Valentine’s day is Tomorrow. For some of us, that means spending time writing sweet words to our significant others, and shower them with chocolate or a candlelit dinner; for other’s it means spending time with friends, family, or alone (happily or sadly). Wherever you fall in those scenarios, it is very likely that there is someone that you have continuously neglected every holiday. You. I invite you for this year to return the gaze back to you and give yourself some attention.
Roses are Red,
Violets are blue,
Here are 5 reasons to say something sweet to you
1. It will help you reveal the truth about yourself
Before you begin writing a love letter to yourself, it is important to first acknowledge all of the negative stories that you tell yourself, about about yourself. That is because those negative stories are the gatekeepers to a deeper truth longing to be acknowledged, a truth about the inner you that is yearning for your attention. Those stories you have of feeling inadequate, never quite good enough, never worthy of grand aspirations, those stories are the noise you need to quiet down in order to hear the softer, kinder voice. So for this exercise, be willing to sit with your inner critic and hear what it has to say. For me, the common stories that I tell myself are, “who do you think you are, to believe you have anything valuable to say”? “why do you even bother with this exercise routine, we all know you never stick to anything”. “That guy says he likes you, but wait until he spends more time with you and realizes you’re nothing but fluff”? I used to be so afraid to hear myself say these things that I would often sleep with music in my ear so I wouldn’t have to hear my own thoughts until I drifted into sleep. But even though you try to lie to yourself about the verbal abuse, it lingers within your heart and mind and inevitably affects how you navigate the world. Be willing to hear it all, so you can release it. The exercise of writing a love letter requires that you sit with yourself and really listen to the negative self-talk. You’ll be surprised at the amount of self-abuse you let simmer beneath a front of having it all together. Acknowledging the negative with help you release it so you can open the gate to find the you that is longing to be loved, by you.
2. It will change the way you talk to yourself
Once you have acknowledged those deep feelings of inadequacy, there are two things to do now. The first is, you can move on to looking for the positive things about yourself. When I say looking, I do not mean that you need to do anything else out there to find value in yourself, but to simply awaken to what has always been there within you, awaiting your approval. Acknowledge the very simple things about you, like the fact that you are here, reading this article because you long to be good to yourself. Can you love that about you? Use that as a kickstart. What else do you do that deserves to be validated? The second thing is what I know you must be preparing as an argument against a love letter, which is “I don’t want to pretend like there is nothing wrong me”. There is no need to veil yourself of your shortcomings in order to see something worthy of love about you. In fact, isn’t that what you’ve been doing all this time? Veiling yourself from all the things wrong with yourself, rendering you unable to see the good in you? The good thing is, it doesn’t have to be an either or. That is why I emphasize the necessity of listening to yourself and hearing the negative stories. Yes you can acknowledge your short comings but instead of punishing yourself, have some compassion. It seems counterproductive, but think of all the times you’ve been unkind to yourself, didn’t it make you feel worse? Try this instead: Maybe usually you say, “I’m such a lazy person, why bother with this exercise program, since I never stick to anything?” Speak with compassion by saying: Dear self, I know that it’s been difficult to stick to exercise plans but I know you have it in you to persevere, so keep going even after every setback. Give love for the things you do well, give compassion for the things you have yet to master.
3. It will help you envision possibility
I don’t intend for this love letter to be a cure all for the many years of mistreatment you’ve endured (from yourself and others). This letter is intended to serve as a paradigm shift, to help you envision a relationship with yourself that is not dominated by abusive tendencies. Think of the type of love you’ve given someone else who meant a lot to you. Would you love yourself like that? Why not? I remember when my boyfriend broke up with me. I was on my knees, pleading for him not to give up on me, that I would do anything for us to work things out. I often think back at that period and realize that I have never had a similar dedication and loyalty to me. How many times did I give up or break promises I made to myself? How many times did I tell myself I was unworthy of any love, unworthy of any of the big goals I set? Am I not valuable enough to be devoted and be my own biggest cheerleader? By writing a love letter to myself, it symbolizes that same dedication I had to making my old relationship work, only this time I am giving it to me. Writing a love letter will take you from “No way I’m doing this”, to “Why not?” to “What took me so long?!?”. Possibility.
4. It will serve as your bread crumbs
As mentioned before, a love letter will not magically cure you of your self-loathing. After all, you’ve had years of practice and it will take some time and effort to unlearn the status quo. After writing and re-reading this letter you will feel lighter, uplifted, more appreciative and more compassionate with yourself. You might even ride on this high for a few days or weeks. But inevitably, something will happen and you will find yourself back in that state of inadequacy. There will often be days when you feel like you can’t do anything right or don’t feel like you’re any closer to your dreams than you were 3 years ago. You will find that you have drifted off the path of self love, you feel lost and neck deep in your old habits of self loathing. This letter you wrote will be your bread crumbs, your anchor, your way back. Find the letter and read it again so it can help you remember why you felt that way about yourself. So you can remember that you need and deserve compassion and dedication. Write another one if you want, and another and another, as many as you want. Don’t worry, you don’t need to lie to yourself and say that you feel like Queen of England when you really don’t. Maybe today the only thing you can say to you is “Dear self, I know you feel like crap today, so let’s just sit here and breathe for a minute. Inhale, exhale”.
What I need you to remember is you are your first, last, best, and most necessary love story. You are worthy of the effort. Let a love letter be the first step in this journey of a lifetime. Happy Valentine’s day!
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.