Keep a journal and learn about yourself

By Becky Wandel

Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr
(Fredrik Rubensson/Flickr)

If you really love yourself, you’d keep a journal. Bold statement, I know, but I mean it.

The ultimate act of self-love is self-expression. It is confidently believing that your thoughts, both silly and serious, are worthy of note – no exceptions.

I assume I’m not alone in having spent a childhood and at least half an adolescence sporadically trying to keep a regular journal and failing at it consistently. Even as a little girl, when shame and inhibition should’ve been influencing exactly zero percent of my decisions, the act of keeping a diary filled with my daily thoughts and feelings felt frivolous and embarrassing and I never succeeded at writing more than one or two entries before I gave up.

I was perfectly fine dancing like a fool in the aisles at church or confidently yelling wrong answers out in class, but something about the act of journaling embarrassed me like nothing else could, which doesn’t make any sense, right?

Don’t we usually think of embarrassment as an emotion we only feel in a crowd, an emotion that comes as a direct product of being judged? Why then did the thought of keeping a journal, that was only ever meant for me, embarrass me to the point of giving up for most of my life? Why does the same thought still keep many adults from journaling to this day?

I think it’s because we judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else ever could. In our (at least ideally) merit-based society, we’re taught that the good ideas are worth sharing and the bad ones are worth keeping to ourselves, that the good songs should get on the album and the bad songs should get left on the cutting room floor. Now I’m not arguing that the bad songs should make it onto the album, I’m just saying that you’re never going to write a good song until you write a couple of bad ones. In your journal. Without being embarrassed about it.

We all deserve a place where we can be free to create without fear of judgment from anyone, including ourselves.

A journal is a place to keep all your bad songs, all your embarrassingly terrible love poems and all the mundane details of your day. It’s a place where you show yourself compassion by not holding yourself to a single standard other than production, a place where you make and document and keep and ramble – each word you write, a self-affirmation of your own right to be heard. Your journal can be notebook or a blog or a sketchbook or a bunch of voice memos on your phone – it doesn’t matter.

But whatever form it takes, journaling is a way to get to know the truest, most vulnerable iteration of yourself. It’s scary and intimate and weird but it’s all worth it. So much can be learned by taking the amorphous mush of thoughts and ideas and feelings and memories in your mind and materializing them in any way you can. And so much can be gained. Don’t believe me? Try it. I dare you.

I dare you to keep a journal that you write in every day. I dare you to love yourself one sentence at a time. I dare you to show yourself that your voice is worthy of being heard, even if the only person hearing it is you. I dare you to sit alone in a crowd and applaud for every one of your own bad songs, blissfully indifferent to their destiny to be left on the cutting room floor.


Becky Wandel is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]