We all know that sending a thoughtful note, card, or letter is a wonderful way to make someone’s day, especially in these trying times. Of every recipient you could imagine, though, somebody who’s probably the last person you would ever consider writing to might really benefit from your support right now. If you haven’t figured out who that is, walk over to the nearest mirror and take a look. That’s right…that someone is you.
You may wonder why on earth anyone would ever write themselves a letter. But it’s a surprisingly therapeutic tactic with several potential applications. The common thread among them is finding ways to encourage yourself as if you were your own best friend or mentor. It’s often much easier to muster the compassion, optimism, and belief in the abilities of a person we cherish and respect who is experiencing a setback than to give that to ourselves…so the trick is to take a step back and reframe yourself as someone who naturally elicits your supportive inclinations.
One of the seemingly magical things about writing to yourself is that in most cases, what you write somehow ends up coming as a surprise once you rediscover it — especially if you physically mail it to yourself — because we naturally move on to other things immediately afterward, and we tend to downplay our own insights and musings as fleeting and inconsequential, when in fact they can capture a potent truth at a pivotal moment in time.
During her last flight home from a business trip before the U.S. entered COVID-19 quarantine, life design coach Ashley Jablow wrote a comforting letter to her future self as a way to stay centered through the unprecedented difficulties she sensed lay just before her and the rest of the world. In the slipstream of events that transpired since she wrote the letter, Ashley soon forgot about it until she happened upon it a few weeks later. She was surprised to discover how prescient her words had been, and what a powerful morale boost they provided during a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. The text she shared from that letter provides a perfect example of how the ability to nurture ourselves can emerge by listening deeply and closely to our inner wisdom.
Writer Noelle Stern framed letters to oneself as a motivational tool for articulating our most dearly held desires and identifying concrete positive steps to take toward bringing them to fruition. Letters of this nature can also provide positive affirmations in the wake of an experience that deals a heavy blow to self-confidence. She cited Julia Cameron’s book for struggling creatives, The Artist’s Way, as a source of many “letters-to-self” exercises that help dismantle self-defeating attitudes and behaviors. Similar to Ashley’s experience, Noelle found that a letter she wrote to herself took on a very different and much more compelling quality after having the physical and temporal distance from it that mailing it to herself provided.
The choice of writing tools also presents an opportunity for creativity, fun, and self-care. Will you choose some fancy notepaper? An eye-catching greeting card? Something you create and decorate yourself with your own hands, scissors, markers/gel pens, stickers, magazine clippings, and/or some glue?
One of my most treasured stationery sets is the jaw-dropping “Cipro Medium Portfolio” (see top) from Tuscan paper product designer Kartos, kindly given to me as a gift by a very thoughtful friend from her trip to Italy. Featuring gold powder-dusted ivory paper with ornate accents on both the envelopes and individual sheets, as well as a fully realized design luxuriously extending across the entirety of its surrounding case, one of the countless things I love about it is the fact that each sheet is relatively small, making the blank writing space less intimidating when summoning inspiration is difficult. You can just dive right in and start with something brief, rather than facing a giant, exquisitely framed void. Each sheet is also more like card stock than the thinner paper one might expect, making ink less likely to bleed through and, by extension, inviting the writer to use both sides.
Another Kartos set I’m especially fond of is the antique “Maps Portfolio” (see left), whose intricate details are even more impressive when you zoom in using the Kartos website’s product image inspection feature. There are plenty of other stunning sets to ogle on the Kartos Etsy site from which people anywhere in the world can place a direct order.
Imagine a piece of written communication that you would love to receive from someone else, and create it for yourself…give yourself permission to be your own cheerleader and enjoy the pleasure of this little gift. If you decide to try it out, I would love to hear what the experience was like for you…particularly when discovering what you wrote to yourself after some time has elapsed.