I have always been someone who has felt humiliated and exposed in communicating my true feelings or thoughts to someone; even to my best friend. I have had this ideology, where I think that people will never be able to resonate with what I am feeling or experiencing at that moment and to say something, they will end up giving me a reaction that will just intensify my ongoing misery. And honestly, sometimes we don’t want people to give us advice. Sometimes we just want them to listen to us, understand us and just be sympathetic towards us, like, “Hey! I understand what you must be going through and I wish I could help you but I cannot because you are the one who is feeling it, but I can assure you that I am always here to talk”. 

And, I am not saying that I don’t communicate at all. I do talk about the things that are stressing me out and share about the progress I might have made in my personal or professional life. But certain parts are too vulnerable to show it to the world, right? I believe that everyone has some thoughts that they are not so comfortable about. There are feelings which we know if we were to share it with someone, either we will end up getting judged or will receive an unsolicited opinion.

I wouldn’t say that there is anything wrong with hiding a few thoughts or emotions but when we don’t even communicate those thoughts to ourselves, that is when the real problem starts. Being in utter denial with our true feelings can lead us to feel anxious, annoyed, and stressed for most of our days. And, ultimately we will reach a stage where we will become distant with ourselves. We will stop caring for ourselves, stop thinking about our sanity and then at a position where we will dwell into self-loathe and disgust. 

Last year, I experienced the same thing while going through a breakup. At the beginning of my breakup, I donned a pretense for the outer world. Whenever my friend would want to talk to me about it, I would always try to shun her by putting out a strong front. But little did I know that I was wearing this facade to hide from myself. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel a single emotion, whenever I would think about my ex, I would engage myself with work or just sleep to avoid confronting those feelings. There were times when I would cry myself to sleep and think about calling my best friend and sharing this with her but then I would hang up the phone thinking that ”there are so many problems in people’s lives, they surely don’t want to hear about my predicament”. But, again in the morning, I would not allow myself to feel weak or fragile. For some reasons, I always felt that being strong and unapologetic were the only definition of the word “empowered”. Slowly, I stopped listening to myself, stopped addressing the emotions that were rushing through my body. But somewhere down in my heart, I knew I needed care; not from someone else but from myself. 

Soon, all of this emotional stress came out in the form of an outburst at my workplace amongst all of my team members. That outburst subconsciously evoked all those suppressed feelings which I was wrongfully concealing. After that much embarrassing incident, I realised that I have not been doing a very good job of taking care of myself. That night, I decided to change my perspective and to take a step to empower my true self till the time I feel no more ashamed of the feelings evolving inside me.

I realized that no matter what there are a few things which we will keep hiding from the world, and sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to go to those dark areas of our lives. But I knew that to inculcate self-care in my life, I will have to be completely honest with myself because if we will not be honest with ourselves, how can we expect ourselves to evolve and to flourish? How can we expect others to be honest to us? 

But, how do I reflect the change in myself? To answer all of these questions, I started to maintain a journal/a diary. Before I could be more vocal about my feelings to other people, I had to learn to express it to myself freely and what another way than using words and phrases, right?

I cannot emphasise enough on the benefits of maintaining a journal. We all have read and heard about it. But then the question arises, how do we use a journal to grow? How do we use a journal to be more compassionate and empathetic towards ourselves?

For that, let us walk together and learn how to discipline self-care within ourselves through journaling:

-First and Foremost, start writing: I know a lot of people might wonder that we are not professional writers, how are we supposed to write admirably? But that is what is so beautiful about maintaining a diary. What we are going to write in it, is strictly personal to us. We can write what we want and the way we want it. Be as expressive, and as candid as we can because nobody is going to have access to it except ourselves.  So, there is no need to be concerned about small things such as sentence formation, proper word usage, phrases or grammatical errors.

-Be completely transparent to yourself: Let us sit down in quiet, close our eyes, take a deep breath and release it slowly. We will start to feel a little calm. Now, we need to use this calmness, to introspect about all of the emotions that we have experienced throughout the day. Was there a post you saw on social media that gave rise to a feeling of envy inside you or did you receive any news that left you with a feeling of sheer bliss? Think about all of those parts in our body that are feeling stressed, point them out one by one and now exhale it all out in the form of writing. 

-Fix a time for yourself: Are you finding it difficult to control your thoughts? Are you finding yourself gazing at your journal with a pen in your hand but nothing to write about? Believe me, it is completely alright! Sometimes, even I have trouble addressing my thoughts. So, in that case, what do I do? I just start writing loosely. What does this mean? I fix a time for myself, say about 10-15 minutes in a day. I start writing whatever comes in my mind, without pressing too hard on it. I will just write about what I did in the day, whom did I talk to, what made me laugh so hard, what chore did I complete? and slowly I would find myself feeling much more at ease and comfortable with my reflections.

-Make notes for your feelings: Throughout, the day we encounter a series of emotions. But there will always be that one particular, thought or feeling that will keep dangling at the back of our minds. This one thought can hamper the rest of our day. We need to know what is bothering us and why is it bothering us? Even if that thought will make us feel petty or dreadful, there is no need for us to feel flustered about it because, in the end, we all are just human beings. And, till the time we don’t acknowledge it, accept it, we will never be able to resolve it and walk forward from it.  It is very important to concede even the darkest thoughts that we have because unless we are truly able to caress it, we will never be able to change it.   

 -Write in the form of steps: Now, this is something that I have learned from the Youtuber, Lily Singh. After hearing her talking about this way of making notes on a podcast, I decided to give it a try myself and I will admit that it made it so much simpler for me to keep an account of my progress.  So, here is how this works:
Step 1: Analyze what we have experienced in a day; good or bad, positive or negative 

Step 2: Accept what we have experienced.

Step 3: Now, write down what we have experienced and the reason behind it.

Step 4: Know that this thought is toxic for us and that we will have to change it.

Step 5: Write down the various ways that we think that we can rise above from that feeling or that thought.

Step 6: Instill those ways in real life.

Step 7: Take note of your progress.

Step 8: Most importantly, don’t forget to go easy on yourself.

This is what I have learned from my experience, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to maintaining a journal. It is just a measure for us to be more open, available and truthful to ourselves. Because, the moment we realize to accept ourselves just the way we are, that is when we are not only ready to accept and embrace our flaws but to also be more open to change and move forward from the habits that are becoming an obstacle in our lives and in becoming a more compassionate and humble person.