How often do you tell your friends that they are important?

How often do you tell your partner that they are doing well and that you’re proud of them?

How often do you say to your children that they are fantastic?

Maybe the words don’t flow quite like that, but when you see someone you love struggling, you are the one who is immediately by their side, reassuring them of their capabilities and value. You’re the one who sends the text message remembering that they have a dentist appointment and they’ll be nervous. You leave the sweet note and box of chocolates on their desk, knowing they still hurt after failing an exam. You give them that confidence-boosting smile that says “You’ve got this”. You show that you care.

What a powerful gift!

We are capable of providing strength, growing confidence; lifting spirits and helping dreams to come true. This kindness has become second nature, and we do it without thought now, so why is it so difficult to show the same consideration to ourselves?

How do you treat yourself when you are nervous? What do you say to yourself when you fail? What do you think when you are struggling?

I have been privileged enough to work with hundreds of students on their self talk, and one of the many things that I have learnt is that it is difficult. Changing self talk takes time, and when the idea of self kindness is new, it takes discipline as well. If self criticism is a habit for you now, or your patience is low when you struggle, something must be done if you are not to be held back from the raw goodness that life has to offer.

My road to self kindness has taken me from rock bottom where I could feel the ground under my spine to a place of lightness and feeling far more whole, like I am enough, just as I am. I know that I could fall at any moment though and that I must keep teaching myself to be kind, patient and forgiving with me, as I am with everyone else.

Amidst the stress and busyness of everyday life, it can be easy to forget how incredibly short our time on earth is. When my mind considers me as an old lady, maybe at an age when I can’t get around quickly, and I know that life is coming to an end, I wonder what she would say to the woman sat here right now, with a hot water bottle on her lap typing her innermost thoughts.

Image courtesy of Glen Hodson

When I allow my imagination to travel forwards to that old lady, these are the words that my hands type today.

Dear Katy,

You made it to old age!

I am ancient now! My hair is long and grey, and yes you looked good with it, even 20 years ago. Don’t worry, you can still make it to the bathroom, and your fears of dementia were not needed. We never got skilled enough to do the crossword in the paper, but we still write daily, do stretches on the yoga mat and sit in the garden. 

I am older now than you ever thought we’d be. I am thanking you now for all you did to make that happen. We know it was part luck that you didn’t get a terrible illness or get knocked over by a car. You’ll also be glad to know that even with all that fear of flying, your plane never crashed! We got lucky, but you also made a big effort, and I want to thank you. 

Thank you for giving up smoking when you did and not allowing temptation or tough times to get you. Thank you for every mouthful of broccoli. We still don’t like it, but still, eat it and believe in its powerful benefits. Thank you for ditching the coke and drinking so much water, we still have great skin. Thank you for starting yoga. You thought it might have been too late in life. Those stretches mean that even at an old age I was still able to go climbing, still able to walk the mountains and still able to ride a horse. Thank you for every time you really didn’t want to exercise, but you pushed yourself. It made the difference. I believe that your exercise is why my heart and lungs still work so well and why even at my age, I still feel inspired to use my dumbbells, although they’re a fair bit small now!

You tried hard and let me tell you; it was worth it. There are some sad times to come, but also laughter that is so powerful that your belly and jaw will ache and tears will roll down your face. You will experience unrivalled joy and moments of great satisfaction, where you can sit back and breathe, simply absorbing the good.

I want to repay your efforts for us, by giving you some advice.

I remember you well and how hard you tried. I remember how often your thoughts lay with the people around you and how you would have, and many times did, give your heart and soul to bring them love or joy. Please do this for yourself too. Life isn’t waiting to start. It is here now, right now, this is it, this is life! You are not preparing for a time in the future where everything will be perfect. Trust me; life won’t ever be perfect. Life loves to be messy, and that’s ok. Don’t worry though, or think I’m morbid because it’s worth it. The great times will come, but they are also happening right now. Look for them; they are there. Open your eyes and your heart to happiness now. Laugh as often as you can, especially at yourself. You are a good person, and you are starting to believe it but please remember that there is a limit to how much you can do and give. Carry a baseball bat with you and every time guilt tries to enter your aura, take your bat and whack it away with all of your strength.

You are a beautiful example of a human being. Remember this always. If someone is unkind, doesn’t like you or speaks with cruelty, that is their issue. Keep being you and walk away. Never stray from being you. It doesn’t matter who is around you or what their skills are. If they are talented, tell them, celebrate them but never let them influence how you feel about yourself. Tell yourself that you are beautiful and if you waiver and need someone to remind you, reach for the people that love you. Tell them you need reminding, and the ones who care will be there.

It’s ok to struggle.

It’s ok to rest.

It’s ok to doubt yourself sometimes.

I am here and will be for the rest of your life. Look in the mirror, and you will see my eyes, maybe fewer wrinkles and less grey hair. I will write again when I feel you need it. You are not alone.

With love and absolute respect

Your future self

Image courtesy of Juan Montana

Writing this letter was a raw act of self care. It reminded me of who I am, that I have the answers, that there are things that I have control over and things that I don’t. I know that whenever I need help, I can allow my imagination to travel to that woman with the grey hair and ask.

What would your future self say to you right now?

Get in touch or send me your letter to [email protected]

Cover image courtesy of Guille Álvarez