For many of us, the holidays spent with family and friends has a way of bringing us back — for better or for worse. How many times have you gone home for the holidays and observed yourself acting like a pouting teen, even though in daily life you manage to adult like a pro? This year, harness that huff into the power of self-reflection by writing a note to your younger self.
This mindful exercise comes from Jeanette Schneider, author of LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future. Jeanette is the founder of Lore Advocacy, a network of professional women whose goal is to inspire women to change the world through a gender lens of equality, self-actualization and the fearless shattering of glass ceilings. Read on as she walks us through the sweet and meaningful practice of writing a note to your younger self…
There are some things in life you can’t unsee. One of those is the utterances of your soul as you begin unlocking your subconscious. Something about seeing the truth of yourself on paper is cathartic. You cannot turn away.
I first began asking women to share their gold through love letters to their younger self in order to help women and girls. It was viral mentorship, plain and simple. I asked them, “What do you wish you would’ve known as a girl?” I offered a visualization exercise to get them in the headspace and then sat back and waited for magic words to be delivered via email. I had no idea we stumbled across a therapeutic practice that would upend lives in the very best way possible. As women shared their letters they also shared their shock. Through interviews it became clear that visualizing and then actively creating a conversation with the girl you used to be is possibly the most effective way to understand who you are under the layers you’ve put on.
‘You will spend most of your life believing you are unlovable.’
That is the first sentence to my younger self. I had to suck in my breath and pull my hands from the keys as it hit the page. I couldn’t tuck it away. It was like a subconscious fender bender and I needed to see who survived and how I could have such a strong belief hiding in the recesses of my being. Over time, and with reflection, I realized that I’d allowed that hidden belief to color my relationships and the way in which I showed up in the world. Here I am, totally unlovable. Treat me as you may!
I poked and prodded, dug into my messaging and then began to remake it. I enacted stronger boundaries, reprogrammed myself and created a new relationship with choice. Every relationship that came next was purposeful, resolute.
We have been told stories about ourselves and the world around us and at some point we bought into them. Many times the very thing holding us back is our own beliefs and until we understand them, roll them around in our hands and create a new story, we continue to search or remain stuck in old patterns.
One of the most loving things you can do for yourself and those you love is to dig in, do the work and get yourself unstuck.
Visualizing Your Younger Self
Close your eyes and imagine a younger version of yourself. Is she five? Eight? A teenager? See her clearly. What’s she wearing? What does her face look like? Is she happy or sad? What emotions do you relate to this image of your younger self?
Write about her clothes, her posture, her face, her image.
What do you feel when you see her?
Is there anything she wants from you?
Now that you have a powerful image of your younger self, trust your gut.
What do you want her to know?
The first thing you think is the right thing.
Write it down.
Once you imagine that younger version of yourself and start with the first sentence of your letter, consider the distance between that version of yourself and who you are today. When I’m leading Love Letters workshops, I typically ask women to pull their stories, traumas and messaging out of them and hold them in their hands as they bubble up. To become separate from them. To think of them as little glass balls each with its own moment, time stamp or classification. Each memory is infused with whatever corresponding feeling presided over it.
Do this. Let them roll around in your fingers and speak to you. You will begin to see patterns, events, and you won’t want to tuck those glass orbs back into your being until you’ve processed them, cleaned them and reprogrammed them to sparkle a little brighter.
How did that first message I shared with my younger self play out over the course of my life? Do I want to carry it with me as I move forward?
What’s one thing I’ve always known about myself? My greatest strength?
What’s one negative thing I’ve always known about myself? How was it originally triggered? Was it reinforced by my family? Is it true?
What’s the best thing that has ever happened to me?
What was my most humbling experience, and what was the lesson?
What was I missing as a child?
Whom or what do I need to forgive? Is that person me?
Put your writings away. Let them sit in a safe space for a few days, and then go back to them with a clear mind. Ask yourself how your answers influenced who you are today, what you think about yourself and how it all affects your relationships with others.
This exercise creates a beautiful new relationship with self. It is hard work, but there is such bliss on the other side. Learning to live from a purposeful orientation moves you from character to creator.
Writing a note to your younger self helps channel a sense of tender self-love. Here’s a mindfulness practice along the same lines to help cultivate better body positivity.