No matter where my life takes me, I know I’ll always remember one vivid point in my life that changed everything. It happened one night back in October 2010.
I think many of us want to find that one moment that feels like a pivotal turning point in our lives. A moment when we leave our past behind, and get busy living. We stop making excuses and ready to do what it takes to have the life we want.
We wait for that moment to come. It’s frustrating because we have no idea when it will come. We hope it comes sooner than later though.
The truth is we are waiting for a moment that may never happen.
What if you could create that moment instead of waiting for it?
You can do that through the power of writing. Writing can help you if you’ve got a lot of emotional baggage, have a lot of pain and anger, or feel stuck in life. It’s benefits have been scientifically proven.
It’s not only about writing, but more specifically writing letters.
It has turned my life around as it has for the four stories I share today.
Let’s jump in the Delorean, hit 88 mph, and go back in time first.
“I hate my life.”
Why did life turn out like this? I definitely didn’t expect this after graduating college.
I had a nice house filled with whatever I wanted, drove a BMW M3, and took long paid vacations every year. What was so bad about my life?
What I hated so much was my job.
I worked at my mom’s Japanese restaurant. The type of restaurant with teppanyaki tables and chefs cook in front of you. It’s a fun dining experience. We also served some of the best sushi. I’m biased of course, but lots of regular customers have said the same.
I started working there soon after I graduated college in 2000 since I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I’d work to earn some money and have something to do. My parents have owned restaurants before I even started kindergarten. So I’ve been around the business all of my life.
I didn’t mind it growing up, but I never thought it was going to be a career for me.
Most people thought life was great for me. From the outside, it looked like it. They assumed I would take over the business one day.
In my mind I thought no way. I hated my job. I would dream of natural disasters, or getting into an accident just so I didn’t have to work. Minus seeing regular customers who I’ve become friends with, I didn’t like anything about the business.
The life of a restaurant manager (my position) is tough. The money is good and can afford nice things, but it’s not worth what I had to deal with and the hours.
For example, when families are excited about Christmas Day, I didn’t look forward to it. Why? Because I had to work since that is one of THE busiest nights of the year. I don’t understand why so many people go out to eat that night. Sometimes I had to put on my best fake smile, and other times i didn’t even bother to hide my frustration.
I had good days and bad days at work. Most days, I’d dread going to work. During work, I’d be so pissed off. After work was the only time I was happy cause I got to go home.
For so long, I couldn’t figure out what other job I could do. I didn’t want to work in the restaurant any longer, but I had a mortgage that I couldn’t stop paying. Plus it’s family so it was harder to quit. I spent a lot of time researching other job opportunities. I kept waiting for that turning point in my life. I wanted to wake up and become a different person with a different life. I wanted to DO something with my life.
I spent five long years feeling like this.
The Power of Words
One night in October 2010, I drove home from another shitty night at work. It was so busy. I already didn’t like my job, so when it was busy it was 100x worse. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I just stared at the road, one hand on the wheel, and the other hand holding my head up wondering how life could have gotten like this.
Where was the younger version of myself that was going to do great things in life?
Nights like this were way too common. What was it going to take for me to get some urgency in life? I needed to stop wasting more years of my life!
I just couldn’t find the motivation to do something about it.
You know how some people have a near death experience that makes them appreciate the second chance for life? They stop sleepwalking through life and start living life to its fullest. I wanted my own near death experience without actually having a near death experience.
Something about that night was different. I wish I could explain why. I’ve made that drive hundreds of times. I usually come home and do the same routine. I’d take a shower, go to my office, turn on the computer, turn on the TV and spend hours trying to forget about reality until I was tired enough to go to sleep.
That night when I got home I went to my computer first, opened up a blank document on my computer, and started typing. I wrote what came to my mind. I didn’t edit. I just let the words flow.
Despite hating my life, there was a part of me that knew I could do more in life.
Here is exactly what I wrote:
This is it. This is when I start to make changes to the life I want. It starts now. Stop wasting time. It’s been more than five years since you’ve wanted to find a new career. You need to start doing it today. Today. Tomorrow and everyday until you reach your desired lifestyle. Life is too short to be unhappy when working. Start working hard everyday to find your passion and reach your goals. Focus, focus, focus. Open your mind and allow it to attract great ideas and answers to your questions.
I printed two copies. One I put on my bathroom mirror and one on the wall right behind my computer. I knew I couldn’t miss seeing them everyday.
This was a wake up call for me. I still had my crappy job, but writing that letter changed my attitude about life. The life I wanted to create and the person I wanted to become wasn’t just a burning desire in my mind anymore. By writing it down, and seeing it every day, it became something I must do. The letter reminded me of that night and how I felt driving home. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore.
It was my near death experience without actually having to experience it. I decided from that day forward no more of the same old shit. What I wasn’t doing wasn’t working, so if I wanted to change, I had to change what I was doing. I needed to because I don’t know how much longer of that kind of life I could have handled.
No more waiting around for a miracle. I took life into my own hands.
Being Depressed Was a Good Day
I didn’t think much about the power of writing a letter until I read a book this year called “Love yourself like your life depends on it” by Kamal Ravikant. Once I started to read the book and the story of his transformation, I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it if you feel stuck in life.
Kamal is a entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. He was in a low period of his life where the company he started was failing and a close friend had died. He said if he felt depressed, that would have been considered a good day.
Unwilling to take it anymore, he made a vow, and it changed his life.
Here is an excerpt from the book about that moment:
I was in a bad way. Miserable out of my mind. There were days when I’d lie in bed, the drapes closed, day outside sliding into night and back to day, and I just didn’t want to deal. Deal with my thoughts. Deal with being sick. Deal with heartache. Deal with my company tanking. Deal….with….life.
Here is what saved me.
I’d reached my breaking point. I remember it well. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was done. Done with all of this. This misery, this pain, this angst, this being me. I was sick of it, done.
Done. Done. Done.
And in that desperation, I climbed out of bed, staggered over to my desk, opened my notebook, and wrote:
“This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply – in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF.”
There was nothing left to say. How long it took me to write this, less than a minute perhaps. But the intensity, it felt like I was carving words onto paper, through the desk. I’d been disgusted with myself – I could love another and wish them well, but what about me? From now on, I would focus only on this thought. For me.
That was the moment that got him out of his darkest moments. It’s just simple letter to himself, but the impact was so powerful.
Stop the Universe from Hating You
It got me thinking. Are there many people like us who can look back to a moment when we wrote a letter as a turning point in our lives?
There has to be more. At this point, I just knew of my story and Kamal’s.
I began searching Google for more stories, but they weren’t easy to find. I had to try different keyword searches to find some. Finally I did.
During that time, a reader named Natalia replied to one of the emails that I send out to subscribers. The email is sharing some of the most inspiring words other readers have shared with me. One of them is “the universe doesn’t give a shit about you” (it’s true).
I asked her if I could share what she wrote and she agreed.
I really liked number 1 on this list, about the universe not giving a sh**t. It resonated with me a lot, particularly because, as a sophomore in college, I was more or less convinced that the universe hated me, just like Jon. In response to that, I actually wrote a letter to the universe about how we were clearly on the wrong foot and needed to talk things out. Like the universe was a person. I wrote it in a five page letter, which I kept stored in a notebook until I came across it recently, about 1.5 years later.
It’s funny, because for me, writing that letter was a huge turning point in my life. Things weren’t going the greatest then. A lot of people didn’t approve of the public, state university I transferred to (from a prestigious private one), my parents had just gotten a divorce, my brother became distant, I had some toxic friendships, I was a dried up failed tennis player, etc etc. For me, that letter was a turning point. In writing all the “offenses” that I felt the universe had done me, I allowed myself to move on and let go.
Amazingly, things DID get a lot better after that. So for me, it’s not so much a sentence that I repeat, but when I’m having a crappy day, I just think back to that letter and the decision to let go.
I love how she changed her life, but I wanted to know if she wrote the letter and forgot about, or remembered a huge weight being lifted off her shoulders after writing it.
I guess it was a little bit of both! I felt better after writing it, but I always feel better after journaling. It wasn’t until about 6 months after I wrote the letter that I truly realized it was a turning point in my life. The letter was, in a way, a giant complaining-fest: what was key about it was that it was the last time I sat around complaining without trying to make any changes. It was a wake-up call saying that I needed to actually TRY to make change happen instead of waiting for universe to hand me better circumstances. When I came across it 6 months after writing it, I reread it and thought, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m actually trying to do something now, as opposed to just sitting here and whining about how much things suck.” It’s just been 1.5 years since I wrote it now, and every time I have a crappy day, I think back to that letter and remind myself that I don’t want to be that person that just complains and does nothing to actually change it. I’d rather be actively trying (and perhaps failing, too) at changing my circumstances
than passively doing nothing and complaining.
By writing and expressing her feelings, it shifted her perspective and she decided to be 100% responsible for her life from that moment on.
Write a letter to heal emotional pain
From searching Google, I found stories of two women who have overcome traumatic emotional pain. I find their strength really inspiring because it’s so easy to just give up in life going through their experiences.
Here is a story of a woman who was raped and sexually abused. She built up a huge wall to protect herself and trusted no one. She carried a lot of anger and self hate. She found a way to heal.
After I was able to pinpoint where all my anger, hate, hurt, and feelings of being unworthy stemmed from, I was able to release it and finally be free. After months and months of prayer, crying, and reliving the horrible past, I found myself in a place of inner peace. Everyone will have their own way of dealing with their hurt and releasing their pain. My way was to write a release letter to each person who hurt me physically and mentally (the abusers), emotionally (the ones who didn’t protect me), spiritually (God because part of me blamed him). I wrote so many letters to so many people letting them know that I forgive them for what they did to me. After I wrote the letters, I burned them and during the burning of them l vowed to release the hurt forever. I also wrote a letter to myself forgiving myself for hating myself and promising myself to allow my heart, mind, and soul to heal.
That was 4 years ago. Today, I am still healing and allowing myself to love me fully. I have forgiven those who hurt me and I have released that hurt to the fire. I am no longer consumed with hate and anger but now with living a peaceful and happy life.
The person I was years ago is not the person I am today…thankfully.
That is powerful. Because she wrote her feelings down on paper, then burned them, she was able to let go of so much anger and hurt. If not, she might still be living with all that emotional pain and unable to move on.
In this next story, a young woman was obese and struggled in life. She was sexually abused as a child, had depression, was in an abusive marriage with a man who treated her like crap. She felt like this is what she deserved. She wanted to hide from the world behind her weight. She built up a wall to not let anyone get close to her. Because of her weight, she easily got tired and had a hard time just standing.
One year into therapy her therapist suggested she write a series of letters. One set of letters would be to herself.
“I am fat and disgusting. I hate the way I look in the mirror. I see people looking at me and wonder if they are thinking “that woman is huge.” I don’t bother with new clothes or makeup because what’s the point of putting lipstick on something ugly. I have never felt pretty or beautiful or sexy…
I’m not worthy of anyone. I am unlovable. I will never get healthy. I will never not be depressed. I can’t understand why my husband would ever want to touch me. I will never be a normal person. I will never be happy. I am weak. I am a monster.”
Although pointing out all her flaws might hurt, it is effective. It’s as if needed to say how she really felt, get it off her chest, then do something about it. Soon after she wrote that, she decided to be serious about losing weight. Her life depended on it because her health was deteriorating.
Weight loss was going great, then two days before Christmas that year, her husband admitted to having an affair with someone younger and wanted a divorce. Despite the divorce, she kept pushing herself to lose weight.
She was down 48 pounds, but hit another stressful point in her life. She filed for bankruptcy, but did graduate from her master’s program and began dating another guy. However she did gain ten pounds, so she got serious about losing weight again.
In the end, she lost 50.6 pounds. A huge achievement! Before she got tired just from walking, but now could hike 5 miles in 2 hours. She could also jog for 2.5 miles.
In her blog post, losing weight wasn’t the most important thing.
However, to me, the loss of my emotional weight has been more important. I have let go of 50 pounds of hurt, pain, anger, and sadness. The moment I started thinking I was worthy of more, right after I wrote that letter, was the moment I started being successful. As the inches and pounds dropped off, I also worked to lose that mental burden of feeling unworthy, undeserving, and disgusting. Even through all the turmoil, I have found inner strength I never knew I had. I deserve to be happy and feel complete at any weight. I am beautiful no matter what. I can handle anything that is thrown at me. Once I saw this, my outside started to resemble my inside.
Just know you can get through. You can persevere no matter what life throws at you. It’s not easy and it’s not a cakewalk every single day. But it does get easier and before you know it, two years have gone by and you cannot believe how far you have come.
A great inspirational story. I’m so happy she was able to find a way to turn her life around. I’m positive she would not have been able to lose weight if she hadn’t lost emotional weight first. She had to realize she deserves to be happy and beautiful.
She was able to do all that by writing her thoughts and feelings down on paper.
She wrote how she felt two years beginning her transformation.
“I’m worthy of someone who loves, values, and respects me. I am healthy and will continue to be healthier. I have my moments, but I am no longer depressed. I feel sexy and confident and certainly have B’s attention. I may never be a normal person, but I love who I am. I am happy. I am strong. I am not a monster.”
That is a huge change from how she thought of herself earlier.
Writing to Heal is Scientifically Proven
There is something beneficial when writing your thoughts down. I just gave you only five examples, but there must be so many more.
When subscribers get the very first email from me, I ask what is one problem they are struggling with. I get many responses and some think they are a bit crazy telling their problems to a stranger (they’re not). Sometimes at the end of that email, they will say how much better it feels getting their problems off their chest.
It’s not just a feeling, but has been proven scienfitically to have benefits.
The earliest and most important work was directed by James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor who became deeply interested in the physical and mental benefits of self disclosure.
He did an experiment to test it out. He gathered a group of students who were asked to write about their own traumatic experiences for 20 minutes, on three consecutive days. Serving as a control group were an equal number of students asked to write about unimportant matters.
The results showed that, firstly, the amount of undisclosed trauma in the life of the average American student was surprisingly high. Secondly, there was a marked difference between the two groups in terms of the impact of the writing exercise. In those who had written of trivial matters, there was no change either in their physical or mental health. In contrast, those who had written about traumatic experiences showed a marked strengthening of their immune system, decreased visits to the doctor and significant increases in psychological well-being. These findings were measured using physiological markers (long term serum measures, antibody levels, cell activity, enzyme levels, muscular activity, etc.), behavioural markers and self-report (distress, depression, etc.).
In another study in the 1990s of people with AIDS, those who wrote about their diagnosis and how it had affected their lives experienced a beneficial increase in white blood cell counts and a drop in their viral loads.
The basic writing framework now, as introduced by Pennebaker and now widely used by therapists, involves participants writing about traumatic or emotional experiences for 3–5 sessions, often over consecutive days, for 15–20 minutes per session. Here is what typical sessions include.
For the next 4 days, I would like you to write your very deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experience of your entire life or an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. In your writing, I’d like you to really let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends or relatives; to your past, your present or your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be or who you are now. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or about different topics each day. All of your writing will be completely confidential.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up.
You don’t need to see a therapist to do the exercises. The beauty of writing a letter is that anyone can do it. It’s completely free. All you have to do is put down your thoughts to paper.
How to Write Your Letter
Here are some steps to get you started.
1. Find a quiet spot where you are free from distractions. Get a notebook, journal or pieces of paper and a pen.
2. Write the letter. Don’t hold back. Don’t stop what comes to your mind. This letter is for you. No one else has to see it.
3. Proper grammar, sentence structure and punctuation are not important. Don’t worry about editing your writing. Just keep going until you feel the pain subsiding and you feel as though your writing is complete. No need to go back and edit unless you want to do so.
4. If you need closure to a situation, you can destroy your writing through ripping it up or burning it. As you destroy it, let all that anger and hate go with it.
What should you write about?
Here are some ideas.
- If you have a lot of anger, pain, or grudges, write it out and let everything out. Don’t hold it inside of you anymore.
- If you have someone in your life that has caused you pain, write a letter to that person. Get it all off your chest. Then burn the letter (in a safe place outside of course).
- If you’re frustrated with your life, write down what is frustrating. Write down what you know you should be doing but you are not.
- If you believe the universe hates you, write a letter talking to it as if it’s a person. What do you really want to say?
- If you complain and whine all the time, write what you complain and whine about. What makes you upset?
- Write as if you’re talking to yourself. What would you say to get you to move on with your life? Let that person inside of you that wants to do more in life, talk to the person that’s holding you back.
The more you don’t hold back when writing, the better you will feel.
Writing a letter isn’t like genie granting a wish. Your dreams won’t come true just because you write a letter.
Writing your thoughts on paper is the beginning of the process. For those with pain, it begins the healing process. It gets the engine starting. It breaks the chains that have been holding you back.
I encourage you to write you letter to help you let go of the past, so you can move forward in life.
Photo by walkerep