I grew up with a mother who was good for writing a letter—or 2 or 10. This was especially the case as I got older, there was a breakdown in communication, and she wanted to make sure she was heard and/or she wanted to clarify a few things and/or sometimes, she even wanted to apologize. Between that being a part of my upbringing and my being an avid reader and writer from an early age, letter writing has continued to be a part of my life and lifestyle. Ask anyone who's close to me—or who I've released before—and they'll tell you that it's nothing for them to receive a letter—or 2 or 10—from me. It's such a powerful way to process, purge and even cleanse in some ways.
I got the confirmation on this several years ago, when I penned a spiritual letter of sorts to single women. Whenever a woman reaches out to me who feels as if she's at her wit's end (romantically speaking), I email it to her. It's been really humbling to see the kind of peace and "Ohh…so that's what this has all been about" insight that it provides. And the beauty of it is, since it's a letter, she can always refer back to it (another plus of sharing your thoughts and feelings via writing rather than simply having a conversation; it's documented). Yeah, letter writing is an underrated superpower. It really is.
That's why I am a huge fan and avid encourager of women writing love letters. No, not to other people (although that's cool too)—to themselves. If the first thing that comes to your mind is that it sounds odd, feels awkward or even leans on the side of vanity, I'm hoping that in 3-5 minutes (give or take), I'll totally be able to change your mind.
There Are Proven Psychological Benefits to Writing Things Down
Did you know that if you write your goals down, there's a far greater chance that you'll achieve them? There's an article that ran in Forbes that said this is actually proven in neuroscience. It claims that jotting things down taps into your "external storage" (it's a visual reminder) and your "encoding" (the biological processing by which decisions are made). So already, can you see that if you write yourself a love letter, it will serve as a visual reminder while also helping you to make decisions that are centered around self-love?
Also, there are other psychological benefits that come from writing things down. Writing things down helps you to express your emotions. Writing things down brings forth clarity. Writing things down can also help you to see how much progress you've made over time as you go from one level of thinking to another.
So yeah, before going any further, this point alone should be enough of a reason to pull out a pen and piece of paper, don't you think?
You Need to Document How You Feel About Yourself
Sometimes, when a woman writes me about all of the things she hates about her life, I'll ask her to shoot me 10 things that she likes about herself and 10 things that she totally dislikes. 9 times out of 10, it never fails. While she can easily rattle off all of things that she loathes, she struggles with sharing even five things that she loves. Although you might want to automatically chalk that up to her having low self-esteem or a lack of self-awareness, while there may be some truth to that, the reality is that all of our brains come with an automatic negative bias. Researchers are looking into all of the reasons why, but a part of it is due to what we expose ourselves to on a daily basis, both inside and out.
Anyway, I'm bringing this up because between all of the political drama, gossip blogs and vlogs and Instagram filters that we're exposed to on the regular, it can be really easy to become extremely cynical and hard on yourself. One way to counter that is to "reprogram your mind" by focusing on positive stuff. A great starting point is to hone in on specific things about yourself that are good, healthy and affirming.
Since it's so easy to talk about what you don't like about yourself, why not go out of your comfort zone and write down some of the things that you actually do?
It’s a Great Reference Point for the Not-Feeling-Your-Best-Days
You wake up 15 minutes late. The outfit that you want to wear decides to fit you funny. You leave your car lights on overnight. When you finally do get to work, you forgot all about the staff meeting you were supposed to lead. Then you get a text from your man that totally pisses you off and a voicemail from your mom that totally leaves you baffled. You order your lunch and it's all wrong. The day just sucks. Sucks, I say.
When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and it has a domino effect, not only does that have a tendency to drain your energy, it can make you feel all kinds of bad about everything that's transpiring; including when you look into the mirror and it's a bad hair day on top of everything else. Something that can calm and center you is a self-written love letter. It can remind you of all of the things that you've got going right within when it seems like life, at least for today, is all wrong.
It Sets the Standard of What to Require of Others
Now that we've gotten a few reasons down for why you should be all for writing a love letter to yourself, you might be thinking, "OK Shellie, but how do I actually go about doing that?" That's where this point comes in. Although you could hash out an email, I think getting some pretty stationary and writing all of what you have to say in your own handwriting is far more impacting. Think about what you love about you—both inside and out. Think about what you are deserving of. Think about what sets you apart from everyone else on this planet. Reflect on the standards and boundaries that must be put into place in honor of the love that you have for you. Tell yourself why you are going to nurture and pamper yourself without reservation or apology more often. Write down all of the reasons why someone should feel honored to have you and why you will wait until that kind of individual comes along.
I promise you, once your letter is complete, it will automatically put a fire in you that will not only inspire you to love yourself, it will require others to respect and esteem you to the utmost as well. Yep, writing yourself a love letter will change your life and the way people in your life treat you. Guaranteed.
It Holds You Accountable to What Love Means to Yourself
A lot of us struggle with doing an exercise like this because 1) we don't even know what it means to love ourselves and 2) we definitely don't hold ourselves accountable to doing it. Yet ironically, that's the main point and purpose of writing ourselves a love letter. A letter is a written form of communication. As you're exploring in your mind what self-love means to you and you're putting those words down, it can define love in a way that is distinctive; a way that resonates with you like nothing else can because no one knows you quite like you do.
Then, once the letter is written and either mailed to you (why not? That way you can get more than a bill), posted on your fridge or blown up and hung over your bed, you can read what you said, over and over again, making sure that if no one else loves you right and well, you will. Daily.
So, what are you waiting for? Pull out a bottle of wine, a pen and stationery and get to writing. If something profound comes to mind (and I'm pretty sure that it will), put a line or two in the comment section.
Everyone deserves at least one love letter in life. Especially one that they've written—to themselves.
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Feature image by Shutterstock
Originally published on September 7, 2019
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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Featured image by Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images