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A letter of self-love by Sarah Koopman

In a new series on 10and5, we explore the notion of radical self-love through letters written by South African womxn to themselves. In this love letter, freelance writer Sarah Koopman speaks about gifting goodness to herself, the value of resting, and making her own dreams come true.


Dear Sarah

It’s weird to start a letter like that – we’re both typing this, right? But you’re here with me, trying to make sense of the world every day, so you get it. Kind of. I guess there are times when it’s easier to coast through the things we have to get done in a day than to take a moment and take stock of it all. But for the sake of self-reflection, I’ve taken some time out on our behalf.

Remember those times you thought you weren’t good enough? Before you learned what it meant to offer yourself the same goodness and kindness you give so freely to others. Those times when you were so crushed by the looming specter of self-doubt that you were sure, at any moment, the curtain would be lifted and you’d be exposed for not having any idea of what you were doing?

I don’t know when it all changed – but I know it was a slow process and it’s taken a whole lot of coaxing to learn that it’s ok to wrap up the goodness and gift it to yourself. And to relish every one with no cause or explanation. The gifts of friendship, love, intimacy, strength and understanding; random acts of kindness from you, to you.


These last few months have been a ride in so many ways. You’ve learned to think on your feet and that it always comes together as it should. You’ve seen it happen time and time again. So you’ve saddled up and learned to trust the process and accept the good and the bad in equal measure. The most difficult part has undoubtedly been accepting failure and shortcomings and being mindful of self-sabotage. It means feeling the hard things, because they are not going to go away; allowing yourself to pass through the disappointment, pain, discouragement or lack of motivation – to acknowledge and understand and feel them as they go – but to ensure you don’t put down roots there. And it means forgiveness, for yourself and others, even when it means admitting you are wrong. Growth is difficult, you don’t need to make it any more difficult by withholding forgiveness from yourself.

Part of that acceptance has been learning what it means to be, have and do enough. Knowing when to cast an eye over everything around you and know that you’ve done the best you can for yourself. That ever-elusive enough is built on a foundation of gratitude. Of knowing when to stop and say thank you; of knowing when to stop. And with knowing when to stop has come a seemingly simple realisation about the importance of resting, and an intimate knowledge about what nourishment really means.


The act of dragging a pen across paper has solidified your relationship with yourself. Writing has become your radical act of self-love. Through these moments of silence, you’ve learned to peer into all the boxes that make up who you are – from the frivolous to the perilous – and connect with everything that’s in each of them. The re-learning has come with new compassion; sometimes the most basic kindness one can offer another.

Living has become a deliberate act – living with purpose. Knowing why you are doing something as well as knowing that you are at peace with your reasons and only being answerable to yourself. Most importantly it has been about unlearning what you think about selfishness. That it is neither vanity nor narcissism, but instead pushing through doubts and putting ourselves first.

Remember when you started doing the things you thought you couldn’t? The things that filled you with doubt and threatened to keep you exactly where you were? When you started making your own dreams come true? Let’s do more of that. Do more of what makes you smile even when you’re completely on your own in the world.

With love, always, Sarah


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