3 Things You Can Do If You Are Afraid of People Reading Your Journals After You Die



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Last week we had an interesting discussion about what will happen to your journals after you die. There were some understandable fear raised. One was that even though you wouldn’t know any better, because you are dead, you may still not want your loved ones to think less of you. Another fear was about offending them or hurting their feelings if they read negative things you wrote about them in your journal. 

There is a risk, actually a certainty, that people’s opinion of you will change after they read your journal. Because it is impossible to really know someone, no matter what your relationship with them. You have no idea what goes in other people’s heads, whether they are your partner, or your children. More importantly, you can’t always anticipate how people will respond to intense situations in life. 

Keep this in mind, because it applies to you as well. The people in your life don’t know you inside and out. So, it is inevitable that they will discover something new when they read your journals.

But if you are afraid of what they might think, then there are three solutions. 

3. Destroy or Leave Instructions to Be Destroyed

This is not my recommended route, simply because I believe journals are valuable. But if your life is really full of skeletons, and you have no intention of changing that, then destroying them might be better for everyone concerned. However, since you don’t know when you are going to die, the most logical solution is to entrust someone else to destroy them once you die.

The question of picking this someone is tricky, because people might decided for themselves not to follow your wishes. Virginia Woolf wanted her journals destroyed, but her husband thought they were too valuable, and published them instead. I’m eternally grateful to Leonard Woolf for ignoring his wife’s wishes, but we don’t know whether Virginia appreciates that or not. 

I would therefore advice that instead of trusting family or friends, trust a lawyer. Sure, trust a lawyer seems bit of an oxymoron, but impersonal services which don’t actually care about you, may be more likely to carry out your orders. 

2. Balance Positivity with Negativity

Assuming you don’t want to destroy your journals, but are afraid of offending people, then you can take this advice, which I have been preaching on this site anyway. Make sure that you record positives in your journal as well as the negative. If  your sister pissed you off, and you wrote how horrible she is…next time she does something sweet, write it down. 

This will show the future readers of your journal that you were only human (GASP!), and prone to moods like the rest of the species. It’s less likely to offend them if they see that you genuinely cared for them. And if you really didn’t care for the people mentioned, then worrying about them liking you after your death is way too much vanity, and you might need to work on your issue with pleasing people. 

1. Live the Life You Are Proud Of 

This is the ultimate solution. It is not easy. It will take you the rest of your life. But it will improve more than your journals. Live the life that focuses on causing no intentional harm. I don’t mean you have to be perfect. I mean, don’t do the things you know are wrong. Don’t have an affair. Don’t drive drunk. Don’t hit your children. Don’t yell at old people crossing the street. Don’t back-stab, lie, and cheat your way out of things. Don’t sleep with everyone you meet as a way to get what you want. You get the picture! 

Have some values. Be honest. Be ethical. And you will have nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, you will still have flaws. Yes, you will still judge people, be unfair to them sometimes, and vent about people you fought with. But that’s okay. Because that’s your humanity shining through your journals. The point is, you wouldn’t have done anything horrible that you would be ashamed to admit in public, or to your loved ones. 

The solution is not to destroy your journals because of skeletons coming out of your proverbial closet. The solution is to not have the skeletons in the first place. If you focus on just this one step alone, you will continue making progress towards creating your Kaizen Life. Reading your journals then might even inspire your children to do the same. That’s a legacy worth leaving. 



Write in your journal about which of these options you will choose. Share your answer, or your opinions in the comments below.




4 thoughts on “3 Things You Can Do If You Are Afraid of People Reading Your Journals After You Die

  1. This is a very well written and valuable editorial on the topic of what to do with your journals. I also suggest you may wish to write your memories from your journals. A monumental task to be sure but one a few may wish to pursue.

  2. I haven’t thought much about what would happen to my journals, I’m young enough (early twenties) that it’s not an issue yet (I hope!!). When I moved my middle school journals were thrown away, and now I really wish I had kept them just because so I am using that as a lesson to myself to keep my journals now. After reading this post and the last I think might leave a note with my journals. Perhaps saying something like why I kept them, to remind the readers that I’m human if something upsets them, and to request they stay within family. If they insist on publishing (knowing now that it can happen against your will) at least wait after so many years or something. I guess this is a letter that I probably will change as time goes on and stuff.

  3. Kate,

    That’s the point – we hope we would all live to a healthy, old age, but of course one never knows.

    It’s a good idea to leave a note with your journal as you said. And of course as you continue to grow older, and change, your views about that may change. That’s okay. At least at each stage of your life you would be doing what feels right to you.

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