So, I came across a very interesting strategy and I wanted to express what I gained from it.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of writing to your younger self, well, I did that but with a slight twist. The twist was when writing this letter, I was not allowed to write one bit of advice. No advice, no critiques, no — You should have done this! Or, don’t take those dodgy DVDs from your cousin! (Don’t ask…). Instead of giving that type of advice or any for that matter, I discovered another way of communicating with my younger self. One that was more satisfying. Let me begin at the start and talk you through my process, then I’ll tell you how it went and what I learnt.
By the way… If you are planning to do this exercise, perhaps writing it before you read this would make the experience that much more interesting. Of course, I’d love to hear how your experience went too, so don’t hesitate to let me know!
For those wanting to try, here are the 3 ‘simple’ rules I went by:
1. Write a timeline of the major events of your life. E.g. Parents’ divorce, first girlfriend/breakup etc. (This will make it easier for you to remember your past self and what they went through in clearer detail).
2. Write the letter to yourself in the first person.
3. DO NOT advise yourself or judge your decisions.
Okay, so as I’ve previously written the aim was to write a letter to my younger self without giving any advice or judgement. Now, if you ever try this — Which I really would recommend you do — you will notice that this is extremely difficult. I was sitting at my computer with the words, Dear younger self, sitting on the page lonely and bored. Every thought that came to my mind was just pointless.
‘You should have split up with that girl way earlier…’ and ‘Why did you jam the door with a chair and block the teacher from coming into class? So stupid.’
These were just some of the critiques I had about my life. They also all seem to pop into my head quite randomly too. Most of them were thoughts about my school days. Making the wrong friends or not working hard enough. Most of the thoughts I had were negative. I realised this and started doing the opposite. What good things did I do? I thought of my accomplishments like passing my gradings in Wing Chun Kung Fu, doing well at college and then finishing university. Among some other things. However, I wasn’t just going to congratulate myself like that, it felt awkward. Bouncing towards the two I then decided, to just write and see what happens. ‘Don’t think too much,’ I told myself, ‘Just write!’ So, I did.
Then the first sentence that came to me was this:
‘I know you very well of course, but you don’t know me. I Understand what you are going through and it is tough.’
I then began to think about a very difficult time in my life and tried to imagine how I may have felt. I did the one thing that I never thought going into it I would do. I empathised with myself.
I was going through a hard time, I thought of my younger self at Fifteen years old and I was scared and tired. Tired, a lot. I had my grandmother in hospital during most of my exams and I was helping my mother care for most days. I watched her exhaust herself, becoming a full-time carer for her mother as well as two kids.
My grandfather became very lonely and died on the first day of my grandmother’s return to coming home. Then my grandmother passed, over a month later. They were like second parents to me and we were very close. It was a traumatic part of my life that shaped me into the person I am now. Looking back at it in this way though gave me more perspective. I meant it when I wrote the words, ‘It is tough,’ because it was. There were a lot of moments during that difficult time that I thought to be unbearable looking back now and there was also a lot of pressure on me to do well at school and help look after my grandmother.
Of course, it isn’t a ‘woe is me,’ scenario and I wasn’t trying to look back and sympathise and pity myself. I wanted to be there and sit there in the hole, with myself. The hole of my grief that sat with me for so long. It is something that I held on to for so long and writing a letter to myself brought it out in me. It allowed me to confront something that I had needed to confront, before writing this letter. It needed to be dealt with. Clearly, there was still some feeling there and I feel there always will be, but, giving myself the love that I deserved back then really helped me understand myself. It also taught me to love myself. Life is difficult and sometimes just acknowledging that within yourself can make you feel good. It warmed me up.
I ended the letter with this,
‘I do not want to sit here and judge you, nor do I wish to make you anxious with what’s to come. I just want you to know that you should be proud of your resilience. You are strong.
You got this,
Your Future self.’
It was a perfect and concise way to end the letter. I smiled writing it knowing how heartfelt I can be to myself now. I’m proud of my past self and because of that, I can now be more at peace with my current self. If I had thought to write anything else in this letter, it would be to say thank you. Thank you for making me who I am today.
It was not an easy letter to write and it took me a short while to write a page (45–60 mins). However, the satisfaction of completing it made me feel a sense of relief. I would recommend that everyone give themselves this kindness by writing this letter. It may change the perspective you have of yourself.
Look at the hardest part of your life and write a letter to that person. No advice and no judgements and see where you land!
I’d be greatly interested to hear about your experiences on this if you ever do write one. Don’t be afraid to contact me with your thoughts.