Shopping is called “retail therapy.” But it sometimes gets out of hand. Jill Chivers is an Australian entrepreneur who helps women find a healthier approach to shopping. She recently decided to write a letter to her younger self and discovered the exercise’s surprising power. Here, she explains why.
There’s something magical about writing a letter to your younger self. In writing to my teenage self, I discovered two main reasons to do it:
1. Healing. There is a therapeutic benefit in writing to your younger self from the perspective of a nurturing adult. The adult believes in you, wants the best for you, sees the best in you and is definitely in your corner.
We may not be able to literally go back in time and change our pasts. But we can alter our present and by extension – our future. We can change how we think and what we feel about past events – those memories don’t need to be fixed in stone!
When I wrote my own letter to my teenage self, I realised that I’d been carrying around some heavy baggage that I could finally start to set down. Especially about how ugly and fat I felt as a child and young teen. That internal state, of feeling overweight and unattractive, dogged my early adult years and is still with me to this day, although it is less pervasive and intrusive now.
Recalling those emotions as I wrote to my 13 year-old self was quite painful for me. It resurfaced some of the rawer aspects of those emotions. But here’s what I learned: there’s something about the nurturing and understanding adult soothing the inner child that brought some very real relief to those old, stored and inappropriately ‘sacred’ feelings.
So that’s the “deep end of the pool”. It’s not the whole story though.
2. Celebrating. Writing a letter to your younger self is a way to celebrate the you of the past, from the wisdom of the present.
This exercise celebrates the things about the teenage you that perhaps never had a chance to be celebrated ‘in real time’ when they happened. In retrospect, those things – what you did, who you were — can be acknowledged and admired. It’s a way to bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step when you reflect on where you came from and how that helped bring you to where you are now. It’s a joyous thing to do.
I found writing to my 13 yo self a lot of fun. I got to admire her spunk and get-up-and-go. I got to talk about fashion faux pas that I cringe at now with a certain degree of pleasure/pain. I got to have a laugh at myself and lighten up about some heavyosity that was not serving me – then or now. I got to shine my inner light of insight and playfulness into some previously shadowy corners.
Writing a letter to your teenage self is a celebration of you – and can be as heavy or light (or bits of both) as you like. And you can repeat this exercise over and over – uncovering layers of healing and celebration every time. What will you discover?