How hard would it be for you to write yourself a love letter, a note of encouragement? I was surprised recently in my writing class. Several of the participants struggled with this Invitation to Create from my latest book One Loop at a Time, The Creativity Workbook.
“If you were writing yourself a love letter, a letter of encouragement and love, what would you say? What is the most loving thing you could do for yourself? How would your body move to express this quality? Sketch or write about this.”
Often we are good at writing short notes of love and encouragement to others, but find it difficult to do the same for ourselves. Perhaps you find it much easier to be self-critical.
Treating myself with compassion and kindness is something I have been working on in recent years. I realized that my tendency to be harsh with myself was holding me back – from taking risks, from being audacious, from moving forward. In fact, I would say it was a block, and a hard habit to break.
A simple suggestion
I always wanted to be the kid whose parents put little notes in her lunch box. Like, “keep working hard” “we are proud of you” and so on. When our children were young we had a treasure hunt tradition to find the gift. We had a series of clues, and each clue would include a note about one of the qualities the child had that we admired (or were trying to encourage).
Wouldn’t it be great to begin to write ourselves notes of love and encouragement instead of being self-critical? My suggestion is to start small. You could start to leave yourself a sticky note when you recognize you were brave or funny, or honest.
I remember my first networking event after my treatment for breast cancer. I was starting to have a vision of how to move forward with my writing and my healing mats. When it came time to introduce myself (former homeopath, exploring healing through writing and rug hooking) it was very difficult. I found people kept wanting to talk to me about their aunt who crochets afghans. They didn’t get it! I was devastated and discouraged. That night in my journal I wrote myself a love letter. I said “You were very brave today. You made your first attempt to introduce the new you. People didn’t quite get it, but that’s okay. Congratulations for putting yourself out there. It will get easier.”
When you notice self-criticism
Sometimes despite my efforts to encourage myself I will start to notice the self-critical remarks creeping in. My response is to notice them and to ask myself why are they happening? Am I overtired? Am I eating well? Is something going on in my life that is making me feel vulnerable? I try to approach it from a place of compassion, and to understand what it is I need right now. Then I get right back to my practice of love notes – to myself.