Mary Licanin

An open letter to myself

You are going to be okay.
No, actually, you are going to be absolutely fine.

You’ve been through so much in your life, you’ve learned so much from all of it, and you are an incredible person because of it.
You are kind and compassionate, empathetic and unconditionally loving. There are no stronger traits than these in human life. You are amazing. You are a minority in your field. You have survived personal abuse and neglect. You faced situations that seemed impossible to find your way through. You stumbled and you fell – many times.

Yet, you became something because one by one, you defeated the demons.

And then, when you weren’t satisfied, because you don’t settle, you went after more, and you became something more. You became someone admirable. Not many know your story, but you know where you’ve been and what you’ve overcome. You are strong. You are the bravest person I know. And you are my hero.

Now, the next challenge begins. I want you to take all of that compassion and loving kindness you’ve learned to give to the world, and start learning to give it to yourself. Hard.

If it feels selfish (which, remember, isn’t a bad thing), think about how much more you’ll be able to put back into the world once you accomplish that. It’s time.

The Lover

Imagine you are your lover – because you need to be your first and last love. You came here together and you will leave here together. The love and attention of others will always be changing, always impermanent. Sometimes there will be an over abundance of it, other times there will be none. Learn how to have to make room for it when it comes, and how to once again let your own self love and attention ease back to fill that space when it’s gone. Yours can be reliable if you ensure it. Only you can do that, and this is the only love and attention you can guarantee yourself forever. Without it all other love becomes less valuable, less important, less like something that can bring you joy and more like something that will bring you trepidation.

Inevitable Darkness

When you start feeling the darkness coming, be kind to yourself. Understand that everyone has a threshold for stress tolerance and you are not weak because of this. If the darkness turns into a void, find patience for yourself. You’ve been there before and you will, with time and patience, find your way out. If you can do nothing else, get up, dress up and show up. Push yourself to stay active and socially connected, even if that means going to a meetup or talking to a colleague about work. Hell, just go to Starbucks and order, and call it an accomplishment for the day. Do something to ensure you’re not isolating or withdrawing. We all need human connection. If you feel like you crave it more than most, maybe it’s because you look outside yourself to validate your worthiness, success, beauty, importance….

You will always have more worth to yourself than to anyone else.
Your success will impact your life more than anyone else’s.
You will be most beautiful if you can be beautiful to yourself, because you know your ugliest self best.
You are the best person to love, care for, and nourish your soul, because nobody will ever know you like you know yourself. External love is garnish.

Take damned good care of yourself. You have gotten this far, and you will continue to go even further. You, yourself and you.

The Toxicity of Cynicism

That said, I know that time and experience has started to make you cynical. Let this wash off of you. This is toxic to your joy. Some people will come and go quickly, maybe they see a shallow opportunity in knowing you, or they just move on for reasons you may never understand. Others will not have yet grown to understand how to love with the same vulnerability as you have. They are all traveling their own journeys and that has nothing to do with you. Others will love you to the best of their ability. Don’t compare it to the way you love, because it will never seem to be exactly the same. Learn to appreciate and accept love in whatever form it takes. As innumerable as grains of sand in the desert, so too are there as many different types of love. Every one is a precious gift – accept them all.

Every person that comes into your life offers a lesson you can take away, if you keep your mind and heart open to listening and learning. Cynicism closes that door, if you allow it.

Remember, too, that relationships will change over time, and everything is impermanent. This may mean that someone you love goes away, and it may mean someone draws nearer to you. Open your heart to both extremes, and to all shades in between.  Don’t be afraid of pain, welcome it. Sit down and have tea with your sadness when it visits, and lean into it. Remember the dread will pass, and remember that every interaction enriches your life experience and ability to offer compassion to the world. And if you remember nothing else, remember that your first love (you) will always be with you.
Out of the ashes rises the phoenix.


If you have trouble thinking about yourself as a lover, and I can understand why you might because it’s pretty fluffy and ethereal, think about it from the Buddhist perspective and almost the polar opposite, that there is no “me” or “I”. We are all one. Okay, this may be ethereal too, but you do understand it, reach a bit if you need to.

While there is much suffering in the world, and you give your compassion and positive energy to those enduring hardships, so too are there parts of this great collective sending out loving kindness to you. Open yourself to allow feeling it. Since you can’t always see it or directly witness it as an outpouring, this is a kind of faith in humanity. Even in the darkest times, you know in your heart there is kindness in the world. All you have to do is open your eyes to it to see it in all things.

And if all that fails you, find a dog.  No, seriously.

Be Mindful of Goals
(but not absorbed by them)

Ease up on hitting your goals. I know this sounds contradictory to what you think every self help book teaches, and to what you’ve always done. I’m not saying to travel through life aimlessly, but let go of being goal oriented. It’s going to sound cliche, but learn to truly see the value in the journey getting to your destination. You face challenges to meet your goals. You have countless opportunities to accomplish milestones along the way. While you’re preoccupied day after day lamenting in the fact you ‘still’ haven’t reached your goal, you’re missing out on the joy you could be finding in all the little milestones you’re hitting. You only get to do today once. Find the joy of accomplishment in every one. Some days that will only mean you got up. Other days those accomplishments will feel bigger, more tangible or seem more meaningful. None are better accomplishments than others by weight of what society values. You are your harshest judge, and you need to set your sights on those things that make you a better version of yourself, because in the end, that’s what really matters to you. Don’t ever change that, because that is what makes you so uniquely you, and so very precious to me.

I love you,