Write a Letter — to Yourself

Nearly a decade ago, I began to write letters to myself. It was a practice suggested by my therapist, one that has been a saving grace on many occasions and continues to be a powerful avenue to self-reflection.

If you’re wondering, “What could I possibly have to write to myself?” the answer is, well, anything. You don’t have to be an experienced writer or wordsmith. Your grammar, however imperfect, spelling errors, and sloppy penmanship are all welcome.

You might feel self-conscious at first, giving in to the temptation to fine-tune your word choice or self-censor. Remember though, it’s not about how smoothly your sentences flow from one to another or how extensive your vocabulary is to draw from. It’s a practice in communicating with yourself in a way that lets you honor who you are; forgive who you were; and celebrate who you can be.

Think about the messages you send yourself over the course of a day: they may be about your appearance; about your performance; about something that happened in the past; or about how you show up as a friend, parent, or partner. Our internal dialogue both shapes and is shaped by how we move through the world.

Letter writing allows you to tap into whatever message you’re needing to hear by filtering out those that are unhelpful. Even if the thoughts that remain are hard truths to swallow, simply getting them down on paper can be freeing and cathartic.

When you do this, you are connecting with a part of yourself that is not as readily accessible via thinking or talking aloud. Imagine it as tuning into your wisest self, one with unlimited potential.

You can choose to write to your adult self or your childhood self, or from the perspective of your future self. I’ve found the practice of writing to my child self particularly healing. Writing a letter to read when you’re feeling difficult emotions is also helpful. Your letters can be sweet, serious, humorous, or supportive. One of my favorite letters to myself begins:

Dear Self,

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re feeling:

(Check one or more)

  • Sad
  • Lost
  • Discouraged
  • Hopeless
  • Small
  • Insignificant
  • Self-critical
  • Overwhelmed
  • Exhausted
  • Angry
  • Tense
  • At your wit’s end
  • Not good enough
  • Like giving up

It always calms me and often helps me see things from a different perspective. (It goes on to mandate that I take good care of myself, an imperative I can rely on.)

There are no set rules; you need only write from a place of inner truth. I’ve found that letter writing can help you:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings around an important decision
  • Identify your goals and values
  • Recognize when you’re being hard on yourself
  • Celebrate your strengths
  • Let go of past hurts
  • Shed light on how you’ve grown
  • Confront your fears
  • Embrace your shortcomings
  • Energize your body, mind, and spirit

Whether your type or handwrite your letter is up to you. (I prefer writing by hand as I’m less tempted to edit as I go like I do when typing.) I hope you give this practice a try. If it sounds like something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, use it as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone! If you have questions or feel stuck, get in touch. I’d love to hear what your experience was like and how it’s helped you. Put that pen to paper and soak in your wise words.

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