Creativity

Journal prompts: Not having all the answers

I recently turned 30.

Like most people (I think!), I spent most of my twenties trying to get it all ‘figured out’.

At 21 I left university, ready to start my ‘real’ life when I got my first job. I can’t describe the crushing disappointment that followed when my first ‘real’ job turned out to be the most mind-numbingly boring thing I’ve ever done, and I had to quit a few months later to work in retail while I figured out my next move. So much for starting my ‘real’ career.

What came next were a series of what I can only describe as life experiments: training as a secondary teacher for something to do while I figured out what I really wanted, loving then hating teaching so training as a life coach, quitting teaching to travel and study psychology, then back into teaching when that hit a dead end.

All the while I felt like such a failure, mainly because I didn’t really enjoy teaching but couldn’t quite figure out what else I wanted to do. I kept thinking, shouldn’t I have this sorted by now?

This was accompanied by lots of why my 20s were a bit of a messpartying and drinking as a way to escape (plus, aren’t your twenties supposed to be wild?) but that didn’t bring me much joy either.

And then I met my now-fiance. Finally, something going according to plan! But I watched as many people around me got married, had babies and got houses, while my boyfriend of 2, 3, 4 years still hadn’t so much as proposed.

What the hell was going on? I panicked as 30 loomed on the horizon, drawing nearer and nearer. I just wanted to have it sorted by my 30th. Surely by then I should have it figured out?

Well, yes and no. Sure, my boyfriend and I got engaged, bought property and are planning for our future. So I guess I can tick that one off. As for my career… well, I’m still in teaching, but since moving to part-time I’m enjoying it more.

And as for my ‘real’ career? Well, I don’t know. I’m passionate about creativity, journaling and writing, helping people, art… some of these skills get used as an English teacher but not all of them. I know I won’t be teaching forever, but I’ve yet to figure out what the next step will look like.

And you know what? That’s ok.

imageStrangely, I approached 30 with a genuine sense of contentment. Gone are the judgments towards myself about not figuring it all out, gone is the guilt at having ‘wasted’ my twenties (what does that even mean, anyway? I couldn’t possibly have gotten to this point without going through the experiences I have).

I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to. It must come from growing up, I guess – when you’re young, you see life as black and white, and you think it should be easy enough. (I once had a student of mine, about age 14, remark in surprise that I wasn’t married with kids by age 26. She declared that she certainly would be by then. Yes, I once thought that too, love.) But once you get mired in the mess of becoming an adult, you start to see it’s not that straightforward. I think the only reason this causes pain is because we cling to that childish notion of having everything figured out.

So, on my 30th birthday, I celebrated having made it through the bumbling, awkward, disappointing, exhilarating and confusing ten years that were my twenties. Here’s to not having it all figured out!

>>> Prompts:

Try to think back to the way you imagined your adult life would look as a child/teenager/young adult. Do you feel in any way that you have let yourself down?

What are some of the judgments you have about how your life is now? What do you think ‘should’ be different but isn’t? Why?

What are some ways you could show more acceptance and contentment towards your current life?

What are some expectations or judgments you need to let go of?

Bonus prompt for those over 30: List ten ways that your life has been better in your thirties than your twenties!

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: Rest and self care

This is something I’ve talked about before, but I don’t think it can be said enough.

It is ok to rest.
It is ok to take time out for yourself.
It is ok to be unproductive and just do nothing.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it is not only ok, it is essential. It is an act of self care.

What is self care? It is any intentional act to care for yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This means self care can take many forms: one day it might be going for a run, another day it might be sleeping late. One day it might be making a green smoothie and taking time out with a novel, another day it might be having a drink with a good friend. It all comes down to doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

lesson 12An essential aspect of this is listening to your body, and tapping into your emotional needs. The reason I’ve singled rest out is because, while I don’t think anyone would argue against you going for a run or making a green smoothie to take better care of yourself, I do think that our culture has an absolute abhorrence to rest and being unproductive.

But sometimes, what you need most is rest. Sometimes what you need is to sleep late, or get some early nights, or say no to social engagements because you just want to stay in your pajamas and watch a movie. If this is what you feel you need, then do it. I can guarantee that denying that overwhelming urge to sleep because you’re just too busy will only come back worse later. Remember the oxygen mask – if you look after yourself properly, you are of better service to others.

>>> Prompts:

In what ways do you already practice self care? Consider how you do this mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

How balanced is your current self care? For example, do you spent a lot of time at the gym but no time tending to your emotional needs? Or do you take care of yourself emotionally but do little to look after yourself physically?

How could you introduce more self care into your life? What might be some obstacles to doing so, and how can you overcome these?

What does the word ‘rest’ mean to you? Do you view it as positive or negative? Why? For example, some people associate it with laziness or sickness. Challenge any negative beliefs – how could they be wrong?

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

Journal prompts: Kindness matters

When we are young, especially as teenagers, it is almost uncool to be kind to others.

Some people seem to never grow out of this. I see it as a sign of immaturity.

But each and every person out there is going through their own stuff. We often don’t know what it is. As Ian Maclaren said,

Be kind – everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Being kind to someone can be the difference between making them feel good or ruining their day. And it doesn’t take any extra energy to be kind – I think it takes more to be nasty!

I believe the more we are kind to others,kindness matters the more others will be kind to us, and the world will be a little nicer. Not only that, but I believe being kind to others can make us feel pretty good too. Try this next time you’re feeling crappy: do some random act of kindness for someone else, a stranger if possible. I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.

Something else I don’t think is talked about enough is being kinder to ourselves. How often do you catch yourself talking to yourself in such a nasty way that you would never speak to others? Not only is kindness to others important, but kindness to ourselves is equally, if not more, so. Treat yourself and speak to yourself as you would to a dear friend.

>>> Prompts:

What does kindness look like to you?

How are you already being kind to others? How can you include more kindness in your day?

How kind are you to yourself? Do you find you are nicer to others than you are to yourself? How can you treat yourself a little better?

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: 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: Nobody expects me to be perfect but me

I think this should be the mantra of every perfectionist.

How did I get it into my head that I have to be perfect? Because when I stop to think about it, this lesson is so very true – no one else expects perfection from me, just as I don’t expect perfection from anyone else.

But when it comes to myself – my own work, my own appearance, my own life – I want it to look and be perfect. Of course, no one else looks at me with such high standards.

Unconsciously trying to be perfect is one of the things that stops me from even starting things.

When I look back now, I done somethingrealise there are so many things I’ve not done simply because I feared I couldn’t do them perfectly, even if that fear was unconscious at the time (as I think it often is). I’ve started novels, paintings, classes, careers, hobbies of all kinds, only to give up when it became clear that I wasn’t doing it perfectly.

Like my novel – I gave up because it didn’t seem good enough so it sort of felt like, what’s the point? But imagine if I’d finished it! I would have a complete novel by now if I’d kept going. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would be done.

Perfectionism is very limiting in my creativity but also in other areas of my life – how I look, speak, behave etc. I find I am often judging myself against some self-created, unreasonably high standards.

So I try to remind myself – the only person who expects perfection from me, is me. And if that’s the case, maybe I can change my expectations of myself?

>>> Prompt:

What does perfectionism mean to you? What would it mean to you if you were perfect? In what ways do you expect perfection of yourself? How attainable is this, really?

What have you put off, quit or not even attempted because of a fear of not doing it perfectly?

If you were to embrace the beauty of mess and mistakes, what could you do?

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.

Creativity

Creativity: Why I’m going it alone

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you will have noticed the changes around here.

It started out as just me, a blogging newbie and journaling enthusiast, then Kelly came on board, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that it’s back to little old me – still a journaling enthusiast, but with a little more blogging experience under my belt.

So what’s been going on? Why all the changes?

It’s been about a year since I first waded into the world of creativity in earnest. It started with an innocent journaling course, then I found myself falling headfirst in love with everything to do with journaling, art journaling and any and all aspects of creativity.

I found that these things perfectly complemented my training in life coaching, psychology and teaching.

I’d always wanted to blog, and had attempted it several times, but this time it stuck. Why?

Because I finally found a topic I’m so in love with that
I just all you need is love and journalingcan’t help but talk to everyone about it.

My bestie Kelly was also in love with the same things, and she also wrote a blog, so we started to plan ways we could share our passion. It made sense to write a blog together, to create a community online around the things we both love.

So she came on board here with me. We both started blogging about the things we loved: creativity, self-love, self-care and journaling.

But things started to change, for both of us. Instead of being inspired by each other, we started to feel stuck. We couldn’t figure out why, so we just kept going.

I started wondering where the magic had gone.

What happened to that feeling of wanting to share any and everything I love about journaling and creativity? Why was I suddenly feeling uninspired and stuck?

It turns out, our creative dreams can be a very personal thing.

Despite the fact that we both loved journaling and blogging, what we didn’t love was sharing one online space together. We felt as though we were cramping each other’s style – unknowingly, and unintentionally, putting creative limits on one another.

I missed the freedom to just be myself, to follow my own creative whims and share my strange imperfections.

I realized that if I am to evolve creatively and truly follow my own deeply personal creative path, I need to go it alone.

This can be scary, and there was something so reassuring about having Kel right by my side. She was there to bounce ideas off, to brainstorm with, to laugh over endless cups of tea as we dreamed big creative dreams together.

Since we’ve gone our separate creative ways, I really miss those moments.

I believeBut even more rewarding is the sense of building something all by myself: fueling my own creative fire and lighting my own path.

I think we certainly need others out on the creative path – people to reassure us when times are tough, to tell us that they too struggle, to share ideas and inspiration, to cheer us on when we doubt ourselves.

Ultimately though, I think creativity is a solo expedition: an excavation of our own inner selves – our fears, our dreams, our lives.

While support from others is certainly valuable and I would say even necessary, ultimately it’s up to you to venture within.

So, Journal Wild is back to just me. What started as Journaling Dangerously, an experiment in journaling more often, has become Journal Wild, a full-blown commitment to a creatively nourishing life.

I’ve got my inner creative fire to light the path ahead and I’m going it alone.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share the posts or blogs that I’ve loved. Feel free to share anything that has inspired you this week in the comments below.

rain out west

If you’re looking for some gorgeous art journal or visual journal inspiration, check out Leigh Ann’s flicker page or her Pinterest page

This lovely post from Naomi about how to use self compassion when pursuing goals

Using writing dates to help you create a writing practice

How did I miss this awesome January journaling series?

An interesting read about how Carolyn overcame the critical inner voice to play with her art

Have you seen The Art Journaler Card club? Check out the second installment for a free download (I can’t wait to use this!)

Have an inspired week!

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!