You’ll spend more of your life with yourself than you will with anyone else but how often do you take the time to nurture that relationship? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably spend more time worrying about your relationships with your partner, children, mother, friends or colleagues than attending to your own needs. While we do so, we often wait for someone else to attend to us – to tell us how important we are to them, how much needed or cherished we are. And sometimes we wait in vain.
What if instead of waiting for someone else to acknowledge you on Valentines Day, you do something different this year and write a love letter to yourself? Write down anything and everything you want to say to yourself but make sure you are kind and loving – don’t forget this is a love letter to yourself and you deserve it. It might feel a little awkward at first, especially if you don’t usually do any writing or treat yourself with compassion, but no one knows better than you what you would most like to hear right now, no one knows better than you the things you’ve been struggling with and no one knows your successes the way you do either. And writing like this is good for you: writing expressively has been shown to have both physical and mental health benefits (Pennebaker, J. (1990) Opening Up. New York: The Guildford Press).
This writing exercise is simple:
Grab a pen and some paper. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Begin the letter with “Dear…” and let yourself go. Pour out all the love and compassion you have for yourself. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar or if it would feel silly if someone else read it. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else, this letter is for you.
If you’re stuck for where to start, or what to write about, here are some ideas to prompt you:
- Thank yourself for always being there. What challenges have you faced in your life? How have you overcome them? Thank yourself for doing all the things you needed to do to get where you are today and tell yourself how proud you feel about this.
- Appreciate yourself. What do you love about yourself? You might begin with “I love the way you…” or “I love your…”
- Congratulate yourself. What have you done well this year? What do you do well in general?
- Celebrate your uniqueness. You might begin with “You’re unlike anyone I know because…” or “You’re amazing because…”
- If you aren’t initially feeling a rush of love or positivity towards yourself, try to imagine what you would say to a much-loved friend and re-direct that love towards yourself. What would you say if you were writing to someone you really love? It could be simply: “I love you just the way you are.” Go ahead and give yourself some of that unconditional acceptance.
- Dare to dream about a positive future together. What are your hopes for yourself? What things are you looking forward to doing in the future? You might begin this part of your letter with “What I wish for you is…” or “Let’s make a date to…”
- Give yourself some encouragement. What things are you worrying about? What changes would you like to make? Let yourself know that you believe that after everything you’ve already been through together, you have the strength and resilience to face the challenges ahead. Write “I know you can do this because…”
Above all else, be kind and loving in what you write – this is a love letter after all. (I’m repeating myself here, but that is the crucial part.)
When you’ve finished writing, if you feel you can, read it aloud to yourself in an empty room. I’ve suggested that on this blog before and I’m suggesting it again – it’s a suggestion that might feel a little strange initially but you may be surprised by the power of how it feels to read your love letter aloud to yourself.
Pennebaker, J. (1990) Opening Up. New York: The Guildford Press