Journaling: Know Yourself, Own your Shit, and Identify your Ideal Life (heads up: mature language)

Journaling: Know Yourself, Own your Shit, and Identify your Ideal Life (heads up: mature language)

There’s a saying: Own your shit.

So maybe not everyone says it but I try to live by this. Yes, seriously.

It’s not meant to be arrogant if it sounds indulgent. Owning your shit encompasses:

  • Admitting your mistakes
  • Making peace with your past and the relationships that have shaped you long after those people were gone
  • Taking responsibility for your choices, your life, and your happiness
  • Owning your feelings and exploring their origins

I think the ability to own your shit begins with an honest relationship with yourself. This is the most important relationship I have and I work hard to make time to check in with myself.

Journaling may not be for everyone…I can’t speak for you…but I think most people’s discomfort with journaling comes from being scared shitless to be honest with themselves. Believe me, I get it.

And it sounds so simple: Be Honest.

Yeah. Fucking. Right. This is one of the hardest things most people will ever do. Especially those of us heavy in the mistake department.

Thing is, this is the whole point of journaling. You can write a whole book, but if you spend those pages lying to yourself and telling yourself everything’s great even though you know it’s not or writing about everything but what’s bothering you, you’re not going to grow and nothing is going to change. Even if your life is just the way you want it right now, stuff is bound to bother you and you’re going to experience feelings: good and bad.

Maybe you don’t want change. Awesome, but I’ll bet you still want to grow as a person and have an honest relationship with yourself. The greatest benefit of regular, honest journaling is that you connect with yourself. If you check in regularly and treat yourself with the same kindness you’d get from a trusted friend, you’ll already know your baseline before wrench one is thrown or a situation materializes. This can help you approach challenges with compassion and identify your true feelings in the midst of conflict. You may even see it coming. Hell, you might instigate some change on your own behalf.

I firmly believe that feelings serve as a barometer of what is and isn’t working. Think of them as an emotional guage-o-meter (redundancy-meter) that will point to where you need to make changes in your life. This may mean a big overhaul or something small, like speaking up for yourself. Look for the areas of your life that make you miserable or uneasy or angry. Maybe you feel blah. Maybe you hate your job. Maybe you’re in a shitty relationship. Maybe you don’t like your long distance carrier. Not all change is huge but it’s happening all the time, whether you participate or not. I prefer to create change intentionally, knowing that I can’t control everything either. Shit happens but I’m going to do what I can to create a life that’s fulfilling and balanced.

Let’s look at that long distance carrier thing for a second. Yes, really. Even if it seems stupid.

  • Sure you could live with it. That’s always an option.
  • You could stop paying the bill. (fuck them)
  • Or you could pinpoint what it is you don’t like about the service, communicate your problems to your carrier in hopes of a solution, then decide further action based on those options.
  • Or switch to another long distance service that provides better service in the areas you value.
  • You could get a cell phone.
  • Maybe you don’t need long distance after all.

No metaphor. What did you think I was talking about?

One side effect of owning your shit is that it eventually eliminates misplaced guilt and shame…something I’ve lugged around a duffel bag of most of my life. Notice I wrote ‘misplaced’. I’m not talking about giving yourself a free pass to manipulate, purposely cause pain or be oblivious to the feelings of others, then declare mulligan and skip away like a dipshit. I’m talking about being human, dropping the ball, not being strong enough, fucking up.

(Deep breath) I drank heavily most of my life. My choice to hide from my life and my feelings hurt people. It damaged relationships and no doubt injured the development of my children. There are things I can never take back or erase. I journaled the entire time I was drinking but I was never willing to look at myself. Everything was happening to me and I was a victim of circumstance. My pages were mostly filled with my bitching. It was in no way constructive.

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Exploring the emotions I’d run from for so long helped me understand why I was where I was in my life. I for one had found my way out of dealing with shit. My first discovery in journaling through my addiction was that I was using alcohol to escape from pain, problems and all the injustices I’d felt I suffered. In a concrete way I was lying to myself by omission. Full Disclosure: I used a lot of food for the same reasons. I couldn’t grow until I owned, felt, and moved past these buried emotions. It wound up being the first step in forgiving myself, which led to doing things differently. For the better.

The best thing anyone can do to move forward in a situation like this is to get real honest with yourself (yeah, it’ll hurt), own your shit and settle the books by forgiving yourself and expressing your heartfelt regret of having hurt someone else. If you can’t contact them, write a letter or an entry in your journal.

I’ve made mistakes in my life, we all have. The idea is to do better. I have two journal prompts to not only get to know yourself, but they’ll also help pinpoint what you want in life.

You can use these entries to set goals, then document your progress in your journal. Your life changes all the time anyway, you might as well customize it!

The first journal prompt isn’t mine but I love it. Want a roadmap?

  • Everything is great, now that…

Don’t think too much. Fuck spelling and grammar and neat. Rant if you need to. If you get stuck, change ‘great’ to peaceful, calm, stable. The words you choose say something about what you want and probably lack.

What’s awesome is that this prompt can identify what you’re concerned with right now as well as your long-term goals. Explore possible actions you might have taken to get to your ‘great’.

The second is what I use to get an overview of what I want and where I want to be. When I first made the decision to actively participate in my life, I started with this prompt. Again, you have to be honest. Dream big and own your life. What would make you happy?

  • Describe the perfect day in your ideal life from the time you wake up until you go back to bed.

Where did you wake up? Did you sleep alone? If not, is it someone you know or someone you haven’t met yet? What is your schedule? What did you do all day? What did you do to earn income? What’s the weather like? Who did you see? Get creative and build a whole ideal life.

Guess what? You just set some goals!

I use these prompts to assess my personal and professional goals. Knowing what you want is the first step to getting where you want to be.

See those big-ass gaps between your ideal life and the one you live everyday? Making intentional changes can close those gaps. Yes, it’s gonna be hard and it’s gonna take work but think back to every time you faced a problem, stayed strong and fought like hell. You’re strong. Don’t ever discount your power to change things, especially your own life.

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I spent years working low-paying jobs. I’ve been a cashier. A line cook. I unloaded trucks. These days I support myself and my children with my writing. It’s a new and exciting life – and I want the same for you!

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