Dear Self, I Love You

IMG_3231Where there is expectation there’s a setup for disappointment, which is why holidays like Valentine’s Day so often include tears. For whether you’re single or partnered, it’s almost impossible to escape the expectation that on this one day your partner is supposed to wow and dazzle you with expressions of love and romance or, if you’re single, it’s difficult to escape falling into the belief that there’s something wrong with you.

Inspired by a woman’s suggestion in my workout class, I realized that there’s an ideal antidote to this setup that allows everyone to utilize this holiday as an opportunity to find empowerment and love without waiting for anyone else to give it to them: Write yourself a love letter!

If you have trouble getting into the mood, imagine that the most loving person in the world is standing beside you, reflecting what she or he sees. Let this person share about your essential qualities and specific ways that she or he appreciates you. Don’t be shy or bashful. Self-love is the antidote to anxiety and is at the heart of creating a fullness inside that will naturally overflow onto others. In other words, the love you bask in for yourself is a gift that you give to others around you, so if you feel selfish for doing this exercise, remember that you’re not just doing it for yourself.

And if you need a little more inspiration, you may want to read this post.

As we learn best by example, I’m going to share a letter that I wrote. The recipient is a composite of several of my clients, all fabulous women in the 30s and 40s who are single and, while very much hoping to be in partnership, also committed to learning about what it means to cultivate a loving relationship to themselves.

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Dear Self,

I love you. I love how devoted you are to your healing and your growth. I love that you committed to looking at your painful and wounded places inside, that you’re in therapy and that you’ve been journaling almost every day. I love how devoted you are to your health and to your spirituality. I love that, even when you don’t always love yourself, you’re committed to learning more and more about what that means.

I love that you make time to be, to sit with the quiet places inside and bring attention to your heart. I cherish your relationship to being. This is a lost art in our culture and you’re one of the few people I know who dedicates time and attention every day to sitting in stillness and silence. I love that about you, and I’ve learned so much by witnessing the way in which you bring the quality of being into your life.

You’re a very special person, Self. You bring light to the people at work that you come into contact with. I know you don’t always love your job, but I want you to know that you’re making a difference in the world. People make a difference in all kinds of ways, and you make a difference by greeting people with a warm smile and being completely present for them when they’re sharing tidbits about their lives.

You’re also a good friend. I love that you make time for your friends and are available for them when they need you. It’s clear that people trust you with their problems and that they know that you won’t judge them. You’ve always been a good friend, but you’ve been an especially good friend this year as you’ve turned to face difficult parts of yourself and grown more compassion for others.

You’re such a smart, curious, inquisitive, funny person. When I see you as a young child, I see a ball of sweetness and light. I love your softness and also your strength. I love that you know how to cry deeply and also your wry sense of humor. I delight in you, as do so many others. The world needs more of YOU!

I love you, self. Happy Valentine’s Day!

***

Go ahead. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed by how loved you feel.

15 comments to Dear Self, I Love You

  • hangovergirluk

    Sheryl, thanks for this – have been putting myself through the wringer for a while now, and the more negativity I heap on myself, the worse I feel and the more prone I am to be harsh with myself. It’s a vicious circle Im struggling to get out of, and I know what I need is a little self-love. Thanks for this very timely blog post!

  • A little dose of self-love goes a long way : ).

  • Leaf

    And another thank you, Sheryl, for another beautiful post. Cordate leaves and other natural heart shapes are wonderful. You might enjoy the descriptions and piccies here > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaf_shape. Also courage is about heart > https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/courage. Thank you for yours in encouraging ours.

  • Sondra

    I am happy to have found this post. I remind myself everyday and teach this to my clients( I am a Esthetician and Massage therapist) as well. To love someone else you first have to love yourself and if you don’t love yourself why would you expect someone else to love you? My favorite affirmation is “I love and approve of myself”. Sometimes it has been easier to say than to do but the more awareness I bring to my life experience the easier it becomes. The affirmation that also helps me is “I respect myself and learn from my past experiences”. Everyday is Valentines Day when you realize every day is about loving…yourself and others. All the Best to everyone!

  • Jo

    This is incredibly incredibly incredibly hard cant find anything to write that dosent feel false,

  • Heather

    I challenged myself to complete this exercise, and I’m so glad I did. Sometimes the very same things that I feel are detriments are really strengths (reminded me of your post that if you’re anxious, you’re one of the lucky ones).

    Here is my letter in case it helps others to see another example:
    Dear Self,
    I love you. I love how caring you are, how much you care about and love other people and think about their well-being. I love how you do that both in your personal life and in your professional life. I love how sensitive you are to others.
    I love how you are analytical and think seriously about choices. I love how your friendliness, caring, and genuineness seems to be clear to others and how it can help them and brighten their day. I love how you talk to strangers and how they usually seem to enjoy it. I love your enthusiasm.
    I am proud that you have developed from someone who puts up walls and fears connections into someone who is willing to feel vulnerable, who lets myself feel feelings, and who is willing to experience the sadness and pain that sometimes accompanies that.
    I like that you look for ways to try to make the world better and more fair. I even like that you struggle when you feel like your actions are not doing that. It means that you care. I appreciate your sensitivity, because, again, it means that you care. You are a deeply thoughtful person, and it is an asset. Please know that.
    I love you, Self.
    Love, Me

    Thank you, Sheryl!

    • LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this, Heather! Thank you for sharing it and I hope it will inspire others to do the same. And absolutely yes to this: ” Sometimes the very same things that I feel are detriments are really strengths”. When we learn to re-channel the anxiety/sensitivity into creativity and spirituality, the healing takes on an entirely different dimension.

  • Clare

    I love this, Sheryl! Such a great way to keep us from focusing on the expectations of another holiday.

  • Molly

    Dear Sheryl,

    I have been in a very loving committed relationship for more than 3 years. However I have felt such sadness during a lot of it. Which I over came months ago. But lately or for the past week. I have been feeling unbelievably down. I find myself so annoying to be around. Land I feel unhappy about who I am which is so strange because I felt so full of faith and hope last week, and for months before. It’s normal to get depressed once in awhile. But I have been finding it hard to get out of bed because I’m regretting what I did or said the day before, I literally have to talk myself into it. I don’t feel right. And right now I don’t love myself. I try but I can’t it feels like a lot of work to even try to like who I am. It hasn’t been this bad since I was in therapy. I mean it’s only been a week. I hope it will pass.

  • t.l

    Dear Sheryl,

    I have been wanting to post my story for awhile, because I do think ‘self love’ comes into it a lot and I haven’t read many posts about people who are confused between someone they ‘want’ who is unavailable, and someone who IS available but they struggle to feel for.

    I have recently come out of an amazinly comfortable and loving relationship with A, purely because I wasn’t ‘sure’ if I loved my partner, and was chasing that feeling of satisfaction with so much energy that I didn’t give myself a chance to reach it! It healed me – I got over layers of self-consciousness, an eating disorder, and habits like hair-pulling died down just because of his love, but failed to recognise that this ‘relaxing’ of my personality was indeed because I was experiencing love too.

    I have done some soul-searching and realised that I need to ‘let go’, and the reason I couldn’t settle into my last relationship with A was because before it happened, I was openly ‘in love’ with another best friend, B. Nothing happened and I was rejected, but the new relationship with A diverted my emotion, rather than letting me grieve. I want to be with my latest partner A, but again, have anxiety over the fact that it feels like a ‘logical decision’, rather than following my longing for B. However, I have in the past associated love with ‘longing’ and ‘pain’ so never allowed myself to completely relax with A, because that longing (whether a ‘pull’ or infatuation) wasn’t there. I was SCARED that relaxing would lead me back into longing after B. But I realised, as I associated love with longing and pain (not necessarily infatuation), it is natural that I would have admitted to being in love (no infatuation, just a quiet magnetic pull and settling of my mind around him) with someone who was UNAVAILABLE. So the connection was mental, which is hard to let go of. This is the issue: I wanted those feelings with an emotionally available partner, A. I tried to chase the same feelings, thereby setting up expectations, which caused me anxiety.
    To move past my best friend I had this love for, I understand I must work on loving myself and actually let myself grieve this! And if I’m honest, I haven’t let myself completely relax and feel these emotions because I am scared that once I am ‘over’ the confusion over my best friend… what if this ‘magnetic pull’ doesn’t arrive for my recent partner? (We are still looking to get back together.)

    In short, I think it is important to let myself feel the pain of rejection, in order to become my true self again and not have any attachment to past feelings or needs. And say to myself: you don’t WANT your best friend, you want someone who is emotionally available and you can grow with. Someone with potential. This means being vulnerable, and you may get hurt’. I think I am just scared of forcing emotion (ie with my uninterested best friend, it wasn’t forced, and all my attention was on him and HIS needs – it was the opposite with my recent partner, and I have always thought I was in love when I didn’t question myself at all) in the thought that it won’t be ‘real’. But we do have a connection in terms of just never being bored or feeling awkward, and I find him attractive so never shy away from his compliments or attention, so I know things can grow.

    I think it is just a case of being brave, and moving past emotions for unavailable people, even though upsettlingly, they feel the most real. I know there won’t be a eureka moment with person A where I go ‘I just love this person’, it is a feeling that will be affirmed at times, and will be probably unidentifiable. It is a trust. I might not have that trust in A now, and have it with B, but once I let go of the pull of B (I am sure some readers will say I am denying true emotions for B, but to be honest I know I have them just because I have been rejected, but we are still close mentally as individuals) then focus on A’s needs, THAT is the love.
    At times the anxiety comes again when I read things online saying ‘it is fine to question the depth of your emotion, but NEVER if you are ‘turned on’ by someone’ because I know anxiety interrupts all those emotions. Thanks for reading, I hope I am on the right path.

    • It sounds like you’re on the right track, t.l. If you keep reading through the site you”ll find many, many articles on the pursuer-distancer dynamic that you’re describing.

  • Bettina

    wonderful!thank you sheryl.!i will try this!

  • September

    Sheryl,

    I came across this really cool stop motion film today and it reminded me of some of the things I’ve learned from reading your blog posts. I found it really moving and wanted to pass it along. Thank you again.

    http://vimeo.com/45281618