If Christmas is in your life, then you will be very familiar with the idea of writing a letter to Santa. Typically, if it looks anything like what my kids write, it is a long checklist of ‘wants’, along with a brief mom-or-dad-directed nicety such as “Dear Santa, hope you have had a restful year”, “Hope Mrs. Claus is well” or “Say hello to Rudolph for me”.
Of course, with age (and insight) these letters get more personal, and can sometimes include emotional pleas (“World Peace”) and heart-wrenching requests (“please help my grandma/brother/uncle/dad get better”). The stuff that, unfortunately, Santa doesn’t have a lot of control over. But if he had, for absolute certain he would fix it. We know that for a fact.
We can’t remember what age we stopped writing letters to Santa. Or why. Perhaps it felt just ‘too silly’ at some point – you know, when the magic is, well, not so magic anymore. Some adults still write them, beautifully.
A couple of years ago, while waiting for my then first-grader to be released from school on a chilly December morning (we lived in Canada at the time), a lovely woman – grandmother to one of the children in my daughters class – told me a funny story about how she had ‘made’ her 27-year-old nephew write a letter to Santa the night before. We laughed about it, but she shared with me her family policy (which I have since adopted and plan to continue): “It’s quite simple, really” she said, “In our house, if you don’t believe, you don’t receive”.
If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.
It seems almost too simple. As adults we know that this isn’t actually TRUE, is it? I mean we can’t make ourselves believe (in) something we don’t. Can we?
We have discussed this issue of beliefs, us ‘Chicks’, many times. From our education and experience, we know that our beliefs about ourselves are what dictate our behaviors. For example, if I believe I am worthy, I act in ways that reflect that (without having to think a lot about it). If I believe I am not worthy, then I also act in ways that reflect that (especially if I am not thinking a lot about it).
The trick is this: what we actually believe is usually hidden underneath piles and piles and piles of ‘life stuff’, and is hidden so far down that we trick ourselves into thinking that what we THINK is actually what we BELIEVE.
So, the fact that I keep reminding myself that “I am worthy” does not mean I actually believe “I am worthy?” No way! Not true! I’ve read every self-help article, book and blog post out there. I’ve bought the T-shirt!!!! I’m sure I have a mug somewhere…
Do I think this thing or do I believe it??!
If you are unsure whether you just think something or really believe it, try this: look back over the past week (heck, even the past 24 hours). Review the interactions you have had with others, the types of things you have been thinking about, the choices you have made. Do they echo the belief you say you believe? Example: do you believe in being non-judgmental, open-minded? (that is, do you believe you are not a judgmental/open-minded, accepting person?). Did you not judge anyone – not even yourself? (This one gets me every time). If the answer is yes, then you can probably stop reading now. Great job!
For the rest of us, let’s continue:
Beliefs do not stop at “I am worthy” (although, truth be told, this might be one of the most encompassing and important for most). There are hundreds,
thousands of beliefs that inform our lives on a daily basis. Some of the ones that feature in therapy and have wide-and-long reaching effects on a persons day-to-day life include:
I am worthy vs. I am unworthy/worthless
I am safe vs. I am unsafe
I am responsible vs. I am not dependable
I am lovable vs. I am unlovable/flawed
I make good choices vs. I make poor choices
Do any of these resonate with you?
Can we change what we believe about ourselves?
Yes, yes we can. However, it does take work. It takes a lot of choosing to think and act in ways that align with what you would rather believe about yourself. And doing that over and over. And over. Repeating these (more) healthy thoughts and actions until you don’t have to think about it so much. Until it becomes a habit. Your new habit. Until you believe ‘it’ about yourself.
Possibly the most important step, however, is first identifying what exactly the belief is that we want to change. (Note: start with one – this is hard work!) Sometimes identifying the belief is the hardest part of it all – once we know what it is (and come to terms with the fact), we have great inner resources to deal with it. And if we don’t have inner resources, there are plenty of resources out there for us to work with (books, workshops, therapists, friends).
Acknowledging negative beliefs about ourselves is a very humbling experience. We have been there personally. We have sat with lovely people who have come to their own realizations, and it is humbling for both of us. But it is also very healing and empowering – you cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge.
So in a very real sense, knowledge is power.
What to do? Write your own letter!
What about taking a little time this week to write your own letter to Santa? (or your God, or yourself). And ask for something that money can’t buy, but could be absolutely life-changing?
In that letter, write what you would really like to believe about yourself this year (and always). Write about how you would like to know how to overcome the belief that holds you back. That belief that stops you from being fully present, aware, focused, involved… vulnerable.
What is that belief that stands between you and feeling or being who or what it is you desire to be or feel?
If you’re not quite sure how to write this letter, just know it doesn’t have to be formal. There is no ‘recipe’. Simply the process of writing from the heart, writing what you feel (even if it doesn’t make sense or is confusing). Writing is a time-honored and common addition to successful therapy, and the beauty of it is that it works in the comfort of your own home, with any old piece of paper or pencil or pen you have. It even works on a keyboard!
Because we all know what it’s like to get writer’s block (yikes!), feel free to use this fill-in-the-blanks to get you started (here is a link to a .pdf version you can print out yourself):
Enjoy writing your own letter to Santa this year… We believe that you can receive anything you put your mind (and heart) into :).
(We also happen to know that you are worth it!)