I want you to write a letter.
You’re welcome to break out the pen and paper, but let’s assume you’re sitting in front of a keyboard instead. Open up a text document, write “Dear So-and-So,” and then swap in your name (yes, yours!) for that last part.
You read that correctly. You’re sending it to yourself. Why? Well, you should, for starters. We spend hours, now, in communication — in short messages to your boss, to your friends, to your parents, and to every person in the world except for the one who matters most. That’d be you. That might be hard to believe, but let’s run with it for just a moment and assume that your health and well-being are pretty damn important too.
So: I want you to write a letter. A letter to you, from you, and it’s going to be the most blissfully selfish thing you’ve done in months.
WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER
A love letter, maybe (when was the last time you received one?). A letter of forgiveness, of laughter, of support — words of encouragement from the person who knows you best to the person who needs them most.
I want you to talk to yourself.
My daily journal entries come across like self-obsessed monologues. I talk about me, but mostly talk to me, ranting and raving and puzzling out the problems I deal with any given day of the week. Some of the entries are a teensy bit insane.
There’s a huge advantage to this style, though: honesty. I’m honest with myself. I tear myself down, build myself back up, and I know, no matter what I write, that it’s something I genuinely believe. This hurts, sometimes. But it mostly helps, I think, because when I write down something I like about myself, it’s true.
It lifts me up because I believe it, because there’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that it’s the honest truth.
I want you to do this. There’s no formal structure or formatting to speak of. Just write about your doubts, your fears, your thoughts and emotions. Write about the things you love, the things you cherish about yourself, and act, for just a few minutes, like you’re the most important thing in your world.
Get arrogant. I’m serious. If you think you look pretty good today, write that down. It all counts. Collect every positive and negative thought swimming in your head, put them all on the page, and talk to yourself for as long as you need.
THERE’S A POINT, I PROMISE
Don’t forget this letter.
I could be clever and tell you to delete it, to wipe it from your hard drive and act like it’s a cleansing moment — but that’s nonsense. Do this instead: save the file somewhere on your hard drive that you look through fairly often. Leave yourself a reminder on your calendar or your phone to come back to it in exactly one month.
A month from now, take ten minutes to sit down with the letter you wrote. Read it. Absorb it, and try to remember the person who wrote it — the you from thirty days back. You’ll find three interesting things:
- Half of the negativity doesn’t seem so bad. Half of the things you were worried about — half of your doubts and fears — don’t seem like such a big deal anymore, do they? Funny. It’s almost like the things we get swept up in are temporary at best, minor blips on the radar that we just need a few days to ride out.
- Half of the negativity is worth paying attention to. The negative thoughts that still seem relevant are worth noting, though. These are constant problems. They’re the dark thoughts that persist with you, month by month, and continue to drag you down all the while. Work on these. These are genuine problems, the ones worth solving, and the negative thoughts you stand to benefit by dumping as soon as possible.
- The positivity — all of it — never goes out of style. The things you liked about yourself? Yeah. Those still count. That’s awesome. The things you like about yourself don’t change, and if anything this section will keep growing all the time.
In fact, let’s do that. Dive back into the letter and make a few changes. Trim the dark thoughts that don’t apply anymore and add on the new things you like and are proud of instead. You can do this on a monthly basis, I think, and you’ll start to see an interesting trend.
Negativity comes and goes, but through it all you have a lot to like about yourself.
It’s honest. It’s true. And it’s a valuable exercise, I think, in establishing a few things that can make all the difference in your world.
You Gotta Believe
If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
That’s been my go-to expression for the last few weeks. I’d like to claim that I’m an impenetrable wall of pride, here, utterly confident in everything I do, but that’s just not true.
I’m doing a reckless thing. I’m leaving a well-paying job and skipping off to the West coast, bound and determined to pursue a life on the road — a life that I’ve been dreaming of for what feels like years. It won’t be easy. I’ll have to find some interesting sources of income that let me pursue my dreams, and there’s always the possibility that I might crash and burn shortly after I make it to the coast.
I don’t think I will.
I believe in myself. I have to. And, for what it’s worth, life is so much easier when you do.
The letter, I think, is an important part of that. Each month, now, I’ll lock myself in my room for an hour or two (wine optional), crack open the laptop, and read the letter a few times through. I’ll smile and realize that The Big Huge Thing That Was Bothering Me is hardly a pain anymore, and I’ll relish striking it from the list. I’ll realize too that everything I like about myself is still relevant, still wonderful, and a huge source of inspiration to keep fighting the good fight and moving forward.
It works every time.
That’s because it’s honest, for one, but because it’s so personal, too. I wrote this. I, a perfectionist with a tendency to doubt himself every step along the way, wrote down all these things that I like about myself, and it’s hard not to feel awesome when someone who knows you so well — aka you — is handing you a huge plate of positive energy.
So why not try it? Write yourself a letter.
Take some time for you.
Here’s a small sample from my last letter — a small section I wrote on a whim and have kept as an afterthought for the last few months. Just reading it builds me up, inspires me to pursue the life I want, and maybe it’ll help show you just how important it is to take some time off and have an honest chat with yourself.
“I’ve got your back. You want to do bold, reckless, stupid things? That’s fine. I’ve got you. No matter what happens, no matter whether you rise or fall, you’ll be fine — because you’ve got me, at the end of the day, and I love you with all of my heart.
I believe in you. And I want you to believe you have all the confidence and strength and badassery in the world — because you do. You do, you always have, and you always will. Why? Because I believe in you.
Don’t ever forget that.”
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