It was a rough year.
I'm not talking globally or nationally, although some people certainly would consider it to be one of the worst years in a long time. I feel self-centered when I say that 2017 was not the greatest. After a taking a series of personal setbacks, I was ready to chalk up this year to one of the worst.
A silver lining was discovering the use of writing as a form of therapy. It can be incredibly cleansing. When thoughts are racing through my mind--self-deprecating, depressing, hopeless thoughts that I don't want to burden anyone else with--, they can feel like they're clogging my brain like clumps of hair in a shower drain, making it impossible for anything else to get by.
So the next time you're feeling hair-brained (get it?), there is a simple exercise you can try. It may sound strange at first, maybe a little too touchy-feely for your taste, but stay with me for a moment.
Write yourself a love letter
I know, right? A love letter to myself? What am I? A narcissus? Seriously though, getting your hopes, fears, apprehensions, and emotions out on paper can help you not just release them, but re-examine them from a different perspective. Ultimately this exercise is to help you let go of whatever is harmful, toxic or malignant in life, and permit you to love yourself.
One tip about writing yourself a love letter, is to write one when you're feeling good, your spirits are high, and you're ready not just to embrace the world, but rock it before you devoured a carton of rocky road ice cream and are in a self-imposed shame spiral. Then save it for when you need it most. When you need a boost, a pick-me-up, validation that you are an amazing person with substance and potential. (Like after you've devoured that ice cream!)
No matter what stage you are in your life, you need to be able to exercise self-love and compassion. Young moms have mommy guilt, feeling like they measure up to the Pinterest-perfect world of celebrities, friends or even family. They aren't creative enough. Their kids have too much screen time, eat too many processed foods, argue and throw tantrums and sometimes aren't even wearing matching shoes.
Teens may feel alienated and alone because they don't get validation on social media, not enough likes on their Instagram, and they don't have the resources to get help dealing with issues that ten years ago didn't exist. Forget the teen angst of yesterday, kids today are faced with the inescapable awareness that everyone's lives are potentially on display for instant approval, or worse, instant ridicule.
People approaching middle age or beyond have to contend with health problems or regret of things they did or left undone. Throw in kids who may be grown and heading in a direction their parents are dreading and helpless to stop, and you can see how this stage of life could use a bit of self-love.
Taking the time to write a few drafts to yourself will be both helpful and rewarding, especially when you find yourself needing that boost, that reminder that you are unique and worthy of love.
Just remember, practicing the art of self-love requires just that: practice. You can and should be your loudest cheerleader, and your love letter is the perfect way to refocus on what about you is beautiful.