Knowing yourself through expressive writing – TEDxSydney Summer Pitch Night

Last night at TEDxSydney Summer Pitch Night 2018, I had an opportunity to get up and do a 3-minute pitch on “expressive writing as a tool for self-knowledge” – a topic that I feel deeply passionate about. It was a great opportunity to get out there and challenge myself (as I’m not an experienced public speaker!). Besides getting out of my comfort zone, I met some of the most amazing people on the planet from all walks of life whose stories & ideas were so interesting and inspiring… Here’s my written pitch:

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” said Aristotle the Greek Philosopher. It’s such a big, mind-boggling statement.

What did he mean by that?
What does it mean to “know ourselves” beneath our “perfectly crafted” social media profiles?

How do we go about it, in the age of information overload,where our habit is to constantly consume more & more information about Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump… about literally anything but ourselves?

How often do we go on the Internet hoping to find quick answers to our existential questions?

Well unfortunately, nobody, not even the almighty Dr. Google knows “who we really are” BUT WE DO, we all have “full access” to the “internal database” of our personal history and memories, our innermost feelings, fears and desires, hopes and dreams.

I believe it’s time to tap into our inner database, through writing, expressive writing to be more specific – as a simple yet powerful tool for gaining self-knowledge as well as collecting wisdom from our own life experiences.

Unlike writing for business report or academic paper, Expressive writing, is NOT about facts and figures – there’s no rule, there’s no right or wrong.

It’s about having an open and honest conversation with ourselves.
It’s about asking ourselves open-ended questions: What’s going in my mind right now? How am I feeling? Where is it coming from? What can Ilearn about myself here? And writing whatever comes out.
It’s about letting it all out.

Back in 2012, I had an emotional breakdown shortly after a break-up. It triggered painful memories and emotions associated with my childhood trauma, which for a long time I tried to push down, ignore, and pretended they didn’t exist. It was my coping mechanism – but they were still there in me, and I had to do something about it. I had to shine light on my dark side. The only way to deal it with was to face it.

So I started writing about everything I remembered, in detail, including those traumatic memories.

As painful as it was, it was incredibly liberating to let them all out of my system onto the paper, physical and metaphorically. The pain was replaced by a sense of relief, a sense of clarity of knowing and owning my story.

By writing what I learnt from those experiences, how they have shape who I am today in positive ways, I gave them new meaning. It allowed me to transform trauma into turning points.

Over the next six years, the expressive writing has not only helped me understand a lot about myself – but also to be more honest with myself, it helped me to leave a promising yet unfulfilling career in IT and become a mother & writer.

Studies show there are also health benefits of expressive writing – including: fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, reduced blood pressure, improved immune system functioning, improved overall mood….just to name a few 🙂

So give it a try.

All it needs is a pen and paper, your willingness to know yourself better.