I just starting rereading my last blog post and I couldn’t get to the end, so if you did, congratulations and thanks for staying with me! But I’m thinking that perhaps it’d be good to write shorter posts, but blog more frequently. It doesn’t have to be a magnum opus or a lengthy brain-drain.
So let’s give that a go, shall we?
Last night, I wrote myself a letter.
I didn’t want to, but someone who knows me well and has my best interests at heart thought it would be a good idea to write a loving letter to myself, given I’d been struggling for a while with a whole set of difficult emotions – grief, loss, sadness – and giving myself a hard time for not getting over them or for exposing myself to them in the first place.
She also suggested the letter because I’d realised I’d probably made a mistake or an error of judgement with my work and was just about to head down a self-critical, self-punishing path that would have involved me calling myself every name under the sun and questioning how I could have been so foolish. I was stopped in my tracks, told to put down the stick I was about to clobber myself with and to pick up a pen and paper.
The goal of the letter was to develop qualities of inner compassion or, in simpler terms, to learn to be kind to myself. As I started off (Dear Katherine … ), I began by acknowledging that writing a compassionate letter to myself was, for me, extremely challenging because self-acceptance and understanding did not come easy. I noted that I’d always been a striver, a fighter and that showing myself compassion felt like weakness, like I was letting up on the fight. But I also noted it was OK to struggle like this.
I went on to acknowledge that it wasn’t surprising that I made some of the choices I did, that I felt things at such a deep level and that I struggled to overcome pain, loss and grief. I noted that pretty much every part of me – every feeling, every reaction, every choice – had a connection to my past and to a deep sense of loss, insecurity, low self-esteem and fear.
It’s normal to feel sad and to grieve, I told myself; it’s understandable to feel angry with myself when I don’t do things ‘perfectly’ or to want to punish myself when I get things ‘wrong’; it’s natural to want to stay sad and to stay stuck, to not want to change; and it’s understandable to want so desperately to be loved and to feel special – because there was a time when the little child within me felt deprived of that.
My letter ended with me acknowledging how well I’d done that day – I’d been to the dentist, done a full day’s work and reached out to get support – and with me acknowledging how well I was doing overall.
“You’re doing really, really well,” I wrote through tears. “And your joy and your inner sparkle will come back soon. This too shall pass. Take it easy on yourself. Love, Katherine.”
To be honest, before I started writing, I thought this letter wouldn’t touch the sides. I didn’t think I could tap into any compassion and if I did, I didn’t think it would make a difference to how I was feeling.
But it did. Just the act of sitting down and being gentle with myself – instead of engaging in the much more familiar pattern of self-criticism – brought tears to my eyes and accepting how hard it was for me to be kind to myself felt like a giant leap in the right direction.
Perhaps I can do this more often – write myself a compassionate letter or at least speak to myself in a compassionate, gentle and accepting way.
I hope so. I think I deserve it. And I think you deserve it too.
So there you have it. Short and sweet at less than 700 words. Maybe that’s an act of kindness too – both to me and to you!