Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rebuilding Self Esteem

After our spouse dies, we can suffer a tremendous hit to our self-esteem in addition to all our other losses. This is especially true if you identified strongly with your role as husband or wife to your late mate. If your wedding vows were anything like mine, they read "until death do us part." So legally and contractually, you are no longer that wife or husband, regardless of how you feel about that. But if that role was your primary identity, then who are you now? It is no wonder that your feelings of self-worth can plummet.

Even for those of us who can accept a little more readily that we are no longer married, it can be very, very difficult to build up our self-esteem. We feel inadequate on so many levels. When I was married, I felt totally competent at being a husband and father. After Deb died, I felt totally inadequate as a single dad, and I was less than competent (or ready) for being a single man contemplating dating.

Now that our spouse is dead, we have been unwillingly thrust into a multitude of new roles we neither want nor understand. Anything from financial skills to grocery shopping to fixing the car to raising children to unplugging a drain. If our late mate took care of those things, we now face taking care of them alone. Because we lack the skills, we make mistakes — lots of them! And each mistake can further mar an already shattered self-image, dragging us well into depression territory.

But we can rebuild our self-esteem, and in fact we need to in order to survive and thrive in our new life. I found a great article by Dr. Joe Rubino which gives a number of great tips on how to overcome self-esteem issues. While it is written specifically for business professionals, it details out some solutions which have universal applications. I won't quote the entire article, focusing instead on the last three paragraphs, and I'll insert a few of my own comments pertaining directly to widow/ers:

[from The Impact of Lacking Self-Esteem on Business Professionals]

The answer to escaping the vicious cycle of lacking self-esteem, diminished confidence, and the never-ending, frustrating quest for fulfillment lies in the 3 step process as laid out in detail in The Self-Esteem Book. The process starts with healing one's past so that it no longer robs us of energy and consumes our attention. We do this by reinterpreting the upsetting events of our childhood [Ed: and the death of our spouse] in a way that involves empathy, forgiveness, and gratitude [Ed: ho'oponopono is a great method for doing exactly this]. We create empathy for those who said or did things that hurt us and caused us to lose esteem by asking the question "What could it have been like in this person's world for them to have acted as they did?" This is not the same as condoning hurtful behavior. It is simply making the observation that they acted in alignment with how they viewed the world. As a child we gave these happenings meanings that resulted in our decision that we did not measure up in some way to the standards of perfection we set for ourselves. We can then make a conscious decision to both forgive those who hurt us [Ed: like Don't Get It's!] and forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made. And lastly, rather than focus on our weaknesses, we can decide to be grateful for our strengths and gifts. We can learn to acknowledge ourselves for the things we do well and for the unique, special gifts we bring to the world.

Once the pull of past ghosts is complete, we can then turn our attention to properly analyzing our present state of affairs. We can identify what's working in our lives and what's missing to support living an upset-free life in choice, a life that honors our most important values and inspires us to live passionately. We can analyze each of the six predominant areas of our lives: our health and physical appearance and makeup, our occupation or life's work, our wealth and finances, our relationships and family, our spiritual and personal development, and our fun, recreations, and passions. We can highlight our strengths and decide to work to improve upon the things that we see as lacking in each area.

And finally, we can take that magic wand that is our birth-right, wave it over our lives and design our future deliberately. We can choose to do so in a way that excites us, as we cast off that gloomy state of low self-esteem, unhealthy resignation and self-pity that no longer supports us. We can create a vision for who we are and the qualities for which we wish to be known. We can decide how we will spend a typical day at work or at play. We can envision the things that we will have around us in our lives, including such things as where we will live and with whom. And we can decide how our lives will be spent so that we honor our most important values, who we will contribute to, and what passions and gifts we will focus on manifesting. We can decide to read such a written vision daily and replace our negative self-talk with powerful affirming statements that support our self-worth. In short, we can live with the intention to honor our God-given magnificence and lead happy, fulfilled lives that fully contribute to others as we embrace our humanity and share the unique and special person we are with the world.

Dr. Joe Rubino is an internationally acclaimed personal development trainer, a life-changing success coach, and best-selling author of 9 books and 2 audio sets on topics ranging from how to restore self-esteem, achieve business success, maximize joy and fulfillment in life and productivity in business. An acclaimed speaker and course leader, he is known for his groundbreaking work in personal and leadership development, building effective teams, enhancing listening and communication skills, life and business coaching, and optimal life planning.

Dr. Rubino is the CEO of The Center for Personal Reinvention, CenterForPersonalReinvention.com, an organization committed to the personal excellence and empowerment of all people. He has impacted the lives of more than 1 million people through self-esteem work, personal and group coaching, and personal and leadership development. Dr. Joe offers powerful personal coaching to support business success and life fulfillment.

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