Love Letters to Myself

Over the years, I’ve read my fair share of what bookstores categorize as “self-help literature.” I poured through these books looking for the answers. Sometimes, I would read them and even get inspired by them. But did I ever do a thing they said? Nope. Not usually. Usually I just moped around a little more until I had enough and then went in search of yet another self-help book, or YouTube video, or Ted Talk. Nothing worked. Was it me? Was I incapable of receiving help from others? Maybe I was. But then, I thought I was supposed to be helping myself. This realization got me thinking. How exactly does one help oneself? Doesn’t the very fact that you need help imply that someone else should be present to give it to you?

No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find it. Then I started writing. I opened up my journal and started writing down all the things that were worrying me. I kept going. I filled pages and pages with my worries, fears and frustrations everyday. I didn’t dare let anybody come close to that journal for fear of being labeled a drama queen.

At the time, I felt like I was in this dark scary place with nowhere to go. I was so afraid that I would never get out. Then one day, I started writing a response to my journal entries. I say it was me because it was clearly my hand holding the pen and forming the words, but the words I wrote were nothing like the ones I had written before. This time, they were words of encouragement. They told me not to be afraid, not to worry so much, that everything was unfolding and coming together in mysterious ways. I just had to be patient. It’s like someone came to me in that dark place and assured me that this was the best possible place I could be.

Looking back, that dark scary place I was in was like a cocoon, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was alone because I had to be alone. I was scared and unsure, because I didn’t trust in the process. Imagine if caterpillars did the same, breaking out of their shells for fear of the unknown, never to discover that something better was waiting for them all along on the other side of the darkness.

Of course I still feel afraid and unsure of myself at times, but instead of searching for the answers outside of me, I try more often to look within. I have written many notes to myself since writing the first. Each time, I write out my fears or insecurities. I then look up, take a deep breath and let the words come out in response. Immediately, I feel a comforting presence surround me and I know that I’m not alone. That I’m never alone. And that I’m the only person who can truly help myself.

So here’s what I’m proposing. Write yourself a letter. Write down whatever it is that’s troubling you in this very moment. Write it as if you’re writing to a friend asking for advice. Then, take a moment (or a day or two if you need) and a few deep breaths. Now, try and write back to that person as if you’re an advice columnist. What would you say to that person who is clearly in so much pain? How can you help him or her? Start writing and see what comes out. The answers may just surprise you.