Self Love Lessons: Showing Tenderness Towards Your Past, Present, and Future

By Jae Lin

I’ve been thinking deeply about the way that our identities and presences exist in a spectrum of time. I’ve been wondering about how time affects our relationship to ourselves—in growing forward, in looking backward, in predictions and trajectories, in haunting doubts, and in present mindspaces.

This year, I really want to consider and explore the ways that I can show tenderness towards not only my present self but also my past and future self. And I’m inviting anyone else who finds this interesting to join me along the way, no matter where you are in your own self love journeys. Each of us holds so many complexities, possibilities, and memories within us, and this may be a really interesting perspective to wrap into our self love practices.

Past Self

In our pasts, many times we hold on to moments of shame, mistakes, hurts, and/or regrets. Think about what you hold on to about your past self, and consider how you might address them with what you know and the compassion you have learned since then.

How can you honor the decisions you made in moments of loneliness? How can you absolve the faults or paths that led you to places you now wish to have avoided? How can you now model for your past self the love, mentorship, and softness that you needed?

Practicing tenderness to a past self can take many forms. Some ideas may include:

    • Writing letters to your past self, perhaps offering advice, redemption, forgiveness, or simply companionship and solidarity. Writing on stationery and/or sealing them in envelopes could offer a small feeling of resolution or sincerity to these letters as well.
    • Creating prayers or wishes directed to a past self, say them outloud or inside your head, say them again or just once, or hold them in your heart.
    • Starting a diary addressing the past, headed with “Dear Past Self,” or just a name or no greeting at all. You could just tell them about your day, give reflections on past events, or tell them your secrets. Diaries are a most open ended format.
  • Reverse time capsules. Time capsules usually contain items that someone in the future is meant to find. But we can also make ones that are intended to time travel backwards rather than forwards. Fill a box or container with trinkets, messages, memorabilia, tools (literal or metaphorical) that you are meant to find in the past. Hide it, send it away, bury it, leave it in plain sight—whatever feels right to you.

As always, choose activities and practices that would be most healing, interesting, and/or easy for you.

Present Self

In our presents, we may often be critical and demanding of our energy and lives. Think about how you talk to and about yourself, both out loud and in your head. Consider how you might change the ways you address yourself in order to offer sweetness, encouragement, or empowerment.

Think about your capacity to offer these things in other contexts; perhaps you offer them to your peers, friends, family, students, or other significant people in your life; compare the way you talk to/about them with the way you talk to/about yourself. How can you show tenderness to your present self in a way that makes room for forgiveness, flexibility, and empowerment?

Maybe it’s starting a collection of loving reminders to yourself, or maybe it’s just softly challenging that critical voice in your head from time to time. Here are some springboards for thought on how you can incorporate self love in the present:

    • Write a list of affirmations that resonate with you. Keep it in a journal where you can revisit it easily, or write it on post it notes to put on your wall, or keep it anywhere else it can serve as kind reminders.
    • Give yourself time to rest, however you need to do it. Whether it is a short break during the day, an evening to yourself with no expectations, or a whole day off for relaxing and me-time, make time to center yourself in your universe.
  • When you have a thought that is unfairly critical, harsh, or discouraging towards yourself, write it down. Externalize it. Then, write a response to or reframing of that thought that is empowering or validating instead.

Become more aware of what tone the voice in your head uses, and stay gentle in increasing gentleness for yourself.

Future Self

In our futures, it is often tempting to put our ambitions, expectations, and worries in the folds along milestones like age or anniversaries. Think about how you set goals and deadlines for yourself, and consider how the expectations you have for your future reflect the anxieties you hold for yourself today. It’s perfectly natural to have some anxieties and worries about the future, which is uncertain by nature. However, are there ways that we can set our future selves up to win? How can the goals we set and the ways we hold ourselves to them be compassionate and encouraging rather than harsh or disappointing?

This one is a little more abstract and open ended. But there are ways and practices where we can influence the kindness and compassion that our future selves receive.

    • When setting intentions for self improvement or future improvement, make room for imperfection and failure, and be considerate of those possibilities. Adding “sometimes” to the end of a goal can be one cute and cheeky way to accomplish that (example: exercise sometimes, say no to drugs or vices sometimes, etc).
    • Tell your future self that you won’t be disappointed in them, no matter what happens.
  • Any of the “Past Self” practices can also be adapted to address your future self. Write them a letter, make a forwards travelling time capsule, make a prayer, or start a diary of soft promises.

By tuning into our future self, we can find ourselves more assured that there will be time enough for everything, for all the dreams we have yet to have, and that when the future comes, there will be gentleness and kindness waiting.
What are your thoughts or ideas or existing practices that consider timelines of self love? Please share them with us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.