8 Reasons My Former Self Would Be Proud of Me

I think it's really hard for a lot of people—especially women— to pat themselves on the back these days. It's way too easy to focus on the things we didn't do than to acknowledge what we've accomplished. Think about it—what have you been stressing about today?

The phone calls/emails you haven't returned? The laundry you didn't do? The yoga class you missed? Today I'd like to take away the self-inflicted criticism and focus on something way more valuable:

What things have you accomplished that your "former self" would be proud of you for?

I bet you've crossed something off your goals list, or learned a new skill, or picked up a positive habit recently that's worth giving yourself credit for! I'll start us off— in no particular order, here are some highly personal things I've done that I think "former Jenna" would be proud of.

running 1/2

1. Starting to run again

— even if I've missed some days (or weeks) here and there. I might not be as far along with training as I'd hoped to be BUT this post is about celebrating the good! And for me, just beginning a goal/project is about 75% of the battle. I feel a lot better mentally when I can get in a few runs per week and I think former seven-mile-a-day-Jenna would be on the sidelines cheering me on towards my goal.

secret belgian binding

2. Gaining the confidence to open my own (part time) business

(+being honest with others when they ask what I wanna do for a living). I've always thought the idea of being my own boss was ideal, but until recently I never thought it was actually an option for me. I've spent the last year working with two amazing female entrepreneurs and they've convinced me that I'm a strong, driven, talented individual. I've gained so much knowledge from my two mentors about what goes into creating a handmade business so now I'm brainstorming ways to use it to make my dreams a reality. I haven't told many people this, but I literally feel like the last year of my life has been preparing me to become a small business owner. I've finally found a way to combine my passions seamlessly together and I'm no longer keeping shy + quiet about my goals. I'm hoping to transition into opening my own shop filled with handmade books + papercrafts in the next few months (this is why it's been a bit quieter around here lately— I've been hiding away making items and business plans instead of blogging).

Whew— it actually just felt really good to type all that out! I've felt kinda secretive about it when really I should probably be screaming it from mountain tops! When I used to visit art + handmade markets and imagine myself selling at them I used to think "Oh that'd be nice" and sort of push it out of my mind. But these days I just keep saying "Heck yeah, that'll be me!" instead. This feels like a such a promising new season of my life and I only wish I had the confidence to begin it earlier.


3. Quitting a dead-end job that was making me miserable.

If you've read my blog for awhile then you know I moved to Nashville to work as the head baker at a local cupcakery a year after I graduated college. I really loved the actual work, my coworkers, and all the things I was learning. I didn't even mind getting up at 5 a.m. and biking to work— at the end of the day I was still mesmerized by the way cake ingredients mixed together and I loved watching 144 little cupcakes rise up in the oven all at once.

I made thousands of cupcakes a day and I learned a lot about the science of how different ingredients react to each other. But unfortunately there was just no upward movement for me. That plus the fact I was underpaid just made things incredibly daunting. I was constantly overwhelmed, never had energy, and was always on edge. When you're only able to go to work because you tell yourself "at least I have a job" then something needs to change. And soon. Now I will never make the mistake of staying at a job that's making me unhappy— life is just way too short for that.

1987 e30

4. Buying my own first car + paying in full for it

I bought my first car this year and it was a huge deal for me! I never had the desire or need for a car before now— I always biked everywhere. But once I switched jobs and started commuting I had to drive. So I did tons of research, test drove over a dozen cars, and finally bought myself a little vintage BMW. I'm currently paying off student loans so getting further into debt wasn't really an option for me. So I saved up and now I literally own my car. It's a great feeling and even though my car is older than me, I know it was the right decision! I don't know what my former self would think about me driving so much, but I'm sure we'd both agree it's good that I didn't incur more debt in order to do so.

learning to sew

5. Learning to use a sewing machine.

This was a goal of mine for at least the last 10 years. Dozens of people have offered to teach me over the years but I was always too timid to follow up and make it happen. Then Elizabeth suggested I take a local sewing class with her and seriously— a couple hours later and I had sewn a pillow! Since then I've made a shirt into a skirthemmed some stuff, and I even made my own skirt.

If there's something you've been wanting to learn then DO IT TOMORROW. I'm so happy I finally have this skill to explore. My only regret is that I never learned sooner. But we're not here to focus on the fact that it took me so long to get active about a goal. Just the fact that I am so happy I finally did it!

coptic binding curved needle

6. Continuing to learn new bookbinding methods after graduating college.

For the last few months I've been taking bookmaking workshops through the public library and local art co-ops— it's been such a blast! I've even taken a few classes on bookbinding techniques I "already knew" how to make and even learned a lot from them, too. Part of this is because it's just really fulfilling to pick up new skills and I never ever ever wanna stop learning BUT the more I know about bookmaking the bigger my chance of being able to create the perfect book for someone else— and that's really what I'm all about!

bug print dress

7. Learning to say no and to put my own priorities before others.

I know that sounds like a self-centered thing to be "proud of" but that's only because it completely is. Let me explain— I am a recovering people-pleaser. I felt incredibly guilty saying no to anyone or anything. I even feel guilty just talking about learning to say no to people.

But, as it turns out, every time you say "yes" to something, you are actually saying "no" to something else. For me, this was me saying no to sleep, to starting my own business, to running, to blogging, to spending time with Nick, and so on. Granted, most of the things I committed to doing are things I really enjoy doing or helping others with. But by refusing to say "no" I was overcommitting myself and unable to focus on what was really important to me.

So I started saying no more often, tied up all the outstanding commitments I had to other people, and started using my free time to focus on the things I really care about. I started running, eating breakfast, creating more things, learning new skills, taking fun classes, and sleeping better. And doing all of those things has made me actually want to say "yes" to other people now. Fancy how that cycle works, huh?

I know it seems selfish, but I highly recommend saying "yes" to yourself first. In my world, if I can't even take care of myself, then I'm not mentally or emotionally capable of helping or taking care of others.

white cat

8. Letting myself slow down and focus on mental health + well being.

When I realized I was overcommitted and stretching myself thin it was not a pretty picture. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, I was exhausted all day, I couldn't focus on singular tasks, I got overwhelmed with even the tiniest decisions (WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN SOUP OR SALAD?!— JUST KILL ME NOW).

When you end the day by sprawling out on your bed and screaming into a pillow then it's probably time to uh, how you say— RELAX?! (I know some of you probably think I'm exaggerating but if you've ever found yourself nearing tears in the shampoo aisle for no "apparent" reason then just know you're not alone.) So I finally stopped treating myself like crap and started putting my mental health first. Spending time with Nick, running, making art, eating wholesome food, journaling— these things made me feel a lot better mentally so I put those first on my priorities list. And, this is important,

I stopped feeling guilty for it.  So in case nobody's told you: it's okay to take good care of yourself. Taking time for myself to evaluate and find a mental, physical, and emotional balance has made a very positive impact on my life. I know what I want, what my goals are, and what I should be doing to make them happen. Life has been a lot easier since I found some personal clarity and started focusing on where I want to be in life. Now I just ask "what is the most important thing I can be doing today?" .  . and then I do that thing.

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So there you have it. Realizing all the goals I've made in the past and then actually accomplished helps put things into perspective for me. It's a lot more inspirational + encouraging to see how far you've come than to focus on what's missing. So, enough about me!

I wanna hear about what YOU have done that would make a former you proud. Leave it in the comments or make a list of your own and then send me the link! I hope you all have a great day and that you find a moment to pat yourself on the back— I think you all deserve it! Cheers, Jenna

Ps. Most of these photos are from my Instagram— let's be friends!