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The Kindred Letters: You've really outdone yourself

Published 7 months ago • 8 min read

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You've really outdone yourself

And other things you should consider telling yourself out loud


Do you prefer quiet to loud, depth to superficiality, sensitivity to cool? Welcome to the
Kindred Letters - my (free) newsletter for 525,000+ kindred spirits drawn to quiet, depth, and beauty.

This is a space for finding a richer form of happiness: defining success on our own terms, and learning to thrive, as our deepest, truest selves.

If you love reading this newsletter as much as I love writing it, it would MEAN SO MUCH TO ME if you'd tell others about it, and share this link with your friends and social networks!

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Dear Reader,

Today, I'm sharing (with permission) a letter from a reader named Anne Johnstone – and the letter I sent back to her.

Even though you may not share Anne’s story, or temperament, I think there’s so much here to talk about – including the proper way to love and chat with ourselves. I hope you enjoy.

Dear Susan,
I’m sitting here, having just read your Letters for this week, filled with tears. I’m 66 years old and I feel that I don’t know how to express adult love. The great adventure of adulthood has left me behind.
Initially, I trashed your email after I’d read it, thinking she’s not going to want to hear about this canker in me. It’s too depressing. But I had a shower of tears appear as I wrote in my journal. I’ve been doing The Work of Byron Katie for the past 6 and 1/2 years, so I’m aware of thoughts I have about my parents that are childlike. Somehow, I’m wanting to recapture my childhood and rewrite it so I can be happier (antithetical to BK’s “loving what is”). What I saw when I read your Letters, was that I’m behaving just like a child, wanting them to love me so I can be okay now but not giving the adult gift of forgiveness.
It’s easy for me to become despondent about this.
I’ve never been married and have no children. My parents are dead, my sister and brother live in different states. What I have is my artwork and a community of people who do The Work. But is that enough? Am I not missing out on something vital to my spiritual growth, being so autonomous? How much soul can my artwork have if my being is not tempered with human love/experience? I have a lot of bitter questions.
My tears lifted as soon as I decided to write to you. Even though I have a recurring thought that I don’t belong, your writing has touched me deeply and made me feel connected, especially the book “Bittersweet”. So I want to share some of my sweet with you. I funnel much of my emotion and psychology into my artwork. The sweetness is that I made a series of drawings I call Grumpy Girl drawings. They relate directly to my childhood experience. They came out in a torrent and were FUN! They made me feel powerful. (I was doing a BK workshop on self-love where all the other women were referencing their partners and I could only reference my father.
Had I had a partner, I might never have discovered this Grumpy Girl part of me. And the drawings might never have been born.
In closing, thank you so much for your work and your voice and your presence.
It’s comforting to know that I’m in good company, living a quiet life, having insights, pursuing artistry.
P.S. if you want to check out the Grumpy Girl drawings, visit https://www.annejohnstone.com
With appreciation,
Anne

And here was my reply (edited a bit):

Dear Anne,

First of all, YOUR ARTWORK IS AMAZING.

Second, if you truly crave different kinds of human love from the ones you have now, that is one thing. But if it's a feeling of "I SHOULD have this type of love for the sake of my spiritual growth," I would let that go. Who's to say how you should live your life, and what kinds of relationships suit you best? Look at solitary animals, like certain cheetahs, leopards, and bears - they are born to be the way they are. Look at the Sufis, who long most for union with the “beloved of the soul” – with God – not for earthly love. Likewise, you were born (or formed from experience) to be who you are, and you're obviously living that self from a deep place. And that is all you need.

Or - maybe you truly do need something different. But that's not the same as thinking you SHOULD need something different.

And - there’s one other source of love you mention obliquely in your letter but that you leave out of your catalog of earthly loves – and that is the love of yourself, the love of that little girl whose childhood you’re still trying to rewrite, the love of the artistic spark that burns so brightly in you. That love comes through, deep and passionate, in your letter. Don’t discount it. It means as much as any other love.

So maybe, instead of trying to rewrite that child’s story – or, at least, as a place to start – you can just go back and tell her how much you love her. I suspect that, paradoxically, the more you do this, the more receptive you'll be to other loves. And maybe you can ask yourself: if you did have children, what terms of endearment would you use with them – would you call them honey or darling or love? Why not address yourself the very same way: ‘Good morning, darling,’ when you get out of bed; ‘Are you hungry, love,’ when it’s time to eat; and “You’ve really outdone yourself,’ when you finish your next painting.

my warmest,

Susan

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And now, Reader, here are some questions for you to ask your own self:

  1. Do you have an affectionate nickname for yourself?
  2. Do you tell yourself “Good morning, darling” (or its equivalent) when you wake up in the morning?
  3. What’s stopping you?

*

These are questions you can ask yourself privately. And if you’d like to share your answers, I’d love to hear them.

You can do that, just by hitting “Reply” to this e-mail. I’ll do my best to read as many of your replies as I can, and to answer some of them.

Btw: I treasure ALL your letters, and pick the ones I reply to at random. So, if you’ve written back but haven’t yet received a reply from me, please don’t take it personally!

(And, if you’re not signed up for the Kindred Letters yet, please do that now!)

I’m always very glad you’re here, and do not take it lightly,

Susan

You may also want to check out my QUIET and BITTERSWEET books and courses (info below), all of which deal deeply with the mysteries of human relationships and love.

Do you know someone who wants to live a life of quiet, depth, and beauty? If so, please share this Kindred Letters newsletter! It's meant for them!

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Want more like this? You might love my books and courses.

Do you react intensely to music, art or nature? Do you love sad songs? Do you draw comfort or inspiration from a rainy day?

If this sounds like you, you might like to check out my book, BITTERSWEET: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, which was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 43 languages!

The book explores the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value.


Bittersweet Course

For those who've signed up for my interactive SMS course (audio and written texts from me, delivered straight to your phone–see below for more info!) I hope you're loving it so far! If you finished the course and wish to take it again, simply hit "restart" on the last text message you received. Here's what some of you have had to say:

"I treasured the experience...it was life-giving...I looked forward to Susan's offering every day. The course helped me anchor into the beauty and goodness all around me."

"Susan's course transformed my mindset to one of total acceptance of the world as it is: a beautiful combination of dark and light."

The course is the perfect companion to the Bittersweet book, which was named a Best Book of 2022 by Amazon and Audible!

The course is designed to help you turn pain into creativity or healing, and to incorporate more joy and beauty into your daily life. The best part? It’s delivered straight to your phone, via text message or WhatsApp. You’ll get audio and written texts from me: my voice in your ear, my words on your screen, every morning for thirty days. Join me for 30 days of exploration, through audio lessons, guided meditations, reflections on art and music: all curated and designed to help you unlock the transformative power of bittersweetness.


Public Speaking for Quiet Speakers

A 24-day Interactive Journey with Susan Cain

In my book Quiet, I wrote about my intense fear of public speaking – and how I overcame it. This touched a chord with people all over the world, because public speaking is one of humanity’s greatest fears. And quiet people especially wonder how to excel at an activity that seems to require loudness.

In this course, I want to help you tackle one of the world’s most dreaded activities for quiet people—public speaking.

I understand the fear and anxiety that often comes with public speaking, because I’ve been there myself. But over the last decade, I’ve given hundreds, maybe thousands, of talks, including a TED talk with over 40 million views. And I’m excited to share that public speaking is a fear you can overcome, and a skill you can master.


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At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.


Quiet at Work Course

I'm excited to share my SMS course designed to empower you at work (at home or in the office): as an employee, as a colleague, and as a leader. Every morning for 30 days, through a combination of exercises, strategies, and audio teachings from me, all of which I’ll send directly to your phone, you’ll get the tools you need to communicate, to network, and to lead as an introvert – without having to pretend to be someone else. Instead, you’ll learn to tap the unique and powerful gifts you already have. Would you like to join me? If so, you can sign up below (and choose your own start date)! If you finished the course and wish to take it again, simply hit "restart" on the last text message you received.



The purpose of my work is to help you to make changes in and to better understand your life, through supportive guidance. The information I offer is for educational purposes only, and is based on my life and work experience as a writer, researcher, and speaker. By participating in my talks or consulting sessions, joining my courses and podcasts, or reading my books, newsletters or other writings, you acknowledge that I am not a licensed psychologist, medical doctor or mental health care professional, and that my services don’t constitute medical or psychological advice; they also don’t replace the advice offered by these professionals! Thank you so much for being here, and I wish you all good things.

The Kindred Letters: Join 525K Subscribers

by #1 NY Times bestselling author Susan Cain

For introverts, and all kindred spirits who prefer quiet to loud, depth to superficiality, and sensitivity to cool.

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