If you’ve been around a while, you might know that I not only highlight photos of spreads and layouts, but also do a lot of flip-throughs and laughing at the mistakes I make in my bullet journal. And if anyone has read my captions or have spent time with me as a teacher, you know that I see the world in a lot of metaphors – so this is another #realtalk post coming from my heart.
Instagram is a funny place, as is the blogging world. The pressure to have the beautiful lighting, the right props and flatlays, and pristine bullet journal spreads is very present in a curated world. This has created the idea that the bullet journal is a work of art or features super neat handwriting and watercolored sketches amidst big accounts. This has made it hard for me sometimes, because, if we are honest –
Life is not like that.
The illusion of our bullet journals being perfect has made new planner folks anxious at the idea of starting, of ‘messing up’ their journals with any stray mark or strikethrough, or not having the “right” layouts or supplies. I’ve seen people apologize for their “messy pages” or the spots where they’ve messed up, as if it is something to be ashamed of, to hide, to gloss over.
How often have I been told that I have to apologize for my messy moments, the times I’ve messed up, to diminish because I didn’t live up to an impossibly high standard of unrealistic perfection? How often have I glossed over my own messes in my spirit in order to maintain the put-together image? It got to be so automatic, so ingrained in my everyday functioning, I hardly ever thought about it – the times we wipe away our tears when someone approaches, the times we say “I’m fine,” the times where I don’t admit if I’m struggling with feelings of validation and my self worth.
Through a variety of forces in my life, I somehow learned that mess was a bad thing – that it is ugly, it is something to get rid of and fix or suppress. Sometimes if I had episodes of depression or self-doubt and anxiety, I would hide it with a smile and brush it off. Sometimes if I had made some kind of mistake that made me look incompetent or dumb, I would ignore that it happened to save my pride and family honor. Sometimes I would hold myself back from being goofy or silly because I was afraid of looking dumb – messy. And through all that self-editing, I suppressed some of these parts of myself. The mess.
I somehow learned that people don’t love messy, bad, ugly things or people.
I somehow learned that I shouldn’t fully show or embrace myself, mistakes and mess and all, because it wasn’t lovable – by others or worse, by myself. And over the last year I’ve been learning how to undo this in my spirit. I’ve learned that people love me AND my mess, not in spite of it – which helps me dismantle some of the myths I’ve had about needing to have it all together all the time. And slowly, I’ve been recovering and reclaiming those parts of myself that I’ve ignored for so long.
So, that’s why I am often highlighting the silly mistakes in my journal, laughing about them and rolling with them instead of trying to apologize for them. It’s why I don’t try to create elaborate layouts with handwriting that is too neat to be mine, or skip those pages during my flip-throughs – those mistakes are how I learned what I needed, and they are just as important as the pretty outcomes.
Embracing and incorporating mess in my bullet journal:
Just cross it out. If I make a mistake, I have gotten to a point where I just need to cross it out. I do it with intention, just a few lines – and other times I’ve also covered it with washi tape as well as use white-out. There is something freeing about being able to say, “Whoops,” and just striking through before moving on. Especially for the function of the page, I can live with a little bit of a misstep.
Turn the page. If I’m really feeling a layout and I make a mistake or I realize I needed something different, I turn the page and start over. Sometimes it sucks when you may have put in a lot of time into a page and you have to begin again – but that’s probably why I don’t do anything too ornate to begin with! We can always have a fresh start with the flip of the page – with a good night’s sleep, with a deep breath, with a new day.
Intentional Mess. Knowing how my brain works, I might do this dual-spread where I mind-map on one side to get all my thoughts out, and then organize them on the other side into a coherent process. Leaving that open space is helpful in allowing creativity to thrive.
As we create and transform, the process in and of itself is a little hectic, messy, and free. This is where magic happens. This is where thoughts, ideas, epiphanies happen – and then they are incorporated back into ourselves. So I’m learning to embrace the mess and know it is all a beautiful part of this process.
The bullet journal is a really personal extension and expression of yourself (at least, it can be) – so if we can start to love our journals, beautiful and messy pages and all, perhaps we can also translate that to the love we might have for ourselves.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments – do you resonate with any of this? Or, you could also email me instead at firstname.lastname@example.org ❤