Dear Self: What I Wish I Knew About Sex
Have you ever wished you could go back in time and share advice with your younger self? Maybe you would tell yourself to let go of a toxic ex sooner, stop turning down opportunities because you don’t think you’re “good enough,” or spend more time with treasured friends. I’m confident we all can list experiences we wish we could change. While we may not be able to alter the past physically, we can still metaphorically speak to our younger selves through letters.
I first discovered ‘Letters to My Younger Self’ when seeking a new mindfulness practice at the height of a college breakup. In fact, celebrities have even participated in this trend. For years, I engaged in yoga and meditation practices to destress and find balance in my life. However amid heartbreak, I had little motivation to attend to my breath or refocus my attention. I remember Googling “how to get over a breakup” and “mindfulness for heartbreak” (who can relate?), hoping I’d discover a quick remedy or straightforward advice for moving on with my life. Though I of course didn’t find a solution for instantaneous healing, I uncovered blogs with thoughtful letters people had written to their younger selves to help mindfully “get unstuck” from their past breakups.
Willing to try something new, I wrote my first letter to my younger self later that night. While the single act of writing didn’t heal me, it was a cathartic and rewarding process. I imagined my young self reading the letter and realized she would be proud of who I had become and the wisdom I had gained. Young me would’ve pretended I was okay and shoved down the sadness, but the older version of myself was unafraid to admit I was struggling and seek support. Acknowledging the lessons I had learned about relationships and love since my younger years reminded me of my strength and resilience when I needed it the most.
Since then, I’ve been writing letters to my younger self each year. Each contains insights gained as I’ve gotten older. Why continue to write these letters and why is this activity something you might want to try?
- They can help us acknowledge our past, explore our experiences, and reflect on how these experiences have shaped us.
- They offer the opportunity to catalog milestones and celebrate small and big successes.
- It’s a powerful activity for building self-esteem and self-love while practicing gratitude.
- They hold space for negative thoughts and feelings while simultaneously opening up possibilities to reframe them or move past them.
- It’s a chance to engage in self-care and speak to ourselves with empathy and kindness.
Personal letter writing also provides a platform to share these reflections with others, if we so choose. We can learn together and even find solidarity across experiences. So, I asked four people to write open letters* to their younger selves on sex, relationships, love, or intimacy.
Letters from others
Letters from yourself
Ready to write your own letter? Try using the suggestions below to get started. This is a judgment-free practice, so I recommend writing without concern for making your letter “sound” or “look” a certain way. Remember, there’s no one way to write a letter to yourself-whatever you’d like to include or not include is perfectly okay!
Think about an age or time in your life that you’d like to write about. Begin by addressing this version of your younger self.
Questions you might want to consider while you write are:
- What would the younger version of yourself think of you today?
- What advice or insights would you offer your younger self?
- What might you need to hear given your past experiences?
Name any emotions** attached to your experiences and give yourself time to acknowledge them. How are you feeling in relation to your younger self and your past experiences? Is there something you’d like to move past or let go of? Consider shifting your perception of yourself to give space for forgiveness and healing (think of Avalyn reminding themselves they weren’t broken).
Speak with Kindness
Throughout your entire letter, be kind and gentle with yourself. There might be things you wish were different, but it’s important not to remain stuck on circumstances we can’t alter. Instead, remind yourself you’re worthy of respect and compassion, regardless of the past. Note what you appreciate about yourself and the qualities you admire. When we speak kindly to ourselves, we move away from negative thinking patterns to embrace the opportunity to lean into self-love.
*Only snapshots from each letter were included. Names have been changed at the request of each writer.
**Letter writing can bring up powerful emotions. You might discuss this practice with your therapist first before attempting it on your own.