Joshua Perez is a nationally certified growth coach, writer, speaker, and founder of Feel Free to Grow, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well as an O, The Oprah Magazine “OMagInsider” brand ambassador.
Our previous article, Note to Self: A Letter to the Teenage Me, was one of our most popular posts ever. Coincidentally, a few weeks after contributor Cameron Garvin published that post, my therapist actually recommended I write a letter to my own childhood self as homework, without her even knowing about this recent post.
So I accepted the challenge and set out to write a comforting letter to my six-year-old self, and it was one of the most therapeutic experiences of 2017 for me. When I shared the letter with my therapist in my next session, she asked if she could share it with some of her clients, and she also strongly encouraged me to share it with the rest of the world if I was willing. I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to do so, and then Oprah’s stirring Golden Globe speech last night provoked me to go ahead and speak my truth.
I pray that this offering of vulnerability and truth brings healing and comfort to many of the countless millions around the world who have experienced abandonment and neglect in their own childhood as well:
Dear 6 year old Josh,
You are loved.
I love you. I look back at who you are at 6 years old, and I adore you. Think about it…everyone loves you! I know things have happened recently that’ve made it hard to feel loved at times, but you need to know that you are loved! You love yourself, your grandmother loves you, your mom loves you, your family loves you, your church friends love you, and it’s obvious that life loves you and supports you! I know you’re hurting right now because your mom disappeared, but you need to know that she has a lot of problems that make her life hard, and she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She doesn’t grasp the impact she is having on you. She’s doing the best she can with all she’s dealing with in life right now. And she will be back as soon as she can. And she loves you, Josh. She is far from perfect, but your mom does love you as best she knows how. And your grandfather, he left because he was too sick to stay. I know that is hard to understand, but it’s all going to be okay. He had a lot of issues too, but he loved you the best he knew how as well. Please notice that the reason your mom and your papaw disappeared….neither of them have anything to do with you. They are missing in your life because of things unrelated to you in their lives. So, please don’t take these things personally. Do you deserve better? ABSOLUTELY. I know the experiences you’ve been forced to face lately are hard, harder than you SHOULD have to face right now, and I also know that you are having a hard time feeling loved right now. But please open your eyes a little wider and see the love in your life. You are dearly loved.
You are safe.
To be only 6 years old, you’ve had to bounce around a lot. You deserved more stability, and I’m sorry that you weren’t given that. You’ve slept in spare rooms as loud, out-of-control adults scared you. You’ve been touched by strangers and family members in ways that violated you. It’s becoming hard to know who’s staying and who’s going…who you can trust to be there tomorrow…who you can trust to be vulnerable enough with to give and receive love. Multiple times over your childhood, your mom is going to try to provoke your biological father to act like a dad, and I know that some of those experiences are embarrassing, and some of them just hurt. Rejection hurts. Allow yourself to feel and express that pain, and then release it. Just like with your mom and your grandfather, the way your biological father is treating you by ignoring you isn’t your fault, or even because of you. He is a weak, irresponsible man who doesn’t love well. He is a victim of a lot of pain himself, but I assure you that if he knew better he would do better. None of those things are excuses for his shitty role in your life, but I do want you to know that it isn’t your fault. You’re a wonderful little boy, and any parent would be SO LUCKY to have you as their child. Please be brave and keep your head up. You don’t have to fear. As traumatic as some of your childhood experiences are, you will still turn out to be a remarkable man of high esteem…you’ll be proud of the man you are. Nothing will happen in your childhood that is so terrible that you don’t survive. In fact, as an adult, you thrive. So feel my arms wrapped around you each night, holding you tight, telling you, “I love you”, and kissing your forehead. You are safe. You aren’t in danger. You don’t have to be afraid. Everything is going to be okay, buddy.
You are special.
You are such a smart, handsome, loving, happy, good boy. You have the cutest little voice that is so adorable. You are a joy to anyone who is around you. Please know that. You are special. You are everyone’s favorite in the family. You are everyone’s favorite at church. You have such a handsome smile and face, your hair is always adorable, you are always dressed so fly! You know how to have fun too! You sing, you dance, you play. You’re a very special kid, everyone can see it. There are some times in your childhood when people don’t treat you like you’re special, but you need to know that is because of them, not because of you. YOU ARE SPECIAL, and you deserve the best!
Your life is going to get better.
Right now, I know it seems like you can’t trust anything or anyone, and it feels like everyone is eventually going to abandon you, but please know that your life is going to get better and you will heal from these things and be able to trust people again. Your mom will come back. She will have a girlfriend who has a daughter who will become kind of like a sister to you. You’ll face some hard times, but at least you two won’t be alone when you do. You will continue to bounce around more than you want, and I’m sorry about that, but the good news is you will find some really loving people along the way.
These troubles will teach you things that will help you be a better man one day. And you will be. You are going to be a good man, a loving father, a supportive partner, a dependable worker, a trusted friend, and an inspiring leader in the world. But for now, just know that you are loved and you are safe.
Yeah…TEARS! If this letter touches a deep place in your heart, I would strongly encourage you to write a letter of your own! If fact, as we are days into a new year, I thought this would also be a great opportunity to share a list of things I’m recommending all my coaching clients do for themselves this year – 4 things to start doing for yourself this year:
- Write letters to your younger self. – Pick an age in your own life that was especially traumatic to you, and write a letter to that version of your self, telling yourself everything you feel you needed to know then; everything you wish someone had told you during that difficult season of your life. As painful as this experience may sound, it can also be very liberating. You see, many times our younger self doesn’t know how to cope with or let go of hurtful experiences because they are uncharted territory. So because we have a natural instinct to survive, we resist the experience all together, and close ourselves up. With the traumatic experience and all it’s baggage inside. Writing letters opens us up, and allows us to be with those feelings again (ouch!) which gives us a second chance to let them go (aaahhh). As you may have picked up on from my own letter, another positive of writing these letters is you are able to view the role others played in the trauma with compassion toward their humanity, which makes room for forgiveness…again, AAAHHH!
- Instead of pushing yourself this January, nourish yourself instead. – I was so encouraged on January 1 when I read mindbodygreen’s bold new take on New Year’s Resolutions. It wasn’t another challenge, a list of goals to be achieved, or another fad diet. Instead, it was a call to cure the holiday depletion most of us have experienced by nourishing ourselves back into balance and wholeness. I even noticed a favorite writer of mine, Danielle LaPorte, was on the same page! mindbodygreen explained, “Our simple plan is not about punishment; it’s about replenishment. Follow these basic principles for the next two weeks and start the new year with a calm mind, connected spirit, and balanced body. We’ll be sharing inspiration on how to bring them to life every day. Click here to read their step by step advice for a nourishing New Year.
- Increase your personal investment in yourself. – Those closest to me are well aware (and have heard me proclaim countless times): “I’m frugal!” While I am not by any means abandoning this trait – I believe it has served me well – I am embracing opportunities to invest in my own happiness, growth, healing, and wholeness, and I invite you to join me! This year, consider seeing a therapist or working with a coach, scheduling a regular massage, joining a yoga class, ordering all of those books on your wish list, or even scheduling that specialist appointment your doctor urged you to make a long time ago, which you’ve been putting off. We are all in different seasons of life, so your ideal investments may look very different than the ones I’ve mentioned above, but I’m confident the right ones have likely already popped into your own head.
- Explore spirituality in whatever way interests you. – Please Note: I didn’t say “start going to church more” (although I didn’t not say that, either). I personally experienced a tremendous amount of good things in my life in 2017. Surprisingly to me, a highlight of the year was the unexpected spiritual journey I went on. As you may know, I was a Christian pastor for almost a decade, until coming out as gay in 2012. Certain experiences I had during that time turned me away from organized religion, or even spirituality, for several years. That was, until reading the book Oprah calls her “bible”, The Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav. In the book, Gary wrote a simple but life-changing call to invite spiritual help to come closer to you. As I read those words I realized that I had pushed away the very energy that was there to assist me in my soul’s evolution. Little by little I have become more and more open to the influence and support of the Universe. I know that many have experienced hurt and have been burned by organized religion yourself; you were sharing your life with humans, after all. And with all of the scandal and politics that have crept into organized religion, it is understandable that multitudes leave those communities each year. But I want to encourage you to open your mind to the value of connecting with family, friends, and neighbors in a way that explores and supports each other’s personal growth. You don’t have to take an oath or become a missionary, but do open yourself up to the possibility that your life can be enhanced by a spiritual life or even a spiritual community, as mine has.
However you proceed with this beautiful new year ahead of you, I wish you your best year yet. Thank you for spending some of your time today to read what I had to say. I send you light and love on your journey today.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from YOU!
Which reminder mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
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