As we approach Valentine's Day, I invite you to give something different a go by writing a love letter to yourself. I can see why that may raise a few eyebrows ... and "REALLY!"s but do hear me out.
As many of you who regularly attend my classes will know, self-compassion or learning to be kinder towards ourselves is an important part of what I try to offer. Increasing evidence shows that learning to have a more befriending attitude towards ourselves (rather than always being our own worst critic) promotes resilience and wellbeing and lessens stress, anxiety and depression.
When life is challenging, and we are experiencing difficulty, self-compassion invites us to hold what we are experiencing in a tender, loving, balanced awareness rather than try to block out difficult emotions (which can be exhausting and, let's be honest, never really works) or become overwhelmed by them.
I came across practicing of writing a loving letter to yourself in Brene Brown's book "The Gift of Imperfection" (which I would highly recommend) and on the occasions that I've done it I've found it so helpful in enabling me to step back from a challenging situation and offer myself some loving support for what I'm going through.
Brene Brown suggests that in writing this letter you might pick a specific thing that has happened or that you are going through that is creating some difficultly. In the letter you might begin by describing to yourself your own understanding of what you are feeling. It is important that you talk to yourself in the second person, as if you were stepping back from yourself and offering “I can see that this is hard for you”, “I can see that you’re being really hard on yourself” etc.
- writing what you observe is creating the suffering that you are experiencing.
- writing back to yourself the core emotions or thoughts that you are experiencing.
- thinking about what you would say to remind yourself that the what you are experiencing is a part of the human experience; something that connects us to others rather than isolates us from others.
- offering some self-guidance and self-kindness – what would you say to a loved one or a friend?
- imagining that the letter is coming from your future self and you are looking back with wisdom and love.
- offering some wisdom based on what you have learnt through what you are experiencing.
- telling yourself whatever it is you need to hear to feel encouraged, understood and supported.
As I said, I have found this process so useful on a number of occasions and it has helped to soften my feelings towards both myself and the situation, to see the situation more clearly and move forward more positively without blocking out my feelings. I feel heard, supported and more whole.
I would love to hear your experiences of doing this if you do give it a go. Please feel free to leave comments on how you found it.