The end-of-year review season was tough for me this year. There is so much to be grateful for, so much to be proud of, and yet still so much room for improvement - in my work, my family life, my finances, my fitness, my home. It's had me feeling discouraged and self-critical, and feeling like a fraud. How can I possibly teach happiness if I still get trapped in my own negativity?
So I wrote a letter of encouragement to myself. It went something like this:
Dear Annie, I know you've been having a really hard time lately, feeling confused and disappointed and not good enough. No doubt, pursuing your dreams can be hard, and things don't always make sense. But here's what I know about you: Your capacity to love is boundless, and with that love you've already made more of a difference than you can possibly realize. I don't think you're on a fool's errand, and I don't think you're wasting your time. Things may not roll out exactly according to the your plans, but that doesn't mean anything is wrong. I, for one, am SO grateful to have you in my life, as a friend and an inspiration and a beautiful, vulnerable, imperfect human being. I love you and I'm here for you, no matter what. Whatever the future holds, I know you can handle it. Bring it on. Love, me
Is it silly to write love letters to myself? Maybe. But it also made a difference. It helped me get unstuck, helped me breathe. It helped me quit beating myself up, and helped me see the people around me with more compassion too. Love is bigger than fear, more powerful than judgments. It works every time.
You don't have to write a letter to yourself to reap the benefits, though. Writing one to someone else has the same effect -- with the added bonus that it also supports them. Here are a few suggestions if you want to give it a try:
Who to write to:
My personal belief is that there isn't anyone who couldn't use some encouragement, but you might start with people who are:
- Working toward a goal that's challenging
- Struggling with pain, loss, or stress of any kind
- Starting something new, or entering a period of uncertainty
- Doing something you think is really great and want to see continue
What you might include in your message:
- Acknowledge the truth of the situation. What do they want? What are they up against?
- Call out the strengths you see in them. What do you admire and appreciate?
- Share your hopes for them. What do you believe is possible?
- Encourage them to keep going. What they want matters, and what they do is important.
- Let them know that you'll love them no matter what happens.
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Problem-solving. Suggesting or implying that there's something specific they should do.
- Perfectionism. Trying to impress them rather than simply loving them.
- Asking for or expecting something in return. The best gifts come with no strings attached.
Want help with your message? Email me any time. And if you send one, let me know how it goes!