Today, I wrote myself a love letter and I meant almost every word.
Actually, I wrote this letter quite some time ago, on a day I was feeling overwhelmed by life. Old voices came to haunt me telling me that I wasn’t doing enough. According to these voices, I was failing miserably at being a teacher. My Ego wanted me to believe that working in the field of mental health was beginning to break me. In addition, Graduate School was turning out to be much harder than I had initially realized, and balancing it all was turning into an impossible juggling act. I was bound to drop something sooner than later.
Ultimately, the goals I had set for my professional, personal, and social life were becoming to feel unrealistic and unattainable. My defeat felt at times, unstoppable and completely crushing. So, instead of acknowledging my feelings and searching for resolution, I instead dismissed such concerns and swiftly reminded myself I simply wasn’t enough. I was failing, because as it turns out, I am no Superwoman and I am just not good enough. Simply put, I need to be better.
Keri’s Self Esteem 0
Later that evening, I spoke to a dear friend and mentor who suggested I write it all down. “Write down what you have to say to yourself,” she said. “Write yourself a letter.” Interestingly enough, what was initially meant to be a therapeutic outlet to write out my feelings turned into a letter filled with love and empathy for a woman simply trying to do and be the best version of herself. This letter turned into a romantic and intimate plea to remember the beauty and love she possessed… to remember she is only love.
Now, fast forward to a few months later. On this random day, I happen to catch a short film by a woman who writes a weekly blog about food, cooking and life. This woman received a hurtful comment by one of her readers/viewers suggesting that she dye her gray hairs because she “looked like a 70-year-old woman.” The blogger took to social media to share her experience and speak to that hurtful comment. The blogger shared that she was born with an autoimmune disease that would let her live no longer than 70 years and every time she discovers a new gray hair, she remembers she has been gifted with yet another year to live; another year to grow old with her husband. In this video, the blogger also spoke about the parts of herself she once considered flawed. These parts of herself, she has now learned to love. She proudly stated that she loves all of herself fully and completely.
With raw and honest emotion, she concluded her monologue with a challenge to encourage others to find the beauty in all things and to love everyone just as they are. She said “We need more people like this. Be that person.” By the end of the short video, my eyes had filled up with tears.
“I will be that person.” I whispered to myself.
I will stand up and love everyone just as they are and encourage others to trash the negative self-talk and lonely nights of self-loathing, and instead find gratitude and happiness in being given this life, this body, and these opportunities. Then it hit me…the concept of being that person is great and all, but it starts with me. I can’t walk around this planet preaching about self-love, and yet unwilling to provide that for myself first and foremost. I had become that person, alright; telling people how beautiful they were, while silently judging parts of my own body I loathed. Too many moments were spent on telling myself I should lose 10 lbs, or identifying new wrinkles that seemed to appear overnight. So many moments in which I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t good enough at my job, or was bad at being a yoga teacher and should really just stick to practicing instead of instructing. “I don’t know everything,” I would remind myself. My Ego would chime in and ask why my yoga students should even trust what I am saying?
Some nights were spent convincing myself I wasn’t a very good friend, sister, or partner. Thoughts would swirl around my mind until I convinced myself I was self-serving and inconsiderate. “I am not making enough time for everyone,” I would say. “I don’t tell my family and friends often enough how much they mean to me, or that I literally wouldn’t be the same person without them.” So, I would fall asleep planning to be a better friend and person the next day.
The next day would come, and if I didn’t succeed at being everything to everyone, I would sit with Guilt. Like old friends catching up over a glass of wine, we would reminisce about all the ways in which I was a horrible person. “We have so much evidence!” Guilt would excitedly exclaim.
The judging and belittling done to myself by myself was atrocious and desperate, and my self-confidence couldn’t take much more.
So, one night, I stood up to Guilt, Regret and Fear. I sat by my lonesome with red wine in hand, to reread my love letter. I read it over and over again until I meant every word…
…until I meant Every. Damn. Word.
And possibly as you read this letter, my hope is that you see the love in such beautiful and honest words.
Perhaps even, this letter was actually written for you.
Dear sweet girl,
Do you know how much I love you? Perhaps, I should tell you more often. So, in case you’ve forgotten any of the reasons why I love you so, let me remind you now.
And, sweet girl, please stop forgetting, will you?
I love your heart. It is probably my most favorite thing about you. It is easy for you to love, and when you love, you love hard. People have told you, “You wear your heart on your sleeve.”
This is true. This is not a bad thing, but an endearing quality you have always possessed. True, this trait has led you to feel vulnerable at times, but I am here to tell you that it is okay. Vulnerability is how we stay open to opportunities of growth and expansion. Vulnerability is how we remain intimate in our relationships.
So expose away, as you have nothing to hide, but only so much to give.
Now, let me elaborate on one more thing about that heart of yours. I also love how you love. I do not believe you know how to love on a part-time basis, but rather with all of your heart and always full-time. In other words, you are either all in or none at all. For all of those moments you think you do not love enough or give enough of yourself, I am here to tell you this is false.
Please stop being so hard on yourself, sweet girl. You cannot be everything to everyone at every moment of every day. No, you can only be you. Trust me when I say, that is enough, and those who are on the receiving end of your love are seriously lucky.
I love your beauty. I don’t tell you often enough, but you are beautiful. I think your smile is charming and your eyes are incredibly honest. Unwilling to hide excitement, sadness, or even disappointment, they always tell the truth. And when your heart is full and happy, your eyes twinkle with delight. They practically light up a room up when you speak about those you care and love for. They say the “eyes are the window to the soul”, and yours, my dear, are no exception.
Speaking of eyes, they have seen a lot. They have shed many tears; many tears full of love and laughter and also tears of sorrow and grief. I am glad you’ve stopped crying, sweet girl. I like your eyes better when they are open, bright, curious, and in awe of the world around you. Someone once told you, they could get “lost in your eyes.” Well, I must say that I agree. Those eyes have a language all of their own.
I love your fire, your passion and your drive. You are not one to sit still easily, nor will you let this life just pass you by. I see how much you strive to accomplish in this life and your ambitious and adventurous spirit is infectious. Yes, I do love that spirit of yours. Free, open and honest is who you were born do be. Wildly inspired by, and in awe of the world around you, I am addicted to your desire to live this life to the fullest. But please remember, sweet girl, to be present and not get lost in the “what if’s” and the “could haves” or “should haves.” That doesn’t always feel good, right? So, stop wondering about what, or who, or how you are meant to be and just allow yourself to be.
Finally, I must tell you that I adore your sense of humor. The ease in which you find laughter can often draw people in. Your wonderful, and often unique sense of humor makes you an easy person to be around. You are easy to laugh with (and, yes, sometimes at), and this is a charming quality to possess and I urge you to never lose it. In fact, I challenge you to laugh as often as you can so that you continue to grow your smile lines. After all, they are so beautiful and that smile of yours is contagious.
You see, sweet girl. There is so much of you to love, I think I could write for days. I could write pages upon pages of all that you have to offer the world. So please stop forgetting so easily. You are a Warrior. Your heart will always guide your way.
But remember to take it easy sometimes, my sweet Warrior. There is no battle to be fought or war to be won. You are doing the best you can and doing a damn good job at it.
And please, if there is one thing I never want you to forget, it is that you are perfect. You are perfectly, imperfectly you and in all your complexities and complications you are enough. You have always been enough to me and I am so terribly sorry I ever let you forget.
With all my love and adoration, Keri
Photo Credit: Kevin Thayer/Alt Proc Media Arts