How to Write a Letter to Your Past Self (With Examples)

“I’m so proud of you.”

When was the last time you heard that? What’s more, when was the last time you said those words to yourself? The last few years have been difficult for everyone, particularly on our mental health. If you’re a high-achiever, you tend to be your own worst critic. Giving yourself credit where credit is due may not come second nature. If this sounds familiar, keep reading, because the exercise I’m about to share will help you be more compassionate with yourself.

We’ve already explored the benefits of journaling, but today I want to take writing for mental health a step further with a letter to your younger self. Whether you’re doing this assignment for school or for personal development (in that case, A plus!), you’ll be amazed at the perspective it provides.

Why Write to Your Past Self?

The old adage, “Hindsight is 20/20,” is cliche, but it’s also true. Writing letters to yourself is a powerful way to reflect on your life experiences and inform your future thinking. Remember that it’s unrealistic to expect that “past you” could have anticipated all that would happen in your life. Letter writing like this should come from a place of love and compassion. The benefits of writing a letter to yourself in the past include…

  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Cultivating gratitude
  • Gaining a new perspective
  • Processing past trauma
  • Practicing mindfulness and being in-the-moment

Writing to your past self, even in the form of a short note, allows you to tell a new story about things you’ve experienced. Maybe you went through a difficult life transition, suffered a loss, or moved across the globe. Letter writing can be a therapeutic tool in viewing your past self through a more compassionate lens.  

How to Write a Letter to Your Past Self


Get in the Zone

Sit in a quiet spot with a journal or piece of paper and your favorite pen. This should be a space where you can hear your thoughts clearly and remain undisturbed for a while. Something as simple as lighting a candle or playing soft music can get you into the writing zone.

Choose a Date in the Past

t’s recommended to use five years as the point in the past to look back to. This allows enough distance for you to have experienced life changes but it's still close enough to remain active in your memory. Consider a date immediately before a life transition, like going to college, moving, or getting married.

Or, think back to yourself at a specific age. What were you like as a pre-teen, teen, or young adult? How have you changed and grown since then? Any moment in the past that had a significant impact is the best way to start a letter to yourself.

Start Letter Writing

Begin by taking a few deep breaths in and out. By simply writing “Dear past self,” you’ll probably find that your subsequent words flow easily. Write down what you have learned since your chosen date and what has strengthened you in difficult times. Write down your hopes and dreams and give yourself credit for not giving up. The more you write, the more new insights and perspectives you’ll discover.

If you’re like me, you’ll benefit from some writing prompts to get you started. I’ll list some of my favorites from The University of Edinburgh and Allina Health below.

Letter Writing Prompts

  • What is the memory I have from this time? Why is it significant?
  • How did I feel during this time? How did I process those feelings?
  • What do I wish I could have said or done differently then?
  • What are the main things that I’ve learned since then?
  • What wisdom or knowledge do I wish someone could have given me at that moment?
  • What types of people have helped me along the way?
  • What is the best advice I could give my past self?
  • What would I tell myself to get through the challenges I faced?
  • What do I wish my younger self had known to feel better now?

After you’ve finished your letter to yourself, put it out of sight and out of mind. Only reread it after a few days have passed. Then, ask yourself these questions…

  • Do I want to make any additions or changes?
  • How could I follow the advice I’ve given myself better?
  • What can I take from this letter to apply to my future?
  • What am I able to see now with gratitude?

Letter to Past Self Examples

Dear Past Self,

I know you’re struggling right now, and I want you to know I’m here for you. You might feel like you’re never going to get past this, but I promise you will. You might feel small, helpless and incapable, but believe me, that’s not true. You deserve more credit than you give yourself. Stop doubting your skills and downplaying your potential. Your moment will come.

You are shaped by your past, but your past doesn’t dictate your future. You’ve been through challenge after challenge and come out the other side. You’re starting to understand that every experience you have, good or bad, can teach you a valuable lesson.

Remember that this too shall pass. Keep learning, growing, and persevering.

I’m so proud of you. With Love,


Your Future Self

This is just one of many ways you can format your letter. Here are some other letter to past self examples to take inspiration from:

Concordia University letter to yourself example

NYU letter to yourself example

A Lesson in Compassion

We often look back on the past and think, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Writing a letter to your past self is like a mini memoir. You’re writing about the past with knowledge of the present. This allows you to bridge your past, present and future selves with wisdom that can only come from hindsight.

Above all, writing letters to yourself is a lesson in self-awareness, personal growth, and self-compassion. Allow this activity to help you reflect, make space for healing, and get your pen moving. And remember: stay inky, my friends.

About the Author

Madeleine is a copywriter and video script whiz for creative and inventive brands. As an empathy-based marketer, every website, landing page, blog, email, and video she writes showcases her clients at their best. Some say she's a mind-reader, but she's really just an expert listener with one goal in mind: to inspire readers (and viewers) to take action. A true logophile, she's the one who (unabashedly) keeps a hard copy thesaurus on her desk. When she's not on set or crafting copy, you can find her nose in a book sipping a matcha latte.

Back to blog