The Pitfalls of Aesthetic Journaling (Build a better relationship with your journal)

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Inner Journey, Journaling
Feeling the pressure of aesthetics ruins journaling. How to build a better relationship with your journal

Journaling is an introspective practice that lets us engage with our internal experience, connect with our thoughts, and build a better relationship with ourselves. But it can be difficult to embrace our personal practice while surrounded by a multitude of pristinely planned, artistic journaling spreads on social media.

Social media portrays a highly curated aesthetic standard that’s unrealistic for many people to achieve in their daily journaling practice. It’s great to inspired by these spreads, but many people fall into the trap of comparing their journals to others. This can turn an uplifting journaling practice into a defeating one. And some people eventually turn away from journaling because over-focusing on aesthetics ends up ruining journaling for them.

I personally struggled with these feelings, and I know I am not alone after hearing many others experience the same. But I have since transformed my relationship with journaling to a positive one! I no longer fuel my self criticism or pressure myself with unrealistic standards in my journaling practice. Instead, journaling has become a pleasant experience where I can fully express myself and practice self acceptance. And because of that, I have been able to enjoy the many benefits of journaling! Keep reading for some mental shifts that may help you transform your relationship with journaling, too.

Embrace your unique handwriting in your journal

Many people are uncomfortable with their own handwriting. We often hold expectations about what our handwriting should look like. And it can feel defeating when it doesn’t look the way we want. This self-criticism can stem from previous educational settings and other external factors, but we don’t need to perpetuate that.

Messy handwriting in a journal looks sloppy and ruined

Firstly, handwriting is completely unique to every individual. The way our letters form on the page is a distinct expression of us, and no one else on this planet. Instead of harshly judging it, I encourage we embrace our uniqueness! Additionally, handwriting inconsistencies are part of the journaling experience. When we write about deep topics, our handwriting can change based on our emotions. For example, my handwriting gets larger when I’m anxious, scratchier when I’m upset, and loopier when I’m feeling happy. I used to feel like my handwriting inconsistencies ruined every page I wrote on. But I no longer see it that way!

The entire point of journaling is to fill the pages with our internal experience. When we look back on our entries, the state of our handwriting serves as another layer of information about the emotions we were feeling at the time of writing. The way our handwriting looks serves as an expression of our internal experience. The contents of our writing is where we find many benefits of journaling.

Freely explore your inner creativity in your journal

Close up of weird and interesting doodles in a journal

Being inspired by aesthetic journal spreads can encourage us to get visually creative in our own journals. But our journals do not need to meet any pre-defined aesthetic to be “good enough.” As complex individuals, none of us fit perfectly into any one of these aesthetic categories all the time. Feeling like we have to plan and design pristine journal spreads before we give ourselves permission to engage with introspective writing can be too daunting to keep up with.

Instead, I encourage you to express whatever comes naturally in the moment while you are journaling. Make your mark on the pages in whatever way serves you. Let your brain draw some weird doodles or strokes that don’t make sense. You might love the way they come out. And over time, we begin to see our own unique style come out on the page. Opening a journal entry that entirely reflects you can feel personal and rewarding. And every entry might look different than the last, depending on what you need that day. This approach cultivates a safe place for self expression in your journal, and more creativity can come from that environment.

Comparison is a thief of journaling joy

Girl standing in front of a forest experiencing negative emotions from journaling pitfalls

You are not alone if you feel discouraged that your journal doesn’t look like the others that inspired you. Remember that many creators spend a lot of time and energy planning spreads ahead of time, perfecting their handwriting, and staging their journals for social media engagement. Each person’s personal journaling practice looks different from anyone else’s. If comparison is a pitfall you may be susceptible to, I recommend you establish with yourself why you want to keep a journal. Is your goal to have a beautiful journal? Or something else?

This was tricky for me in the beginning. I love looking at aesthetic journal spreads, but the fear and shame of making mistakes in my journal was hindering my journaling experience. After toiling with this, I decided my goals include building a better relationship with myself. And so that takes priority in my journal.

I try to remember that I use journaling as a tool to get whatever is inside me out of the page so I can take a good hard look at it and grow from it. And since re-evaluating my mindset, I notice that I now freely put on the page whatever serves me in the moment. I doodle, write messily, make mistakes, and am as creative as I want to be in my journal now. And many days, I don’t feel the need to express visual creativity at all. My journal has proven to be a useful tool for practicing self forgiveness and self acceptance, instead of further fueling perfectionistic standards.

Throw journaling aesthetics out the window

Drawing of a simple, achievable heart doodle to represent building a better relationship with your journal

I’d like to conclude with this: Introspective journaling offers enormous benefits, and you can experience them without adding an ounce of thought about aesthetics in your journal. You can journal walls of text that are beautiful in their own way, because they are an expression of you. The contents of your words can bring so much value to you. And none of it has to be an artistic endeavor. Ultimately, I encourage you to use journaling however works best for you.

Do you struggle balancing aesthetics vs personal expression in your journal? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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