My musical obsession, Dear Evan Hansen, inspired this blog post.
“Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day, because today, today at least you’re you and that’s enough.”
Evan Hansen has trouble fitting in. His dad left when he was younger. His mum is over-worked trying to provide for them both so is inattentive. He suffers from social anxiety disorder. The girl he loves doesn’t notice him. Long story short, his world sucks. After visiting a therapist he was instructed to write supportive letters to himself. The letters were to help him deal with the hardships of life and to help Evan gain a more positive outlook on life.
The art of letter writing is something that’s completely lost in today’s digital age and I think it’s heart-breaking. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but the idea of someone taking the time out of their day to write down their feeling on a piece of paper is beautiful. But this isn’t a post about love letters. Or maybe it is if you look at it as a love letter to yourself.
Unlike expressive writing, letters fall under transactional writing. They’re written with a purpose, a sort of business to take care of. This doesn’t mean they have to be any less personal or emotional or true. You’re talking to yourself so they should still be full of compassion and empathy and gratitude. The aim is to communicate a message; something you want to get off your chest, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking – whatever it is that you think you need to hear. Putting it down on paper makes it more real than just the thoughts in your head.
Now, Evan is writing to his current self; words of encouragement and things that will help him get through the day. But the letter’s also work when you’re writing them to your past self or your future self. I remember doing the latter back in secondary school; my teacher set us all a task to write a letter to ourselves in ten years. She wanted us to tell ourselves what we’d hope we had achieved by that point, what we wanted ourselves to feel and all the things we wanted to have in our life. I remember writing in mine how I wanted to graduate from university with a degree and be able to make my mum proud. I also wrote about how I wanted to be in love and have landed my dream job; two out of three isn’t bad?
But what’s the point? I’ve summed up a few reasons why you should write letters to yourself below.
Write yourself to gratitude
Firstly, writing to yourself helps you work on your gratitude, which is important to help you realise what you have instead of what you don’t. It reduces stress to take a breath and actually appreciate yourself every once in a while, so whether you’re writing the letter to your past, current or future self, be kind and grateful for all you have. This works especially well if it’s to your future self to open in a couple of years when you’re having a bad day.
We all love to scroll through our Instagram accounts, appreciating the past and how much you’ve changed. Writing a letter is basically the same, only more personal. You can be more honest with yourself because you’re sharing it with no one but yourself. So, the next time you’re having a bad day, write a letter to tell yourself. Tell yourself that you’re going to get through it like you always do. You can read it again on your next bad day, or in a few years’ time when you’re feeling thankful for the fact you didn’t give up.
We always tend to take pictures or post statuses on ‘milestone days’, like a wedding or graduation etc. So why not take the time out to write yourself a letter on a day you’ll probably want to remember for the rest of your life? It would work for things you’re feeling anxious about, too. Like starting college or moving to a new city; tell yourself what you’re worried about and calm your stresses, and then you can read back over it later in life. You’ll see that it all worked out and it was no big deal. Give yourself a memory. Describe exactly how you’re feeling and thoughts you want to remember; your future self-will thank you.
Maybe you could even write yourself a letter on your birthday. The idea being that you open it on your next birthday. Tell yourself what’s happened since your last birthday, how you’re feeling on the day and what you hope happens before your next birthday. This way, you give yourself a constant stream to read throughout your life, and you’re able to see how much you’ve grown as a person but also how you always have and always will be you.
Look to the future
When life gets hard, and you don’t know where you’re going or even where you want to go and you just can’t be bothered, writing a letter to your future self helps take you out of the now and put you in the what’s to come. The key is the think big. Where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing? Give yourself to be ambitious and let your mind run free. Even if when you open the letter in three, five, or ten years, you haven’t become the President of the United States, the exercise will still allow you to get excited about your future and help get you out of your rut.
What would you put in a letter to yourself?