“I don’t fully understand my life until I write it.”
Think back through your life and think about what you are most proud of. The items on your list could be things you accomplished “out in the world” or things that happened internally. Knowing who you are and where you’ve come from, what have you done in your life that you are most proud of?
The definition of what makes you proud is yours, not anyone else’s. The things you choose to put on your list don’t necessarily have to coincide with what other people would choose as your greatest accomplishments, but rather the ones you personally feel proudest of. It could be a moment you showed great courage for instance, rather than a time you won a public award.
If you were to die tomorrow, list the five things you are proudest of in your life.
If you can’t think of five, stretch until you do. If you come up with more than five, winnow them down to five. Honing the list is part of the process.
Once you have your list, write two-three sentences describing each one…sentences that fully captures what you did, said, or accomplished, as well as the obstacles you overcame to do so. Take your time until you’re sure each sentence reflects exactly what you want to say.
Here’s an example from a time I did this exercise a number of years ago:
My Proudest Moments
I set clear boundaries with my mother in order to establish my separate identity. Then after decades of struggle and eight years of estrangement, I reconciled with her, growing to accept her as a complex, imperfect, generous human being whom I could honor, love and respect.
Despite the baggage I carried from childhood and the obvious challenges of being a lesbian parent, I found a partner, carried two babies in my womb, pushed them out of my vagina, and then continued to let them crack my heart open again and again and again.
At 28, I faced the incest with my grandfather, stood up to my family, committed to the rigors of the healing process, and ultimately used my anguish, pain and courage to inspire others to heal.
I have learned (and am continuing to learn) to move myself off center stage, to surrender control and to say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong.” Every day, every moment I take a step in this direction is a great victory for me and for the people I love.
Despite being constantly sucked into the world of doing and the incessant demands of my ego, I have claimed my right to a spiritual life and a spiritual perspective, and am slowly, doggedly, building an inner life for myself.