So you’ve heard a lot about the need to be kind to yourself.
You have no idea how to actually do it.
It’s not your fault.
You’ve learnt from the culture we live in to blame yourselffor being lazy and undisciplined/wasting time on social media/not taking enough chances with your career/being a lousy parent/insert the many other failings you constantly berate yourself for.
If you were to look more closely, you’d realise there’s always something deeper hiding behind apparent laziness and that the fears that hold you back from taking chances or being your best self are hard to face without the right tools.
Given how much room self-critique takes in your head, it’s no wonder there’s no space left for hope, encouragement and creativity.
The only way to make space for it is to consciously and lovingly introduce some, much like you inject syrup into these delectable doughnuts.
Easily said, you may reply. How exactly do you re-programme your mind to be a warmer, friendlier place?
In an age of push notifications and instant gratification, you can do it in the slowest possible way — by writing yourself letters.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, has written herself letters from the voice of love every day for the past twenty-five years. She has begun sharing some of them freely on this blog. They are a much needed antidote to the messages of hustle, productivity and endless self-improvement that hound us pretty much every hour of the day.
You can start this practice yourself. You can do it once a month, once a week, or just today. Do yourself a favour and lower the barrier to entry — make the process as easy on yourself as you can. They can be as short as you want. You can type them up on your phone during your commute or jot them down by hand in your planner. You could have some fun and use coloured pens or draw pictures in the margins.
If you were to be given one piece of guidance about the process, it would be to bring to it the gentleness that Bob Ross brings to his paintings (and a sense of playfulness — this isn’t homework).
However and whenever you choose to compose these letters, the simple act of slowing down, turning inward and taking a completely different tone, once that contrasts sharply with the frustration that you usually reserve to address yourself will bring you a moment of pause and maybe even peace.
Take some inspiration from Elizabeth’s blog. Her letters are poetic and charming. Here’s a small sample from one of them:
“What governs all that you see, my love? Not you, tiny monkey. Not you.
My love, I will remind you again not to fill your hours and days with so much activity. Much of it is unnecessary. You charge into life with an urgency that is not always warranted. I do not abide in urgency. That’s all you, babe. That’s all you.
Don’t be seduced by the cries and struggles and daily little dramas and guilt trips of your mind. It isn’t all real. And even if it were real, it will all pass. Let it pass.”
Changing the way we talk to ourselves takes a great deal of patience and plenty of inspiration from the journeys of others.
I’m reminded of one of the final scenes from a fictional Indian show called Made In Heaven. In the scene (spoiler alert!), a bride, standing at the altar, explains that she and her fiancé have decided to not get married after all. Her mother asks her, in front of all the guests, what she is going to do next, and she replies:
“I’m going to stand here and I’m going to promise to love, cherish and honor myself. I, Julie Mendez, promise, to be a friend to myself in the good times and the bad. I promise to comfort myself in sickness and in health. I promise to celebrate my success and learn from my failures. I promise to uphold my dreams and always follow my inner moral compass. And I promise to be kinder to myself for as long as I live.”
Your relationship with yourself, just as any other relationship, will not be easy. There will be downs, doubts and difficult moments.
However, unlike with other relationships, the steps to improve it are entirely yours to take.
Reading and writing ‘Letters from Love’ is a wonderful first place to start.