September 12, 1996: Guess what!! Justin Jones asked for my number today. I pretended not to hear him. Today was a SELF CONFIDENCE DAY. HIP HIP HOORAY!
September 17, 1996: Today in school I felt ugly and mean. So here is my plan:
Beauty’s rule: Leave my hair how I know it looks good, wear funky (cool, in style) clothes, put on jewelry, BELIEVE IN MYSELF.
Niceness rule: Put myself in that person’s shoes, think ‘would God allow this in heaven?,’ BELIEVE IN MYSELF.
It may seem like a chronicle from a Judy Blume novel, but the above excerpts are actual entries from Lexington writer Sunny Montgomery’s diary as a 12-year-old girl. After rereading them recently, she was struck not only with the humor of her entries, but also by the general lack of confidence that she suffered from as an adolescent. Upon posting some excerpts from the diary on her Facebook page a couple months ago, she was struck again by the response she got – friends started responding with excerpts from their own diaries that echoed many of the sentiments from Montgomery’s own journals.
“For some reason, I didn’t realize how many women still keep their childhood diaries. I would make a post about anticipating junior high and some other girl would comment on it and write a passage from hers,” Montgomery recalled. “Personal diaries are obviously so interesting ... What’s been interesting to me is there’s a part of me that looks back on that girl and feels sad for her, but there’s a part of me that still relates to so many of those insecurities to this day.”
The response that Montgomery received from the entries she posted online – as well as her own personal reflection of the ups and downs that women young and old face regarding confidence and self-esteem – has prompted her to start a new diary sharing project, which she calls “The Dear Diary Project” (www.deardiaryproject.com). Montgomery is soliciting honest diary entries from women all over the world with plans to compile them into a published book.
“I guess the point is to kind of realize that we all go through this. When I was 12 years old and having all these horrible self-esteem issues, I was certain I was the only person,” she said. “I’m not going to pretend this project is the cure to self-esteem issues, but I do think that it could raise awareness that this is what girls do to their selves. I hope that if everybody could kind of be in that together, that could be a step to thinking about things differently and not perpetuating.”
Sunny recently took some time to answer a few questions about the project and how people can get involved.
Does your journaling ever inform the pieces you write that are geared toward a public audience?
Absolutely, my past journaling has influenced my writing. As a child when I was journaling every daily, I wrote down everything from my darkest secrets (which included things like, “Today I was acting totally perverted. I put on a bra and danced around my room.”) to what TV shows I’d watched that day. I didn’t dismiss any part of my life as not-important-enough to document, and over time I learned to see significance in all the small details. That’s definitely reflected in my writing, as most of my stories are about seemingly small events: a conversation I had with a co-worker or the time my mother caught my sister and I gluing ants to the pavement.
When you go back and read your old diary entries, what strikes you the most about your 12-year-old view of the world?
I really loathed myself at that age. I hated myself and I loved Jesus. Those are the overwhelming sentiments from my adolescent diary. Part of me feels so sad for my 12-year-old self. Another part of me is still totally embarrassed by her – probably because I still relate to some of the same insecurities. For example, self-esteem, to me, is still largely synonymous with good-hair-days. See, that’s something I really don’t want to admit, but admitting is the point of the project, so there you go.
What’s the mission of the Dear Diary Project?
I call Dear Diary Project a community self-esteem project. It’s my hope for this project to raise awareness for the self-esteem issues that so many women face and also to establish a common bond amongst women. Mass media sets the standards for how women are to look/think/behave, and then so often those standards are perpetuated by girl-on-girl cattiness. I believe that the first step in dealing with women’s self-worth issues is by uniting ourselves – and I hope to do that through the pure candidness of our diaries.
But I also definitely want to mention that Dear Diary Project is not just a collection of women’s darkest moments. It is also about awkward first dates, first crushes, friendships, dreams, regrets, etc. I hope that through this collection, we not only find camaraderie in each other but also the strength to sometimes laugh at ourselves.
How can people become involved with the project?
To become involved I am asking for submissions of the following: photocopies of your actual diary entries along with typed translations of the same. Participants can submit as many or as few as they like. Any topic, any age. I’m also asking for a brief bio which should include a little information about their present day life as well as their age, e-mail address and of course, name. All materials should be sent to Dear Diary Project, P.O. Box 1488, Lexington, Ky., 40588-1488. For additional information, my e-mail address is email@example.com.
Oh, and you must be a woman to submit. Sorry, boys.
For more information on the Dear Diary Project, visit The Private Musing of 12-year-old Sunny at www.deardiaryproject.com.