The Woman Who Did Not Know Herself – A Journaling Technique

(To my bloggEEs: The following is a recent journal entry of mine. It is a technique I use to figure something out that is bothering me. I always start with “Once upon a time there was a woman who…” and then I write about the thing that is upsetting me, or about the question I have. I let the story unfold and keep writing until an answer appears or I have a shift in my irritability. Here is my example. Give it a try and let us know how it went or what questions you have. I will be storing this post also on my Personal Musings page.)


Once upon a time there was a woman who was lost and confused. She had a good life. Fulfilling job. A sweet, safe home. Reliable, loving friends. A popular blog. Left-wing relatives. Healthy body. Stable income. Published books. Effervescent hair. Intelligence. Creativity. A good heart. 

But something was out of whack. 

She worried. Who the heck was she really?  In spite of her quite good life, it seemed she did not really know who she was. Just so you know she did realize this was a “first world” problem. And she was truly grateful for all she had. But, as part of her drive to grow and contribute, she knew addressing her out-of-whackitude was essential. 

So, one day, she made a list. 

Who was she?

  • Psychotherapist to smart people?
  • Tango dancing blogger?
  • Shy homebody?
  • Jewish girl from Delaware?
  • Belly dancer wannabe?
  • Former amateur actress-singer-dancer?
  • Oldest blogger ever?
  • Therapy junkie?
  • Spiritual seeker and highly sensitive person?
  • International consultant to gifted humans?
  • Kind, open-hearted soul?
  • Mediocre sister?
  • Quirky auntie?
  • Rainy day appreciator?
  • Dysfunctional family survivor?
  • Journal writer? Author?
  • Obsessed introspector?
  • Secret fangirl of Broadway musicals?
  • Reluctant cook?
  • Book and music lover?
  • Anxiety-prone, melancholic, emotional, post-menopausal witch?
  • Singer of songs from other dimensions?
  • Writer of self-help books for brainiacs?
  • Emerging Instagram video queen?
  • Overeater on lonely nights?
  • Undercover and driven change-the-world activist?
  • Introverted persnickety boundary setter?
  • Seeker of her soul’s mate?
  • Accidental human?
  • Impostor earthling?
  • Rainforest minder?
  • Deep, divergent overthinker?
  • Underachieving priestess?

The length of the list surprised her. It was encouraging. It turned out she was not at a loss for identity at all. She had many. Like Walt Whitman said. Multitudes. And, of course, she knew she did not have to pick just one. She could be all of those things. And more.


This was a relief. This knowledge put her back in whack. It suddenly became clear that she did not know herself because she was trying to be, well, normal.

But trying to be normal, she realized, was just wacky. 


To my bloggEEs: What do you think of the journaling technique? Did you try it? You might also make a list of your own multitudes. It could help on the days you feel out of whack. Or just plain wacky. Thank you, as always, for being here. Love to you all.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

18 responses to “The Woman Who Did Not Know Herself – A Journaling Technique”

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  1. Kimberly Wills Avatar
    Kimberly Wills

    I did your exercise! Thank you! It is way too long to share, lol, but the gist of it is that once upon a time there was a woman who was first in her family to go to college, and she didn’t get to walk for her AS or BFA (while a broke single mom), or later for her mid-life BS due to the pandemic. She is 1.5 months away from walking for her masters. But she was in a program where she was supposed to be completing rotations in medical facilities to become a registered dietitian. Due to pandemic restrictions in some of those places she would not complete that part of the program, and she would only get the masters. When people ask “how’s school?” she tells them the bad news, and says she’s only getting the masters. Just the masters. Only. Just. Only the masters. Just the masters. One day she woke up to this self-talk, because a master’s degree should NOT have the words “only” or “just” before it! How would it be for someone to finally stand on stage accepting a degree and feel like a failure, “less than”, or like she didn’t reach her goal. She needs to feel proud on that stage! We need to show her how amazing she is! It’s not “just a masters”, it’s “a masters”. I am forbidding her from using those words. Maybe we can go back and count up how many credits or classes she’s taken. Maybe we can show her videos of people’s stories of celebration for their degrees.

    I don’t yet have the final answer, but writing this all out helped see it from a more objective view. I even wondered if I sounded like a pompous a** when I said I’m “only” getting my masters to people who don’t even have degrees. Did they think “oh, poor baby”?
    I will make it my goal to make sure that woman goes on stage feeling amazing, intelligent, grateful, and strong!

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, I love this, Kimberly!! Yes, yes, yes!!

  2. The Woman Who Did Not Know Herself – A Journaling Technique — Your Rainforest Mind – kaseygranger

    […] The Woman Who Did Not Know Herself – A Journaling Technique — Your Rainforest Mind […]

  3. ellabirt Avatar

    Interesting! I’ve done something similar since I was a very young girl in elementary school, but kind of the opposite exercise. I would sit with eyes closed and list off these types of identifications one by one mentally noting who I believed myself to be, then rephrasing it. Something like this:
    I am a book lover. No, this is something I enjoy, but it’s not who I am.
    I am a rainy day appreciator. This is something that gives me cozy feelings, but it is not who I am.

    I would go through a list of these things, strip myself down, removing the details of daily life from my identity in an attempt to see myself without these trappings – since they are all so transitory and really just preferences vs. who we are.

    These days though, I have come to a new conclusion. Since we are mostly unconscious, our true motivations, goals, and needs are often obscured by the stories our minds tell us, I believe it is likely impossible to truly “know ourselves.” I find this freeing. We can create, express, be, but maybe never truly “know.” Maybe feeling is as close as we get.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, ellabirt. Sending love to that very young girl.

  4.  Avatar

    You are AMAZING, Paula! You are SO many incredible things! I’m a few of the same, and of course different ones, as well. Perhaps for those of us who are many things, it’s the shifting back & forth, or moments when we’re not *currently* being one of those things that we feel lost. Sitting here right now I’m an Overwhelmed Procrastinator about to make a to-do list for clarity. Later I will try your method with a particular issue that’s been bothering me about myself lately. I can just tell you now, I’m sure it will work! lol!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Would love to hear how the technique worked for you, or didn’t work, Anonymous! I’ve been using it for years so it comes easily now. It may take a few tries before it flows. Thank you!

  5. itssue42 Avatar

    Delightfully refreshing with an unexpected (at least to me) conclusion that makes SO much sense! Made me smile my truly happy ahah smile, because this does indeed describe us, and our sometimes discomfort with our own multitude of interests and personalities. A big help, actually makes me feel better about myself on those days when I am so angry with myself because I don’t feel like doing (fill in the blank), when normally that’s something I really enjoy. No wonder nobody can stand to be around me for too long; like being with 20 different people all charging about at high speed. 😀

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad you mentioned this, itssue42. With all of the things we do, they can’t all be at the top of the list. Interests will wane and come back again. Ebb and flow. Good to remember that. Thanks!

  6. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    This is just perfect and wonderful. Both to get to know the inside of your head a bit more and because it makes me feel, well, a bit more normally abnormal? Almost like that was your intention. 😉 Thank you, Paula. <3

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Normally abnormal. Yup. Intention? Moi? 🙂

  7. Lesley Spencer Avatar
    Lesley Spencer

    Ooooh, I’m definitely going to try this. Your list had me going ‘yep, me too’ to pretty much everything. I’m also giving up trying to be normal, it’s too tiring. I also really like the reply from ‘clignett’, I totally relate. I love having a spot on the vast internet where I can say ‘other people like me exist in the Universe so that makes it ok’.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so glad you’ve come to this spot, Lesley, and that you find nourishment here!

  8. clignett Avatar

    That’s it! All of those and more. Normal in “our” (your) way, which might not be normal for many people, but for “us rainforestminders” it is very normal. No other way to look at it.
    Which is exactly the issue I have with the question (Jim Steward way) of “tell me who you are?” Ehm.. do you have an hour or so? I’ll get there in the end..

    As for the journaling technique: I do this by talking out loud to myself. Whole conversations I have, where at the end of it I finally know what’s bothering me. Sometimes it’s a major breakthrough, sometimes it’s really something silly. But it helps! Ok, people tend to look funny at me when I’m outdoors walking with Indie, but then I’m just having a conversation with him. He doesn’t mind 🙄🐶. I’m just the “talking to dogs” lady around here 🤣. (I do this to all dogs, people really call me crazy for it, but the dogs love it (and me too for that matter) and it makes me happy!).
    I’ve not been very good with pen and paper lately (arthritis playing up), my laptop is my enemy (sooo slow..), so this is the next best thing I can think of to journal. Downside is that it is not recorded, so no way of retracing my thoughts, upside is that once I get to the point where I have my answer, the road to that conclusion doesn’t matter anyway. Except when I get sidetracked.. which happens often, so I force myself to stay on the “main road”, and revisit the “side road” later. Which I forget. And end up having a similar conversation again to get to the side road so I can follow that one. And the one after that, and so on..
    Exhausting? Mwah.. 🤪

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing your talking out loud, clignett. That works better for some people for sure. I just prefer writing and I do have pages of old stories. I don’t often reread them but when I do it is a bit intriguing to see what I was going through and how I worked on it with the story. I always try to add some humor and that also helps my process. Always good to hear from you.

    2. itssue42 Avatar

      Yes! This is exactly what I do too — it works amazingly well. I think it’s why I need to have big chunks of my day to myself so I can work out verbally what I’m feeling and why and what to do about it to get motivated. My rock, my Dougie beagle, just listens idly unless food topics arise.

  9.  Avatar

    Hmmmm…….interesting. I think I will give this technique a try and see what happens.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Let us know how it goes!