What No Longer Serves Us

Facing our shortcomings through the art of letter writing

Jan 18, 2023

Transformation New Year Change Self-Awareness
paper lantern floating in sky

Photo by Bas Glaap

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

—2 Corinthians 5:17

There are many ways to ring in the new year. From old traditions passed down over time to new ones created for ourselves, we all have ways to welcome the beginning of a new 12-month cycle. One ritual that I have very recently begun implementing is writing a letter. To whom? A letter to anything that no longer serves me and that I want to let go of moving forward. This can be a mindset, a character trait, a habit, a behavior, a belief, a bad influence, a voice in my head. Whatever it is that has become a crutch in my life and that prevents me from stepping fully into my light.

We all have these — little vexing hindrances that perpetually show up and cause us to stumble, again and again. The parts of us that, at best, like the status quo as is and just don’t want to change, even if it’s beneficial. And at worst, serve to self-sabotage our efforts and derail our progress. Whatever their reasons for doing so, they are relentless in their attempts. Sometimes they are the collective “you aren’t good enough” voices. Other times they take the form of a victim mentality. Often they are fear-based, toxic to the soul. And then there’s always the popular comparison trap, the thief of joy, lurking behind every goal we achieve, or don’t achieve.

Over time, we learn to live with them. Though we know the damage they can cause, we feel powerless to change them. Like a shadow, they walk alongside us as we go about our day, with no regard for our well-being. We try to swat them away, but like pesty flies, they come right back, defecating all over our self-confidence, our self-worth.

What is no longer serving you? What is it you need to let go of?

Resentment? Self-hatred? Judgment? Body shaming? The voice whispering you have nothing of value to contribute? Holding yourself up to a standard that is not realistic? Trying to be everything, to everybody? The list is endless. But you know exactly what comes to the surface when you think about the question. Maybe it’s just one major thing that is inhibiting you, or maybe more than you’d like to admit.

As for me, a few stand out among others. This year, I would like to let go of limiting beliefs about what I’m capable of. The ones that say others can do it, but I can’t. The ones that see the seeds of my creative work and are quick to say, “what’s the point?” I want to discard all the ways I have invented to hide from being seen. And as if that’s not enough, I want to learn the art of sustained effort for a later gain by resisting immediate gratification. Tilling today’s soil for a future harvest.

Eliminating our mental and emotional crutches, or even reducing their potency, requires a dedicated, wholehearted commitment to the self-improvement journey.

Key word journey, not final destination. We have to be ok with taking two steps forward and eight more back as we trudge along this unknown path. But every crutch we learn to let go of is one less weight we have to carry. And as we begin to feel lighter and lighter, we are free to experiment with soaring off the ground. Unrestrained, we learn to reach higher and dream bigger.

Writing this letter is certainly not a magic cure, or a quick fix, or a shortcut of any kind. It is simply a first step in facing the parts of ourselves that no longer provide us with any benefit. Or rather, the parts whose benefits no longer outweigh the costs. It is an act of sincere honesty with ourselves; acknowledging the ways we need to change if we want to live the life we know we deserve, the one we truly want. We cannot do better if we do not know better.

How do we write a letter like this? There is no one way. Think of it as a goodbye letter to “somebody that [you] used to know.” Recall the good times — what you learned from this person (if anything), what value they brought to your life — and then explain the reasons you need to let them go. How their presence in your life is no longer beneficial. Maybe even mention the pain they are causing by still being around. Make it personal, genuine.

And when you’re done, do with it what you’d like — burn it, bury it, send it somewhere, pray over it, write it on a sky lantern, drown it in the ocean. Do something that feels like closure for you. Whatever you wrote about is possibly something that has been with you for decades. Releasing it fully takes time, but this can be a start.

There is so much power in writing. In forming into physical words what once was only thought. By admitting what parts of us no longer serve our highest self and beginning to let them go, we are inviting a new way of being into our life. We are painting a new portrait of what we want our limited time here on earth to look like. This is a promise we are cementing to ourselves. What a beautiful expression of self-love. And doesn’t the world need more of that?

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.