Unexpected Love Letters

A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment in the Emerging Leaders Program I am a part of.

Our task: To solicit positive feedback from ten people who know us well.

One of the things I appreciate the most about working within the realm of Student Affairs is the emphasis our field places on self-reflection.  Well… I appreciate that emphasis most of the time.

If I’m being really honest, sometimes taking a good, hard look at oneself can be difficult.  It can be messy, uncomfortable and, occasionally, even painful.  But, I guess, that just means you’re doing it right.  I think self-reflection is something I’ve become quite good at in the past four years I’ve worked in Student Affairs.  My natural inclination to overthink, overanalyze, and write out my feelings probably helps me along in this department.  Sometimes I think I am actually painfully self-aware… at least as far as my shortcomings go.

I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to acknowledge the good things about yourself.  This assignment made me realize that, at least for me, it can be even more difficult to ask OTHERS to acknowledge our best traits.

I’ll be honest… I was having a rough time last week and wasn’t feeling great about myself.  My low self-esteem probably made the assignment seem even more ridiculous.  Reaching out to my family and friends to request they tell me what they love, admire, and appreciate about me felt awkward to say the least.   I wasn’t excited about it, but I did it.

I sent out an email requesting the feedback to some close friends and family members.  I expected people to send along a few sentences about cliché things they appreciate about me, sprinkled with jokes and sarcasm.  I would put those sentences into a spreadsheet and my assignment would be complete.  What I got was so much more and completely overwhelming.

They sent me thoughtful, touching messages that mean more to me than I can even express.  Some were long, some were short, and all were beautiful.  I found myself crying happy tears more than once while reading through the responses.  For lack of a better description, I felt like I was getting love letters all week.

I recommend everyone give this exercise a try.  It’s uncomfortable and seems silly, but you might be surprised by the responses you get and the themes you are able to pull out from what people say about you.  Plus, creating a positive affirmation spreadsheet to pull out and look at when you are feeling low is pretty much the best ego boost ever.

My family... minus a few of the newer additions.

My family… minus a few of the newer additions.

For me, the most powerful part of this exercise actually wasn’t reading all the wonderful things people wrote about me – although that did feel pretty good.  It was the realization that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to think about and write wonderful things to me.  The realization that, even when I’m not feeling great about myself, there are people who are going to tell me that I am wrong… and give me concrete evidence to prove why.  And the realization that the relationships I have built with the people in my life are, by far, my greatest assets.

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