Inner Limits

Why You’re Not Getting More Out of Journaling

Isaac Smith / Unsplash

By Frank Anaya

Every day you journal, you’re bringing fresh soil into your idea garden. But if you never look back at what you wrote, you’re losing the opportunity to till that soil, to work it and see what grows.

Experts like Tim Ferriss and Julia Cameron say that the process of journaling is beneficial on its own, and that you don’t need to—and even shouldn’t—review what you write. But this “no review” rule deprives us of the opportunity to dig into the roots of our insecurities, uprooting our real or imagined fears. 

The practice of reviewing my journal entries helped me face a fear that had defined much of my life: the fear of writing. English was not my first language, and learning it gave me a lot of anxiety. I felt shy, judged, and not enough. When I got an F on a paper in 9th grade English, I told myself: “You can’t write.” Years later, when I began reviewing my journal entries, I discovered that not only could I write, but I could express myself powerfully in writing—I could even find myself in writing. 

You may never have to learn another language, but you can probably relate to the insecurity that comes from not being able to express your thoughts confidently. That self-judgment holds us back from realizing the benefits of journaling.

What Journal Reviews Can Do For You

In Tiago Forte’s course Building a Second Brain, I heard him say something about writing that was so different from what I had always believed: “’We don’t give our own ideas the same worth we give others.”  

Whoa. I realized I had habitually dismissed my ideas for years. I felt unworthy of my thoughts and judged them harshly. My shift came in seeing a new glimpse of myself – a being with ideas worth sharing. So I began to journal. 

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