I was going through my stack of old documents this morning, looking for tax forms, when I stumbled upon a letter I wrote to myself three and a half years ago on New Years Day. It’s a love letter. I had forgotten about it entirely, but as I looked at the card, I remembered vividly finding it at the bookstore and wondering who to give it to and finally admitting that I wanted to give it to myself. I felt foolish and debated the merit of spending money on the card, and I felt embarrassed and self-absorbed when writing it. In fact, I confess that I feel those things ten-fold sharing it here with the world. But here’s the thing: it’s not a crime to love yourself; it’s a necessity. And when I stumbled on this letter this morning, it turned out to be something I really needed to hear.
I think a fair amount about words I would like to write to my younger self. But I’m so grateful to realize that my younger self had wisdom to share with the woman I have become. Three and a half years may not seem like a long time, but myself and my life have changed immeasurably since then. With all of that growth, I have continued to struggle with the idea of loving all that I am. We live in a society that manages to encourage selfishness without encouraging self-worth.
One night this summer at an end-of-day staff meeting, I asked my staff to name one thing they are proud of about themselves. It was an exceptionally difficult conversation for all of us because we are so used to self-deprecating and shirking compliments. It shouldn’t be that way. So I share this letter with you now for two reasons:
1) I’m proud of that 23 year old me for daring to write these words and this is me loving her like she asked.
2) We need to create a world that encourages self-love and that can only happen when we do it and admit to doing it so that others know that it’s okay. We don’t write enough love letters to ourselves. If you’ve never done it – both 23 year-old me and 27 year-old me recommend it.
So here it is:
The quote on the front of the card reads:
“Go for long walks, indulge in hot baths. Question your assumptions, be kind to yourself, live for the moment, loosen up, scream, curse the world, count your blessings, just let go, just be.” – Carol Shields
The letter inside:
January 1, 2010
First things first: you are definitely worth the $2.55 it cost to buy this card – and don’t even tell yourself different.
So… it’s the beginning of a new year—a new decade—and the perfect opportunity for a new start with yourself. You are 23—you are a successful, healthy adult and it is time to let go of all of the self doubt, self-loathing, and guilt that you allow to drag you down. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Be yourself. People love you in spite of and in light of the things you criticize in yourself. As I write this, there is someone falling for all of those things that you’re afraid make you so unlovable. Let him. Accept and love who you are so you can let him in. Allow youself to change through growth and opportunity rather than self-restriction.
Here’s the truth:
You are an awkward, short-tempered, obsessive worrywart with a tendency toward self-destruction. And you are also an intelligent, honest, aware person with an enormous heart, a talent for writing and communicating, a passion for other people and a deep, unconquerable love for everything about life and the world around you. All of these things—good and bad—make you wonderfully human. Make you Layton Williams. You are a light in this beautiful world and you shine brightest when you lovingly allow yourself to be the person you are intended to be.
So be you. And be happy and let the joy within yourself brighten the world around you. And let yourself make mistakes and let them go. It’s okay. I forgive you and I love you… and I will never not love you again. You are beautiful, you are worth it, and you are good (even when you tell yourself you’re not).
PS. stop apologizing, ok? ☺