As part of my own healing journey, I’ve been working on forgiving and loving myself more. One day after meditating, I found myself wanting to write a letter to my body – an apology for all I’ve done to it, all the years of self-punishment and hatred.

The letter in itself was incredibly healing, but I also realised later that it followed the steps of Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawai’ian practice for forgiveness, without me even consciously doing it. Ho’oponopono is a simple yet powerful practice – all you have to do is think of something you want to forgive and let go of and really imagine it, feeling it fully. Then repeat the following four phrases:

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

I love you

These phrases can be used in any order, feel free to change them around if that works better for you. Then keep repeating them as you think about the experience, really feeling the words as you say them.

As you say the words, it can be helpful to think of the following:

I’m sorry – I acknowledge the situation and am sorry for it.

Please forgive me – I release it from myself, no longer allowing it to affect me.

Thank you – thank you for all you have taught me.

I love you – I send love to the situation to heal it.

Doing this may bring up some emotions (in my experience it always has). Hopefully it will bring you to a place of feeling what needs to be released and/or allowing it to be.

I first came across Ho’oponopono in a workshop five years ago and I had a huge emotional release as I really connected with the things I wanted to forgive and let go of. Writing this letter was also such a cathartic experience for me, as I really connected, felt true gratitude, sorrow, remorse and then love for myself. I’m sharing it below in case it inspires you to try it.

Dear body,

I want to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you. I’ve said horrible, even abusive things to you. I’ve hit you, I’ve drowned you in alcohol and numbed you in drugs. I’ve stuffed you so full you couldn’t move, then I forced you to purge to release the fullness.

I’d bury you in baggy clothes not wanting you to be seen.

I tried to change you in any way possible, I wanted to alter you, make you appear different – in colour…shape…size – anything … so you weren’t YOU.

The only thing I wanted was for you to be different.

I am so sorry.
I am so sorry.
I am so sorry.

Please forgive me for the years of abuse. Please forgive me for treating you as separate to me. Please forgive me for my neglect. I acknowledge you and all that you have done for me.

You’ve held all my pain and sadness.
You’ve carried me when I felt alone.
You’ve allowed me to see beauty on this planet.
You’ve enabled me to feel love and compassion towards others.
You’ve shed tears when I needed release.
You’ve been there for me every day of my life.

Thank you for being there for me always.
Thank you for being so resilient.
Thank you for holding me on my journey.

I love your silky, brown softness.
I love your curves and little dimples.
I love that you are a bit wonky in places.
I love that you carry the stories of all my experiences.
I love that you are me. I love that I am me. I love that we are me.

I will continue to be kind to you. I promise to prioritise your wellness. I will make time for rest and movement and I will honour what you have to say.

This is my promise to you. From now on it’s us together.

I love you body,
Love me.

Find a therapist for body image issues here

Further reading

5 ways to deal with body image anxiety

How to spot if a child is vulnerable to body dysmorphia

How Train Body Brain fitness classes are helping teenagers

The psychological costs of body shame and self-objectification