Why and how to write a letter to your past self

Photo: Eldar Nurkovic

Photo: Eldar Nurkovic

We all have times in our past which are memorable for being painful and difficult. What if you could go back in time and show that past version of yourself the love and empathy you needed during those hard times? What if you could give your past self the advice you needed back then? Well, with no time machine on hand, I can only tell you all about the next best thing: a letter to your past self. Writing this letter might sound like an ineffective way to heal your mental wounds, but it can actually be highly therapeutic, as you’ll find out if you read on and give it a go.

Why write a letter to my past self?

Most people who write a letter to their past selves find it very beneficial. Writing this letter to your younger self can help you to:

  • Heal your pain
  • Gain closure
  • Gain clarity
  • Forgive yourself and others
  • Gain inner peace

How do I write a letter to my past self?

  • Be honest – it’s a pointless exercise otherwise!
  • Refer to your younger self as ‘you’
  • Be compassionate and empathetic
  • Tell yourself what you wish you had been told by someone else back then
  • Choose an age of you to write to, and stick to it: you can always write further letters to yourself at various ages
  • Stay focused on one or two issues – don’t go too broad or you’ll write a book!

What should the content of the letter be? This is unique to you, but once you get started, the words will probably flow. In fact, when I tried this exercise out, I found I could have written 10 pages or more. Write whatever you need to. Address the issue you had in your life at that point in time, give yourself some love, forgive yourself, forgive others, be empathetic, and write until you feel you have dealt with it all. Explain to your past self what is about to happen, and how they should react. Be kind and loving at all times. Reassure your past self. Exploring the issues fully while being empathetic towards yourself will give you the closure you need on that period of your life.

An example letter

Below is an excerpt of an example ‘letter to my younger self’ by Stacey Hill on Huffington Post, which she addressed to her 15-year-old self. I recommend reading it all.

“Right, first of all, take your cup full of fungus downstairs and wash it up… Pop your knickers in the wash while you’re there. Trust me… your lack of basic self respect for your box room, is going to be used against you at future gatherings.

I know it’s annoying and you’ve got better things to do, like belt out Survivor in your mirror like you mean it, but ‘survival’ to you right now, is getting credit on your Nokia 3310…. (oh, please)

Make mum a brew… (stop tutting) …. What if I told you, you’ve only got ten years left of her. She won’t be there forever you know, and trust me…..One day, you’d do anything to hear her yell up them stairs again. When you take it to her, tell her how much you love her. You don’t know it, but she’s going through a lot right now, and she won’t admit it because she’s protecting you.”

As a long-term stationery lover, I adore working for The Pen Company. My childhood saw me carrying around a little red suitcase covered in stickers and full of pens, paper and other such goodies; my adulthood sees me doing pretty much exactly the same!