There’s no better way to get to know someone than by reading their journals (not that I’d know, of course!), so to get to know me better, here’s your sneak-peek at the top 10 most valuable life lessons I’ve learned from re-reading my old journals:
Three years ago, I took a psychology class that required I keep a daily journal. It wasn’t long before I became hooked on journaling, and I spent the next year-and-a-half releasing my feelings through writing in a series of journals. Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve discovered by re-reading my old journals.
1. Being Hard On Yourself Will Get You Nowhere
As a second-year college student, I was incredibly harsh on myself. My first journal, in particular, was filled with self-deprecation and put-downs because I hadn’t yet learned how to love myself.
Those disparaging words caused me to slip further into allowing negative thoughts to dictate my self-worth, despite the fact that I was enough all along.
Slowly learn to give yourself the grace you deserve. You are inherently worthy, and your perceived flaws and mistakes will never diminish your value.
2. Effective Leadership Is Not About You
When I first began journaling, I was struggling in my very first leadership position. I strove to be the type of leader who would command respect from my teammates, the leader who was simultaneously kind-hearted and firm.
Instead, I became caught up in my desire to be the sole leader on the team. I made decisions I regret, and they led my teammates to lose respect for me and question my leadership abilities.
A true leader leads in the service of others, not for recognition or personal gain. Listening to others rather than simply hearing them and dedicating your time to meeting their needs will establish you as a caring, respected leader.
3. Perfectionism Is (Mostly) Overrated
A disturbingly high amount of my journal entries concerned my constant, raging perfectionism. I wrongly believed that striving for perfection would serve me well in all facets of my life, but I quickly discovered that complete perfection is unattainable, and always falling short of impossible expectations could easily ruin my already-wavering self-esteem.
Despite the shortcomings of my all-consuming focus on perfection, I am still a “reforming perfectionist.” Perfectionism has served me well in many aspects of my life, from my concern with timeliness to my experience with digital magazine editing. However, I am now able to recognize that the downsides of perfectionism far outweigh the benefits — and work towards change.
Perfectionism is an alluring trap, but aiming for an unreachable standard of perfection will only leave you unhappy, anxiously questioning your abilities. Strive to do your absolute best, and recognize when perfectionism is encroaching on your life. This is another most important life lessons – the sooner you learn, the better your life will be.
4. Finding Community Will Free You
It was nearly impossible to express the sheer joy and shock I felt after a chance encounter at a conference led me to another young woman with mild cerebral palsy. At the time, I was suffocating under layers of shame about my disability, resistant to disclosing, and wrongly convinced that I was completely alone in my struggles.
That moment was the first time in my life that I felt completely free to be myself. I spoke openly about my medical history to a complete stranger, and in return, I received validation that someday, I would come to embrace myself, disability and all. That day, I discovered I am never alone, and now, I know she was right: I have come to embrace my disability, and I am finally free.
So, one of the most valuable life lessons is that you will feel alone and misunderstand in your struggles, but you are never as alone as you feel. There is always someone who will understand you, and once you find others with similar experiences and foster a community, you will finally feel free.