A Note to 'Younger' Self
Originally published for Project HEAL as a member of Project HEAL's Healer Circle
In the therapeutic process, exploration of early childhood messages, injuries and experiences are part of understanding foundations of thinking, feelings and the way a person relates to others and the world. An exercise I often have clients do is write a letter to their younger self, in order to further gain clarity about their struggles and how they might still be impacted by them. It’s also a way to nurture and heal those wounded parts of oneself, in those challenging times, in a way that might not have been given or received at that time in their lives. I’ve seen this exercise be extremely successful in my work with individuals with eating disorders.
As a person becomes more nourished and healthier in their recovery, they are finally able to reflect and nurture those parts of themselves that still need healing.
I recently found this old photo of myself. I think I was in 6th or maybe 7th grade. I was new to wearing glasses and I remember how insecure I felt in those days and the years to follow. It got me to thinking now, as an adult woman, what would I say to that little girl I found myself staring down at. I, myself have had clients do this exercise, but have never done it myself. So, with a birthday just around the corner, giving me another year lived in this body, I figured now is as good of a time as any…
To my younger self,
I know you are feeling embarrassed about those glasses, and I have to tell ya kid, you’ll be wearing glasses for the rest of your life. One thing you will get a kick out of though, is that when you reach this age, you won’t even believe it, there’s actually these things called “apps” ( I cannot even begin to explain this) that superimpose glasses on people’s faces…..ON PURPOSE!!! Girls in high school even wear glasses simply for style. So, you’ll be alright with those specs.
The years to come are going to be tough. Feeling uncomfortable in your own body will be one of your biggest hurdles. Your uncertainty with yourself is the result of many things you’ve yet to uncover and figure out, and it’s effected how you allow some people to treat you. The pieces to this puzzle will come together as you get older. There should have been room for you to express feelings about some of these things, but sometimes good intentions don’t allow for the best outcomes. It’s so ok to not be ok. You are not too sensitive or overly emotional. In fact, these qualities are going to be what drives your passion in your career as a psychotherapist.
It’s ok to experience all kinds of emotions and to be confused and scared. As you compare yourself to every girl who walks down the school hallway thinking how much better they are than you, in every aspect, remind yourself that comparing is robbing you of happiness. We live in a culture that has a distorted sense of beauty and it’s part of what’s making you punish yourself. I know this time is so hard, but you are enough, and you will always be enough.
You have no idea how resilient you truly are. I know you feel that strength and light inside of you, but you are afraid to let it shine. Remember your emotions, although challenging, are what make you the kind of person you are. This will become clearer in years to come.
Experiencing and showing feelings is NOT a sign of weakness.This will be something you preach to people all the time in your work and in your life. It’s in your ability to accept this, that you will allow for your inner light to shine.
Remember to embrace the happier, fun and simpler times when they come. Laugh as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to be silly and embrace your sense of humor. People find you quite funny and witty. I know right now that might be hard to believe but it’s true. Listen to your heart, it’s going to be what drives a big part of who you are. You will make mistakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Life is about trial, and error and we never learn unless we fall. Perfection does not exist, so please stop trying to chase it.
Dianna, life is a journey, and all these twists and turns are part of yours. Be kind to yourself. These things are going to shape you into who you are today. Although it’s not easy, because nothing worth it ever is, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed in the person that sits here writing to you today.
Your 43 years young you…
If you decide to write a letter to your younger self, here’s a few things to keep in mind that might help you get started. Remember there is no right or wrong way to do this.
Think of an age or a period of your life when you were really struggling or still bothers you.
Be caring, compassionate and empathetic, as if you were speaking to a close friend, your own child, or a sibling.
Writing such a letter could kick up a lot of feelings so go at your own pace. Stop if it’s overwhelming and process feelings with your therapist, other helping professional or someone you feel safe with sharing.