In her landmark self-expression and leadership programme, Benita Nwulu undertook a truly novel idea: to put together a book based on letter women write to their younger selves. The Evening Telegraph of Peterborough wrote a wonderful article about Nwulu’s idea.
Book: What would you say to your younger self?
By Julia Ogden
A BOOK of letters written by a Peterborough women to their younger selves has been put together to raise money for two important charities. Features editor Julia Ogden went to meet Benita Nwulu, the woman behind the initiative: MOST women find it hard to accept a compliment.
Few find it easy to admit they are good at what they do, and many struggle to recognise their achievements.
It is somehow distasteful to admit you are an attractive, competent person who deserves to be happy.
But is it easier to praise yourself in the written word? And if you were to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
These was the interesting questions Benita Nwulu, from Peterborough, considered before embarking on an inspirational project to help women take more pride in themselves.
The project is called A Letter To Yourself.
Benita, a dentist in the city, invited female friends and family to write a letter to themselves when they were young. She urged them to be completely honest about who they were and what they had achieved in their lives.
The result is amazing.
The letters are truly inspirational. Some will make you laugh, others cry, some will touch a nerve, others will offer comfort â€“ all of them are guaranteed to touch the reader in some way.
Benita was so overwhelmed by the response she decided to put all the letters together in a book which she hopes to get published and raise money for two charities close to her heart â€“ The Ikenna Education and Work Training Trust and Equality Now (for more information see below).
The 31-year-old is also encouraging more women to post their letters on a website, and would like some of them to record a video of themselves reading their work, in the hope that other women all over the world will follow suit.
If any woman reading this is interested in contributing a letter or wants to be recorded on the website, they should e-mail Benita at email@example.com.
Benita said: “I created the project while participating in a Landmark Education leadership programme. Part of the course work was to create a project which benefits the community.
“My thought to compile a book/website of self-written letters came largely from the idea that, as women, we find it hard to acknowledge and celebrate ourselves. For various reasons, we are naturally inclined to encourage and compliment others around us but we find it hard to do that for ourselves.
“I asked 70 women I know, many from a Christian faith background, to write themselves a letter in the second person, as if they were writing to a younger sister or a daughter, except that person was actually them.
“My question was: ‘If you dared not to self-criticise, down play or limit the person you were created to be, what would you say to yourself?’ ”
“It was really interesting the different responses I got â€“ some people were really happy to be involved, others were more reticent but all the letters I got back made me realise how lucky I am to have so many inspirational women in my life.”
Landmark Education is an international training and development company, which is known for offering their flagship course The Landmark Forum.
The course is specifically designed to bring about positive and permanent shifts in the quality of a person’s life.
Benita said the course helped her see “the person you have become is not necessarily the person you really are”.
“For example. My parents had a death in the family just before I was born and my mum always said I was a really good child and a great comfort to her at a time when she was grieving.
“And I have continued in this role of comforter as an adult. Of course it is a good personality trait to have, but it has also become a habit that I had picked up from childhood and sometimes it is important for other people to take over that role, not always to rely on me.
“This knowledge, along with my Christian faith, has helped me develop the tools to tackle problems as and when they arise.
“I am definitely not the same person I was before I started the course â€“ I think it has really helped me to accept myself for who I am and who I am not.”
Benita was born in Nigeria but her family moved to Scotland when she was two. They then moved to Rotherham, near Sheffield.
Her father, Dr Bernard Nwulu, was a psychiatrist and her mother, Sabinah, was a health visitor.
Benita describes her childhood as “very Nigerian”.
“Basically, it was all about education, education, education,” she said.
“I had no option but to go to university and I chose to go to one in London, in part to spread my wings and in the hope I would discover who I really was.
“I made some fantastic friends, but I wasn’t particularly happy. After I graduated from dental college in 2002, I basically looked for a job somewhere which was not too close to home, but was not too far away from London, where the bulk of my friends remained â€“ Peterborough seemed the perfect choice.
“But what seemed like a random act at the time, was, I now see, part of God’s plan for me.”
In the preface of the book, Benita admits to always having dreams to be a writer, but said ‘life got in the way of her plans’.
She wrote: “I wanted to be a writer â€“ to write something that really mattered â€“ but I always felt I had nothing to say, nothing new anyway. I left that dream behind in my childhood and life continued and that initial insecurity grew layers which sounded like ‘I am too busy’, ‘my creative juices have all dried up’, ‘I don’t have the time’, but what I really meant is ‘I’m not good enough’.
“But when I was at university and really unhappy, writing really helped me answer all those raging questions which kept me awake at night, I hope Letter to Yourself might help other people in a similar position.”
Benita’s next step is to try to get the book Letters to Yourself published and to work on developing the website.
She said: “I would really love it if people wanted to contribute to the website and would agree to be interviewed for it.
“I cannot promise all the new letters I receive will be featured in the book, but they can be put on the website.”