I published this illustration on Instagram yesterday, and it seemed like the message resonated with a lot of you. Thus, I decided to post that illustration here, along with a chapter from my interactive playbook, Break, Hearts.
I used to think that love is synonymous with ‘sacrifice’.
I could still remember the pride that was swelling inside of my broken heart from being able to say: “I’ve sacrificed so much for him!”–as if by sacrificing more, I had won a nonexistent competition to prove my significant contribution to the relationship; while the other party contributed much less. So, I sacrificed more to show how I can love more and to be loved more. I hurt my feelings to protect other people’s feelings.
Only in the past few years have I realized that love is not about sacrificing something–or someone. It’s not about succumbing to anything–or anyone. We don’t have to choose who or what to be sacrificed to be able to love (and to be loved).
Love should be a win-win instead of win-lose. A relationship is not a matter of mutual sacrifice. It’s about being able to compromise. And yes, it took me a long time to understand the difference between the two.
When I love from a broken heart and hurt feelings, I came from the mindset of lack. Therefore, when I have to share the love inside of me, it has to feel like a sacrifice–because now that I’ve shared it, I ended up with less.
When I learned how to love from a heart that is full and content (because self-love has become my top priority), I realize that loving could leave me with a whole functioning heart–not only a fraction of it. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s a pleasure. There’s so much love inside of me to give; I can’t help but sharing it with the people I love.
There are times when picking ourselves up after a heartbreak feels almost impossible. We feel as if we’ve lost ourselves. We feel as if the version of ourselves—the one when we were in a relationship—is missing. Strange. Because we cannot lose ourselves, can we?
But, the truth is: we can.
At certain stages in our lives, we can lose sight of our real selves. It is particularly for this reason that we have the term ‘self-discovery’—a journey to rediscover ourselves. But how do we lose sight of ourselves in the first place?
Most of the times, by pretending to be someone else.
We pretend to be someone we’re not to please others or to receive their approval. Some of us play this role for so long to the point where we start to believe that we are whom we pretend to be.
Fake it until you make it, they said.
This is precisely what some of us are doing.
We are pretending to be the version of ourselves that—we believe—will be approved by others more, will be wanted by others more, will be loved by others more.
For this reason, a lot of us enter a relationship by pretending to be someone we’re not. We are doing the things we don’t typically do, behaving the way we don’t usually behave, and tolerating stuff we often won’t tolerate.
We are obsessed to find out what our significant other like or dislike, want or do not want. We believe that if only we knew all these, then we can present ourselves as an ideal partner. We are not confident that appearing as our true selves will interest our significant other enough.
Thus, throughout the relationship, we keep molding and readjusting ourselves to please our significant other: craving for their approval. The problem started to kick in when we were tired of putting on a show and realized that we have turned into the person we are not.
In such uncomfortable situations, our real selves sometimes appear, to the point that during fights or argumentations, our significant other might say: “It feels like I don’t know you anymore.”
Which, to this extent, might be valid.
On a day-to-day basis throughout our relationship, we might have presented ourselves as someone else. Someone we thought would better suit our significant other. We’ve been wearing masks.
However, who is it that our significant other truly loves? Our masks or ourselves? If we appear in front of our significant other unmasked, do we think he or she would still recognize us—let alone love us?
At the tipping point when we realize that we have repressed our true selves only to please our significant other, a word makes itself visible: sacrifice.
We feel as if we’ve made sacrifices throughout our relationship. Sometimes, we ask, “Why am I the only one who make these sacrifices?”
But here’s a hard pill to swallow: love should not feel like a sacrifice.
Sacrifice means one person gets nothing while the other person gets everything. If it feels unfair, we are right. It is unfair.
The more we sacrifice, the more we got frustrated with our relationship, with our significant other, and ourselves. The more we sacrifice, the more we’re losing ourselves.
The thing I’ve learned throughout the years is this: in a healthy relationship, we do not need to make sacrifices.
Since I was little, I have always wanted to be a writer. I grew up reading Blyton, Lindgren, and Hitchcock, wanting to be just like them—having the ‘superpower’ to create a parallel world and transport people to experience different lives and undergo different adventures. I spent my teenage days writing stories. During the weekends, I typed and typed and typed, only went to bed at around 4 or 5 am with a jittery feeling of not knowing how the story will end.
When later in life some of my short stories and travel narratives got published in an omnibus by two of Indonesia’s major publisher, I was so proud. It was like an achievement in itself: a dream come true. When I caught a glimpse of those omnibus on the shelves of a bookstore, I thought to myself, “Now I can really call myself a writer!”
But here’s the thing: I don’t feel like a writer anymore.
I posted a question on Instagram a few days ago as I was pondering about this issue, and I’m so relieved that some of you are kind enough to let me know that you are also facing the same dilemma and even share your struggles.
Have you ever felt trapped by the label you gave to yourself? Have you ever felt as if you’ve outgrown the label?
I didn’t know when the label ‘WRITER’ started to bother me, but it must have been getting on my nerves for the past few years. Not that I am not into writing anymore—on the contrary, I am still writing and I can’t stop thinking of future book projects (something is brewing for the end of the year!). However, oddly, these days the ‘writer’ label I have glued unto myself feels somewhat suffocating. When I have to speak in front of an audience or delivering a workshop, when the organizer introduced me as a writer, I feel like a fraud, a liar.
“But, why?” you might ask.
I don’t know. I can’t precisely pinpoint the reasons: maybe because I don’t feel like I have been productive. Maybe because I have experienced the feeling of ‘being a published writer’ and now that I have known the feeling I was no longer curious. Maybe because I wanted to do more than ‘just writing’. Maybe because I’m a little bit bored with this whole ‘writing thing’. Maybe because I have just started expanding my creative expressions to drawing and filming. Maybe because that label feels too limiting and doesn’t give me enough room to experiment in life.
Whatever the reasons might be, it’s not about reasoning at all. It’s more about how I feel; no matter how irrational it might sound.
The thing is, lately, I have learned to trust my feelings and rely on it more. I mean, who am I to call myself a ‘writer’ when I don’t feel like one?
Only then it dawned on me that I was the one who gave this label to myself. Even if the label was attached to me by someone else (publisher, workshop organizers, etc.), I was the one who decided to embrace the label, voluntarily. Thus, I actually have the power to ditch the label when it no longer suits me. I can bid the label farewell. I don’t have to walk around carrying the label on my shoulders when it feels too heavy. When I decided to drop the label, I don’t have to conform to what other people might expect from that particular label.
So, I decided to do it today: to drop the label and not to think of myself as a writer anymore.
I was feeling a bit scared, actually: should I do this?
But then I realized that this is a label I created or embraced for myself. It’s only a label. Just because I decided not to call myself a writer anymore, it doesn’t mean that I can no longer write. Maybe, I can even write more and better once I am done associating myself with the label.
I am having fun trying to find a new label that might fit me better at this stage. Some of you might say, but what’s the point of ditching a label to attach a new label unto yourself? Why can’t we just be humans without labels?
To which I would say: I am trying to get there. To be who I am, no labels attached.
However, for practical reasons, I still need to label myself with something (new). At least for myself, so I won’t feel too lost. Then, of course, to introduce myself to potential clients during meetings or networking events. (Do you know that since I quit my job and work independently, I haven’t printed my name card because I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to put as a title?).
So, after listing down the things I’m doing now (personally and professionally), plus listing down the things I would want to do in the future (personally and professionally), I am happy to attach a new label unto myself.
I am a creator. A creator of experience in life, a creator of content in the digital world.
I think, for the time being, I like the label. It fits me nicely like a new pair of jeans. Surely, just like a new pair of jeans, it’s still a bit stiff (and, you do know that faint smell of ‘the store’, don’t you?). I would need to wear it more, so I can wash it and crack it a little bit to make it even more fitting. Oh, and in the next few days, I will also need to adjust my bio/profile here and in other social media platforms. Indeed, more work and adjustments, but it’s okay.
So, here I am, with my new label, intending to create more playful and meaningful content (or experience) on and off the Internet. When it comes to work, I could say that I help my clients to do just the same—and during workshops, classes, or retreats, I am basically sharing about the same thing.
On another note, maybe I’ll also get tired of this label one day and granted myself a new one in the next 3, 5, or 10 years. Who knows? However, I guess that’s the point.
Life is about forever rediscovering something new about ourselves. It’s about growing and evolving. And why should we feel bad about retiring an old label? We’re not supposed to feel bad when we’re retiring a piece of clothing that has become too tight or too worn out for us, aren’t we?
With that being said, maybe I can start designing my name card and get them printed out next week.
PS: If you could drop a label that has burdened your life lately, what would that label be, and what would you embrace as a new label?
How did you start journaling in the first place? How do you split your time between other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.) and journaling? How do you design your time-tracker journal, and how can I create my own?
When I uploaded an Instagram story about my time-tracker journal and an Instagram picture about my planner a few weeks ago, some of you asked some questions about journaling and making a time-tracker journal for yourself. Since it would be such a nuisance to type the answer on Instagram’s comment section, I decided to respond to those questions via this blogpost. Hope this helps.
How did I start journaling?
I started journaling since the 1st grade of elementary school. It started out when my mother bought me a diary with a lock (the cutest thing!) and since then, I never stopped writing in my journals. I have quite a huge pile of journals at the moment, all those handwritings from early elementary school days throughout the rest of my childhood, from my adolescent to my twenties. And sometimes, I reread them: amazed on how much I’ve grown throughout the years.
I guess writing (and mostly journaling), has always been my go-to outlet for self-discovery. A few years ago, I wrote this post about why I write and why it has such a profound effect on me, so you can visit that post if you’re interested to know more about how I chose writing as my outlet of expression (or, on how writing chose me).
How do I split my time between journaling and other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.)?
Okay, here’s the thing: journaling, writing, and other creative pursuits—whether it’s drawing, painting, learning how to make illustrations–are the things that I need in life. When people talk about self-care, they might talk about taking a vacation, traveling, pampering themselves, eating healthy food, going to the gym, having a wonderful time with friends and families, or doing other things that make them feel happy and fulfilled. For me, having the time to be creative (and to create) is my way to take a good care of myself. It feeds my soul.
When I’m stressed, sad, facing problems, agitated, or not feeling well, having my creative time is the thing that lifts me up. It could be as simple as reading a good book, trying a new recipe, drawing, writing a poem, or simply journaling and dumping my thoughts and feelings on the pages. For me, creative time equals self-care, and having my creative time makes me feel happy, empowered, (somewhat) artistic, and productive.
Having the time to be creative is my way to take a good care of myself. I need it. It’s crucial for my well-being.
I always feel the most productive when I am having my creative time. No matter how busy I am with work, no matter how excited I am about my professional achievements, no matter how many to-do lists and responsibilities I ticked off, at the end of the day, the thing that matters the most to me is how I’ve spent my creative time and what I’ve created that day.
I’m not saying that professional achievements or performing well at work don’t matter as much, but it’s also crucial for me to know that there’s an achievement that is mine; and mine alone. It’s not about being (or looking) busy, getting a praise, a salary, a bonus, contributing to a team, or pleasing a client. It’s about exploring my creativity and be content with that—knowing that I am the only person who knows what I have done today, or how much I have grown since yesterday.
With that being said, let’s move on to the question: how do I split my time between work, daily tasks, and journaling?
In the old days, this was how I would do it: when planning my day, I would list down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, appointments, etc. and then, when I could find an empty slot of time, I would allocate that slot for my creative time.
Of course, this approach didn’t work for me.
Magically, I would always have more things to do, more emails to reply, more work stuff coming in, more dishes to wash… and even if I could find an empty slot of time that day, usually I had been so exhausted from fulfilling my duties and responsibilities that I didn’t want to do anything else; let alone ‘being creative’.
So, these past few years, I changed the way I plan my day. Instead of listing down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, or appointments to then find an empty slot of time for my creative pursuits, I did the opposite. I would block a slot of time for my creative pursuit first (could be for around 30 minutes – 1 hour), and only then the rest of the empty slots can be filled with my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, or other appointments.
Usually, I block my early mornings for my first round of creative time (I called this time of the day my miracle morning, based on the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod; and I think you should read this book as well!). I don’t mind waking up a bit earlier to have my slow and miraculous morning: making a cup of coffee, doing a 1-minute meditation, reading a book about drawing, sketching and doing some character studies for my illustrations, journaling, watching uplifting videos, or simply writing about the things I’d like to do/achieve that day.
I plan my day around my self-care, not the other way around. My commitments and responsibilities will fit themselves around it.
Surely, if there are still more unused time slots after this, I can use the time for whatever I want—but planning my day around my creative time (instead of planning my creative time around my day) does the trick for me. By doing this, I can make sure that I stay happy and creative, knowing that I will always have (and make) the time for my self-care routine, and my other responsibilities will fit around it.
Does it sound selfish?
Probably, but I see it this way: when I’m happy, I can also fulfill my responsibilities better. When I’m in a good mood, I am more energetic. I feel inspired and I feel more creative. So whether I’m working on a deadline, talking on the phone for a remote meeting, or doing house chores, I am doing those things in a healthy mental and emotional state. Thus, for me, it makes sense to always put my well-being first, which in my case, is about having my undisturbed creative time.
How did I design my time-tracker journal, and how to create your own?
I designed my time-tracker journal because I want to know whether I’m really busy or just busy being busy. I want to know how do I use up (or waste) my time in a day and what are the things I can achieve mostly from 6 am to 11 pm every day. Where does exactly my time go in a day?
Another thing was that I also want to track the time when I feel most productive and the time when I have an energy slump so I can plan my days better. By keeping a time-tracker journal for some time, I also hope that I could find out if there were some correlations between how I spend my time with my energy level and my overall mood.
For instance, there were days when I feel so tired and sleepy at around 2 pm – 4 pm, but there were also other days when I go through these ‘sluggish hours’ being productive, feeling inspired and energetic.
I wanted to know why this happened, and once knowing that (or at least have a good indication about why it happened), I wanted to know how I could have my productive 2 pm – 4 pm more often. By tracking my time, I wish I could see how to manage my energy better. (If you’re interested in the concept of managing energy to improve your performance, I would suggest the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz).
Pink is for my productive time, when I feel creative and energetic. This includes the time when I work, replying to business emails, reading a non-fiction book, learning languages, drawing, exercising, writing or doing other creative stuff. My creative time is counted as my productive time.
Blue is for my non-productive time, when I feel tired, sleepy, or lethargic. This includes the time of scrolling social media feed mindlessly, following threads and comments on a controversial Facebook status, taking a long nap, or feeling down, miserable, uninspired, or sick.
Yellow is for my social & commuting time, when I meet people, get on a bus, hop on a red-eye flight, attend a dinner party, have a catch-up lunch with friends, or delivering training and workshops.
This is how I formatted my time-tracker journal, but of course, you can do it however you like and adjust it to your needs. For instance, you can choose a different layout using a normal notebook, list down the hours from top to bottom, and write down the things you do next to it. You can also use color coding to track other things you want to track in your life. It just happens that I want to track my energy level, so I decided to go with this tracking system.
Then, basically what I do with my time-tracker journal is as simple as writing down the things I do at a particular time of the day, and color code the hours with pink, blue, or yellow.
After keeping the time-tracker journal for more than 2 months, I can already see some patterns, such as:
When my morning starts with a blue (i.e. I woke up feeling sluggish/tired/grumpy), 80% of the time, it will lead to more blues in the afternoon/evening. Knowing this, when I woke up with a blue, I put extra efforts to fix it: maybe treating myself to an extra hour of drawing instead of immediately replying to business emails, listening to cheerful songs to lift up my mood, or making a pretty-looking oatmeal for breakfast.
When I have a big lunch followed by a passive activity (reading, watching videos, etc.), I would also get blues between 2 pm – 4 pm. However, when I have a light lunch followed by hours of doing things (working, washing dishes, tidying my drawer, planning my to-do lists for the next day, journaling, etc.) I would not hit the blues.
When I have loads of yellows on my day, 90% of the time, it will lead to a few hours of blues the next day. When I had to deliver a 3-day workshop a month back, I found out that the next 2 days following that 3-day workshop was filled with blues. I have always known, instinctively, that although I love meeting people, those interactions drained me up. I always feel the need to clam up and recharge before being able to be a social butterfly once more. The time-tracker journal confirmed this need. Thus, when I know I will have have a big day full of work deadlines, I would decline any social get-together the day before. Or if I know I will have a full social calendar on the weekend, I would not set up a project deadline on the following Monday or Tuesday; knowing full-well that I would need to recuperate.
When I work on a creative project from around 6 pm onwards, I would not feel hungry or crave for a big dinner. Most of the times, I forgot about dinner altogether because I was too absorbed in the activity.
When I go to bed after 11 pm, 80% of the time, I would wake up with blues the next morning.
When I spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on social media (more than half an hour), the following hours will be blue.
I found it interesting (but would also understand if this sounds boring to some of you!), and couldn’t wait to see what other ‘revelations’ I could get in the next 2-3 months of keeping my time-tracker journal. For me, the journal also serves as an activity tracker, a mood tracker, a productivity tracker, and a tiny summary of my days.
Are you thinking of starting a time-tracker journal of your own? Why do you think you would need one? What are the things you want to track? How do you think you can get to know yourself better if you can track the way you spend your time every day? I would love to hear from you!