ideal career choice, I now realise after getting to know myself a bit better through my journal. Nonetheless, I made it through the year in one piece.

Our school years run from the start to end of the calendar year in New Zealand, so I am currently in between jobs, deciding upon my next move for next year. Instead of being fearful about this, I’m excited for what could be ahead.

So now, I’m going to take out my journal and explore the year that’s been and the possibilities that lie ahead of me.

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal and create a heading: Goodbye 2014, welcome new year! (Or whatever floats your boat).

Begin by answering some of these questions, and if something stands out to you, go as deep as you like:

  • How would you describe 2014 in one sentence?
  • If you could redo 2014, what would you do differently? Why?
  • List three things that went well for you this year.
  • List three things that did not go well for you this year.
  • What was the absolute highlight of 2014?
  • What was your lowest point?
  • If 2014 was a book, what would be the title? Come up with a few chapter names.
  • Draw a timeline of the year from start to finish with all of your achievements and greatest joys.
  • What was the predominant feeling for you in 2014?

Now, think about the year ahead:

hello 2015

  • If you were writing this at the end of 2015, how would you ideally like to be able to describe the year in one sentence?
  • If 2015 could be a book, what would you like it to be titled? Come up with a few possible chapter names.
  • What do you hope to achieve/do/complete/have happen next year?
  • What will you absolutely make happen, without a doubt?
  • How would you most like to predominantly feel, next year?
  • Create an art journal page or collage that best represents how you would like 2015 to be.
  • Choose one word to guide you through the next 12 months. The word I have chosen for 2015 is focus. Kelly’s word is joy. Choose whatever word most sings to you. If you’re a bit stumped, visit Susannah Conway for guidance on this. Once you’ve chosen your word, write it in big bold letters and put it somewhere you will see it every day.

Most importantly, be kind and gentle with yourself while you go through this process. If this hasn’t been the best year for you, try your best to acknowledge that and then look forward to the new year. It’s a new beginning for us all.

Creativity

Journal prompt: Letter to your son or daughter

Last weekend when I was playing around in my altered book journal, I made a two page spread that looked a little like old paper. I didn’t want to put lots of images and colours on there like I usually do, so I decided to do a bit of writing.

altered-book-07As it’s not my normal written journal (but rather a place that is a little more playful) I decided to do something a little bit different: a letter to my (future) daughter.

I don’t have kids yet, but my partner and I talk about how we want to raise our kids when we do have them. I think a lot about the things I value in my life and some of the more conscious decisions I’ve made for myself over the past year (to avoid mainstream media/advertising, quit dieting, downsize and focus on what’s really important, etc). I often think about what I want to teach my kids, when I have them, and especially my daughter(s), because I think it is so hard growing up in this day and age for young women.

So that is what I did – I wrote a letter to my future daughter, with all the lessons I’ve learned so far. The funny thing is, all the advice I seemed to be offering was indeed advice I needed to hear too!

>>> Prompt:

Take a fresh page in your journal. If you like you could do this in an art journal and include images and colour too.

Now, from the heart and as honestly as you can, write a letter to your future (or current!) children. If you don’t have children or don’t plan to/want to have children, write the letter to a niece or nephew, or someone younger you care about.

Your letter may take the form of advice, as mine has, or it may be about your story, something personal you want to share. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

travel

I just wanted to share with my future daughter the lessons that most stand out to me at this stage in my life. I’m sure if I wrote the same letter in 5 years time, some lessons would be the same and there would hopefully be others to add!

Some of my advice included the following:

  • Trust your intuition
  • Be bold – have courage
  • Dream big and don’t listen to those who say you can’t
  • Travel and see the world
  • Find a creative outlet you love and create often
  • Love yourself unconditionally. You’re good enough – imperfections and all
  • Find others you love and cherish them

What would you write to your (future) son or daughter?

Self Empowerment

On sickness and blogging

I am sick at the moment. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. Just general crapness.

I have attempted to write an amazing blog post three times now. It’s not happening. Time to face the fact: today’s post is going to be pretty average.

But I guess by honouring where I am right now and being authentic, there may be something worth saying.

That’s one of the really hard things about doing this every day. And I guess this would apply to doing anything every day. Some days it just won’t work, for whatever reason. Maybe you run out of time. Maybe you have to take care of your kids or your partner or someone else, and there’s no room left for you at the end of it. Maybe you’re unwell *cough*.

I think it’s good to commit to doing something regularly.

I’ve seen dramatic changes in my life from journaling and blogging regularly. And it’s been really good to be pushed to do it every day. Mostly. Most of the time, I just need a wee nudge to get on with it and then I’m glad I did. Having the commitment encourages me to challenge myself.

And, occasionally, I don’t want to do it. And that’s also ok. Taking a break from doing something can also be rewarding and can help you to move towards your goal faster, without burning out.

So while I am still posting today because that’s the commitment I’ve made and I want to show up, I’m also going easy on myself. This isn’t brilliant writing. But I think it’s good to show that.

It’s good to let the world see me on my crap days too.

To see that I’m trying, that I’m willing to push forward – to see me as I am, now.

Because otherwise, how can we truly be vulnerable? How can we truly progress, if we can’t admit when we aren’t feeling good, when we need a little help, when things aren’t going to plan? How can we grow without accepting where we are?