I read my old journal entries and realized I was the problem

'In order to grow, we must realize when we have been unsuccessful'

About a year and a half ago, I began the habit of journaling daily. 

The activity started out of a mix of personal desire and necessity. I had heard from a variety of sources that the process of journaling and rereading previous entries, as a form of introspection, has brought great personal insight and clarity of perspective to people. I wanted to try it for myself. 

The initial few weeks of the process were both awkward and interesting; writing my thoughts and feelings onto a page felt strange and almost childish. At the same time, though, I found myself becoming more observant of the world around me. Three weeks in was when journaling materialized greater realizations of my daily life. 

A friend once told me rereading previous journal entries felt closest to reading a short novel devoted to the study of oneself. I felt like I was entering a tomb of knowledge with a penchant for self-analysis. 

The first wave of realizations brought light to much of the pain I had experienced over the course of the years — many of the pages were infused with bitterness and self-hatred. On occasion, I felt a visceral emotional pain on reading such hyper-criticism toward myself. 

Pushing forward in this process revealed how this cynical energy had negatively affected other areas of my life and consequently how I let it affect others. 

In delving into what had now become a personal research project for self-growth, I incidentally began to realize how this drive for negativity had affected my life. Resulting from it were flawed emotional responses and misguided communicative tools, ultimately leading me to unknowingly put out the same toxicity that was causing me such pain.

The initial uncovering of this truth ushered in feelings of intense guilt and interpersonal remorse, and rightfully so. 

The cycle of pain inevitably pushed me to use the same flawed coping mechanisms others had used to hurt me, and I brought pain to others in this process. Guilt, remorse and dislike toward the self were all natural responses to this engagement, but some empathy directed toward my experience was necessary. 

Inherent in a push for personal growth is the realization of one’s own faults — the definition of improvement necessitates that. 

If improvement is to be made in anything, it must mean that there exists something which was failing. To grow means implicitly that something has failed, and the desired improvement stems from correcting these failings. 

In order to grow, we must realize when we have been unsuccessful. 

When I first set about on the push to journal on a daily basis, I had not expected to have made such clear findings about myself, others, the world and the infinite relations between those three things. Fixing these flawed perspectives and behavioral coping mechanisms was a long and thorough process in and of itself, and the struggle to ameliorate these inherent flaws in my mind’s eye continues today. 

Still, the underlying ideal of a push for self betterment and outwardly putting positive energy stands true.

In many ways, it reminds me of what I want this upcoming year to be — I hope that it brings similar realizations and the required mechanical corrections to any distortions my lens of view may possess. 

I find that this is an important aspect of the business of life; to sieve through old memories like a box of vintage photos and piece together the underlying patterns.

The divisions between us as people — whether real or fabricated — seem to grow every day. In a world that increasingly blends truth and fiction, it becomes easy to deflect blame and maintain a feeling of righteousness. Mending these supposed faults in our current culture, though, will require the absolute acceptance of personal responsibility in all forms. 

If there is to be hope for this coming year, we must begin by acknowledging our own faults and working to correct them. I’ve already found many faults in myself thus far, and moving into 2020 I hope to make sure that never stops. 


Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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