If you’ve been around the studio for any length of time, you know that I believe journaling is one of the best practices for developing and sustaining your creative life. With just something to write with and something to write on, you can change your life.
That’s what happened to me when I was a grad student and living with my boyfriend of 13 years. I started writing morning pages, three pages of long-hand free-form writing prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. As I wrote, I started to hear my own voice for the first time in years. I could no longer avoid the truth; I felt constricted and unhappy and I needed to do something about it. Over the next year I started my life anew. It was terrifying and heart-wrenching but laid the foundations for the life I live and love now. Telling myself the truth each and every day tuned my inner compass and guided the way.
Just me, a pen and the page and everything changed.
Free writing is just one of many ways to journal. Another approach is exploring prompts, taking a question or a sentence stem and seeing where it leads. Today I want to share with you one of my very favourite:
I am a person who…
Note, the word ‘person’ should be adjusted to the word that best represents you to you. (For example, I usually write, “I am a woman who…”) This is your journal, your voice, your truth. Take this prompt to the page and complete the sentence over and over again with what you know to be true. Just keep writing and let aspects of you pour out of your fingertips.
I am a person who is an artist at heart.
I am a person with a soft spot for cartoons.
I am a person who values freedom.
I am a person who has loved and lost.
I am a person who speaks 7 languages.
I am a person who is tougher than I look.
I am a person with a great sense of wonder.
I am a person who deserves better.
I am a person committed to a cause.
Once you’ve finished journaling, take a moment to say each of the statements to yourself. Notice what happens in your body. When you hit on something that rings pure and true, you can feel it. It’s as though this reminder, this acknowledgement of who you are, deepens the strength of your roots.
You can feel the truth in your bones.
Over the summer I started using this practice to create meaningful affirmations. When I was facing a choice or a challenge, I crafted these I-statements into talismans, words I could use to remind me of who I am and who I wanted to be. For example, when I was heading into a big meeting with the trades for our renovation knowing I was going to have to hold firm in the face of opposition…
I am a woman who speaks her mind directly and with conviction.
I am a woman who holds her own.
I am a woman who keeps her cool.
I am a woman who gets what she wants.
I am a woman who turns conversations into connection.
I would play with the options as I got ready to go until I found something that felt just right. I would walk into that meeting with those words and that conviction about who I am, about who I was actively choosing to be. It served as an internal guidance system for every interaction and decision. When the challenging conversation was at hand, I would remind myself, “I am a person who turns conversations into connection. That’s not scary. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.” Or if I had to make sure my voice was heard, I would remind myself “I am a woman who holds her own. Right. I am. That’s me and that’s what I do. I hold my own.” And then I’d do it.
That’s the extra bit of magic. Affirmations are most powerful when we believe them to be true.
When you take this approach to these “I am” statements, you have the immediate opportunity to prove them true. In the situation with the contractors, I did that by holding my own or by having conversations with the intention of connecting. Even if I managed to do it just a little bit, my mind was predisposed to look for proof of who I say I am and would measure that little bit as success.* For example…
“I am a woman who turns conversations into connection.”
“Hey, when I made that joke with the contractor, he smiled and laughed. I felt like we were just people having a conversation.”
Using these I-statement affirmations has become a regular and powerful part of my life. When I face a challenge or a tough decision, I stop and think about who I am, who I want to be. “I am a woman of integrity.” “I am a woman who embraces life.” “I am a woman who chooses love.” And then I act. Each time, I feel my roots grow deeper, I know exactly who I am and I move forward with clarity and strength.
Knowing the magic in this simple journal prompt, I offer it up to you. May it remind you of who you are and guide you in becoming exactly who you want to be.
*This is why it’s so important to let go of negative self-talk. As we say rotten things about ourselves, our minds also look for proof of truth. Finding true and positive I-statement affirmations and living into them can help displace and replace those negative words.