Updated: Jan 17
Doing vs. Stopping
Each year as New Year's passes, we tend to have lots of resolutions on what we need to "do". We need to go to the gym and lose weight. We need to quit smoking. We need to get our finances in order. And this is all fine and dandy.
But the important thing we often miss in creating resolutions is that it is sometimes more important to focus on what we need to stop doing.
To make long-term changes in life and let go of things that are no longer serving you, you need to become a different person. You have to let go of the "old self" that identifies with struggle and finds safety in bad habits.
You have to stop thinking of yourself as an overweight person who will never get thin. You have to quit identifying as a someone who struggles with quitting smoking. You have to stop thinking of yourself as someone who is bad at managing money.
In a sense, you need to "breakup" with the self you want to let go of.
And a great way to do this symbolically is by writing yourself a breakup letter.
Why Write Myself a Breakup Letter?
A breakup letter is a particularly effective method for helping you release bad habits because you can clearly see the two "aspects" of yourself (the one that identifies with the struggle of the bad habit, and the other side of yourself that does not).
Writing a letter helps you get real with the "bad habit" old self in why you continue to struggle with it, so that you can face it fully emotionally and let it go. It allows you to have the emotional release necessary in order to move on.
A breakup letter, in a sense, is also like setting boundaries. You are saying to yourself, you (the bad habit old self) get to be you, but I do not want to be in a relationship with you anymore under these conditions. You don't get to make me feel this way and still continue to be a part of my life. You're putting your foot down.
How To Write Yourself a Breakup Letter
1) Address it to yourself
Start off with writing, Dear _YourName_. By writing down your name, you are acknowledging that this is for you, and about you.
2) Specify what aspects of yourself you are breaking up with
State it clearly what you are looking to break up with. Write, "I am breaking up with the part of me that identifies with the struggle of smoking/who thinks she'll always be fat/who believes he will never learn to be good with money." Be fully honest.
3) Write down WHY you are breaking up with yourself - and be honest in why this is no longer working for you
Be honest with yourself and write down why this old self's beliefs and fears are harmful to you. What are the consequences of living in this state of mind? It may be something like, "because I believe that I struggle with weight, every day is a nightmare. I am never satisfied with what I eat, and I'm afraid to go out in public in fear of being judged. This is detrimental to my life."
4) Wish that part of yourself well, and thank it for protecting you up until now
Our fears, even though it seem irrational at first, stem from trying to protect ourselves. We may smoke, for instance, because we believe it's the only time we are allowed to take a break for ourselves. Overeating may keep us safe from the fear of being sexually harassed in the street. We may secretly believing that never having enough money prevents people judging us as evil for being rich.
Your old self, while it caused you anguish and unhappiness in one aspect, was trying to protect you from a fear that you have. Acknowledge in writing what the old self was keeping you safe from, wish it well, and then let it go.
5) Sign your name on the bottom
Like in Step 1, sign your name so that you again acknowledge this letter is for the bad habit old self, from the new self. The part that is serving you is the one in charge.
6) Rip it up, burn it, do what you feel inspired to do symbolically to let it go
You have now aired everything out. Do what you feel inspired to do to officially release the bad habit old self, whether that involves a physical gesture such as ripping or burning the letter, or not. Enjoy how much better you feel now that you've let it go.