Stubborn, rebellious, difficult, determined.
That’s how I was described as a kid (and how I’m often described as an adult too! ?).
They sound like bad things. Traits I should try to iron out, fix, overcome.
But, over the years, I’ve come to realise that these parts of my personality are usually working for me, not against me.
It really hit home recently when I did one of the activities in my book for kids and teens, Good Selfie.
I’ve done this exercise a few times before, but this time it really uncovered some big stuff.
The exercise? A gratitude letter.
The idea is that you write yourself a letter expressing gratitude for your strengths and successes – all the things that make you, YOU.
I know, it sounds woo-woo. But it’s pretty damn cool.
When I re-did this exercise recently, I realised that while I was grateful for some obviously positive traits, I was also grateful for things you’d typically consider as negative traits or experiences.
My stubbornness, my rebelliousness, the debt I got in during my early 20’s, the fire.
I’m grateful for those “negative” experiences.
This is why.
It feels a little weird to be writing this letter to myself, but the truth is:
I’m really grateful for the things I’ve made happen in my life so far, and I’m grateful for the things that make me, ME.
In no particular order, these are some things I’d like to particularly express my gratitude for:
- I’m grateful that I’m stubborn.
People often think of stubbornness as a bad thing. But I’ve grown to appreciate my strong will and dogged personality. It makes me persistent. And being persistent means you don’t give up. My stubbornness helps me to chase down my goals, and get through hard times, and there’s no way I’d be where I am today without that.
- I’m grateful that I’m rebellious.
I’ve got a little streak of rebellion in me that makes me want to prove people wrong. I did Ironman because doctors said I’d never run again. I created and self-published Good Selfie because people said it would be too hard. I came first in all my subjects in my final year of school because my teacher told me I wasn’t smart enough.
Most of the important achievements in my life have happened because I was driven to show others that their expectations of me were too low.
- I’m grateful for my imagination.
It makes me curious about the world. It makes me read lots and learn heaps! It makes me want to explore, and some of my best memories come from times Michael and I have set out to explore the world around us.
- I’m grateful for my scientific mind.
It makes me appreciative of nature, and logic, all at the same time.
- I’m grateful for my debt.
I was really silly with money in my early 20’s and got myself into a stack of credit card debt. But that was the lesson I needed to learn how to handle money better now.
- I’m grateful for the fire.
I’d never want to re-live what I went through in recovery, and I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, but I’m still grateful for it. No one has the power to change the past but you can be grateful for the lessons the past teaches you. Because of what I’ve been through I know that I can get through hard times and I know that I’m capable of anything I put my mind to. That’s what tough times teach us.
I’m grateful for the person I am, the people around me (in particular my Mum, my partner Michael and my son Hakavai), for the challenges I’ve been through and for all the lessons I’ve learnt, and the things I’ve achieved.
Here’s to many more things to be grateful for in the future.
Like I said, it’s a bit of a weird exercise, but holy moly, is it effective!
Doing this massively shifted my perspective.
So, I thought, maybe you should give it a go too?
Write yourself a gratitude letter.
Yep, make yourself a cuppa, sit down somewhere quiet and jot down some of your strengths and successes – things that you’re proud of.
Jot down anything and everything you can think of, and allow yourself to really feel grateful for the things that make you who you are.
Maybe you’ll have positive traits like your imagination (one of mine!) or your love of reading to be grateful for. Maybe you’re a good listener, an excellent cook, maybe you never forget the important days in your friends lives.
And, maybe also like me, you have “negative” traits that actually fuel your successes too.
Maybe you’re stubborn (which makes you persistent with your goals), maybe you’ve failed lots (meaning you’re not afraid to try new things), maybe you’re ambitious (meaning you think big).
Your “negative” traits might actually be your secret weapon!
Warning: some people find this exercise really difficult. That’s OK! If you are having a hard time thinking of things to be grateful for, ask a friend or family member to help you.
And remember, gratitude is not something you just have, it’s something you DO! It takes practice. Even just having one or two things in your letter is a great place to start. The more you do this, the easier it will become.
PS – Check out Good Selfie for more gratitude exercises like this one. Yeah, I wrote it for kids and teens, but since it was released earlier this month I’ve had a number of mums, dads, grandparents and teachers contact me to say how much they’ve enjoyed reading it too. Practical advice is practical advice – no matter your age! Check it out here.
When I read your first line I was amazed. Throughout my school years those exact words were used to “explain me” I was constantly told how “bad” I was and why couldn’t I be more like your sister. I am going to use this to write myself a letter. I am going through a deep depression at the moment. I have not been able to complete the course in fact I’ve hardly done any and find I’m feeling guilty about that and heaps of other things. Thanks for your help
Regards Gail (age 67)
Thanks Turia. That resonates with me!!! My late Mum described me as determined and at the time I wanted her to say I was caring. Later when I thought about it I realised determination is a great trait as it does mean you don’t give up. I will do the exercise and thanks for the tips. Love Kerry