moving on to your next chapter without selling yourself short

Moving On To Your Next Chapter Without Selling Yourself Short

Roslyn Aging Gracefully, Lifestyle Empowerment, The World of Work

Recently, I’ve seen many articles about self-love, self-esteem and how selling yourself short can impact your life. It’s had me wondering why so many women are putting themselves last. How does this happen? I’m sure nobody sets out to arrive in their 50s only to find that they left themselves behind somewhere in their 20s. And yet, that’s exactly what seems to have happened to a lot of women of a certain age today. 

It seems we spend years immersing ourselves in raising our families, making sure everyone else is happy, and doing all the tasks each family member needs us to do so they can get on with their day. And if you also work outside the home, your plate is even fuller. No doubt the life choices you make are deeply satisfying and a great service to society, but somewhere along the way you don’t notice you’re no longer in the equation. Selling yourself short has become a habit.  

Now the house is empty, either kids are grown or away pursuing an education, hubby may or may not be around, and you are with yourself. Fancy that!

Moving into a new phase of your life calls for a conscious effort to think about yourself, your own needs, and what you want and like. And that’s not as easy as it might sound. This was beautifully expressed by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during her commencement speech at the University of California at Berkeley in May 2016.

I was moved by her advice and the wisdom she shared with these bright young graduates. Like many, I was hoping she would address her own sorrow and adjustments since her husband’s untimely death last year. Indeed, it was the first time she publicly spoke about it and it was the core of lessons learned she wished to pass on. Lessons she learned more from dealing with death than with life. It made me start to think about how these lessons could apply to another generation also starting out on a new phase of life.

Reaching mid-life without having a strong sense of self could be considered a setback. Whether we are dealing with disappointment, adversity, or undesirable options, there are many ways to deal with setbacks, and everyone approaches them differently. For instance, my husband has “5 Ps” that he learned in the Army: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. He refers to this often and it tests my patience (another important P word) because I’m someone with an M.O. of getting the job done as quickly as possible. I do see value in the Army’s “5 Ps”, especially as they pertain to running a business. But Sheryl’s recommendations below (based on Martin Seligman’s “3 Ps”) seem to be a better guide for personal growth and development.


We take everything personally and harbor the belief that we are at fault.

If we look at any past failure, it is most likely that we see something we could or should have done differently to achieve a different result. Remember the rule: there are no such things as would have, could have, should have. Stop blaming yourself.


Having the belief that when something negative happens (or happened) it will affect all areas of your life.

This is a formula for resignation and stagnation. With so many avenues and opportunities for women today, it’s never too late to make a change. A dear friend was always disappointed in herself because she had not completed her BA. Getting it would not impact her successful coaching practice, but she knew it would impact her self-esteem. She applied to an adult college, and with life credits, papers and online courses, she completed her BA and received the outstanding student award just after her 50th birthday.


The third belief is that sorrow or upset will last forever. 

We do think this at first when faced with a tragedy or extreme sadness, but the adage that time will heal does apply. Slowly feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence disappear as we foray into the second half of our life when we are taking care of ourselves.

Stop Selling Yourself Short

In some way or another, all of us have dealt with these “3 Ps”. It may have been at work, having to learn a new skill set, or getting over a failed relationship. These are common emotional reactions to disappointment that we might know by other words. Some advice given to Sheryl Sandberg seems wise for you and me – when thinking back about a terrible situation or looking at where you are today, ask yourself how much worse it could have been. There’s always a more horrendous scenario. So, have gratitude every day for the day ahead.

There really is an art to regaining your life’s momentum and developing a stronger sense of self. Here are some steps that will help you along the way just as they have helped me:

• Own your accomplishments. Yes, you have many.

• Create a two minute pitch about yourself that can be used in social or business situations. 

• Practice talking about yourself, so you feel comfortable.

• Be open to new opportunities, adventures, and experiences.

• Find or create a support group.

• Renew your love of painting, music, hiking, or whatever else stirs your passion!

Above all, give up having regrets and take on compassion for yourself. It is a journey and one worth taking.
How have you overcome the sometimes traumatic phases in your life?

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I loved going to work each day for 30 years as a professional career counselor. When I retired, I explored my creativity and regard for crafts until I discovered beading. At age 68 I turned my new found passion- jewelry design, into a business. At age 72 I took on learning about social media marketing and developing my computer skills. I am sharing my journey from inception, to frustration, to elation -in the hope of inspiring others that 'it is not too late to start again'. Welcome to my re-invention!

Comments 42

  1. Roz, I too was moved by Sheryl’s commencement address when I saw it several days ago. I hope that those young people remember it for a long time. Your advice to empty nesters and other people who may find themselves feeling empty in their fifties or so is spot on. You give a comprehensive list of ways to turn lives around in that situation.

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      Appreciate your comments Beth Niebuhr. Sometimes, it is only from a space of distance that we can see what is missing or what we need to look at, take on.

  2. I always have an issue making the right 2 minute elevator pitch. I tend to make it too short which makes people confused. It’s a work in progress and I am constantly trying to make it clearer.

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      Sabrina Quairoli, the two minute elevator pitch takes practice, lots of practice. I think you have to write it out, say it aloud & continue editing it until it feels natural to say it.

  3. When I look back in life, I’m grateful that my Mom took up painting when we girls went off to boarding school as it prepared her for not having us kids at home to keep her busy and that it developed into a full fledged artist career for her. When my Dad died, we wondered if she would paint again and it was a whole year before she did but the works were full of life and of deeper meaning.

    Finding outlets for grief and trauma help us to move on, just like Sheryl Sandberg is doing.

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      Thank you, Vatsala Shukla, for sharing your mom’s experience. It seems her artist skills served her well at different points in her life and still does. Moving on, be it through grieving, empty nesting. job loss is quite different for each person. The tools and tips are available when the person is ready.

  4. These three P’s hit home! I feel that women are more affected by these elements/feelings than men. Talking about myself is one of my most difficult tasks. This is an area of improvement. More recently I’ve focused on trying to live more in the moment so that I have gratitude for the day ahead. However, as a person that prefers planning, I struggle with living in the moment–but I’m getting better at it, little by little. (I grew up in a household where your husband’s five P’s were the norm!) Many women I know sell themselves short; I can’t figure out how confidence became so tough to come by, but I like your suggestions for developing a stronger sense of self.

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      I so appreciate your thoughtful comments, Meghan Monaghan as it addresses many aspects of my thoughts and I know you are nowhere near mid-life. Whether it be 3, 5 or 6 ( if we add in patience), P’s, they are like muscles and have to be exercised, attended to. It sounds like you have been giving it some thought and attention and I have no doubt will develop the best ones to work for you as you go forward in your business and in life.

  5. I love that you’re addressing this, Roz, as it’s just so true. I still today have young women in their 30s and 40s tell me they have no time to take care of themselves. Would that they all read this!
    And you hit the nail with Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence–those 3 stop us in our tracks.
    Great post!

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      Thank you, Susan Mary Malone, for your appreciation of this blog. What I see is that baby boomers are looking at this issue of self-care, self-love, self-esteem, empty nesting. The women in their 30′ & 40’s appear to have different priorities like raising a healthy, happy family and may not be aware of the impact of not creating time to take care of themselves. Perhaps you can address this too in one of your wise blogs.

  6. Roz I loved this post so much. Sheryl’s commencement speech was truly wonderful and full of great advice but you’ve taken it a step further with advice for another generation. So many of us lose ourselves in our quest to nurture our families and grow our careers. Recognising our accomplishments, nurturing our creative side and creating a pitch about ourselves – brilliant advice.

    1. Tamuria, I so loved your response and appreciate that you took the time to hear the commencement speech. I had no idea it would inspire this blog and my thoughts did scan across the myriad of concerns we have as we go through the decades; work issues , career change, loss, empty-nesters, divorce, baby boomers. Narrowing advice to just a few that worked in all areas was interesting and I love that you zoned in on the three main ones. Thanks.

  7. Reading this post, I thought of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. How one of the agreements, “Don’t Take Anything Personally”, seems a tough one for many of us sensitive people. Maybe women even more so then men.

    Because I had no choice but to put myself and my health first when I was really ill, I guess I’ve learned the value of honouring ourselves. Many women from earlier generations, did aspire to becoming wives, mothers and housewives and maybe working and career is more a construct that came out of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I’m grateful that my mother always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do and that somehow, in spite of my health issues, I was willing to start new things. I’ve also learned that “this too shall pass”, although I always seem to be deeply impacted and find it harder to shake things off or let them go, when something upsets me. Through all of this, life is a journey of discovery. We continue to discover ourselves and who we are at different times in our lives. Who I was in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s has little resemblance to who I am today. My core values have surfaced and I live now from those values. When we are young, the world around us has much more of an influence on us for many reasons. As we gain years, our sense of inner self has hopeful developed enough that we know ourselves and are more willing to be true to ourselves. Thanks for this wonderful piece, Roslyn. I haven’t listened to all of Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech and will make the time in a quiet moment, to take it in.

    1. As always, Beverley Golden, I appreciate your contribution to the conversation, especially relating your own person health struggles to these issues. As I read the wonderful comments from you and the other readers, I keep thinking back to the mindset of the young men and women who heard her address. Somehow, I think we can appreciate her advice more because we have lived through many of life’s challenges. They are most likely to face them up ahead.
      I recall when I first came across “The Four Agreements”, being struck by the simplicity and profoundness. I think we all know them, reminders are good and putting them into practice is best. I came across a meme stating them that I have scheduled for our Facebook page.

  8. Oh, Roz…this is just beautiful! Well done and well said, too. One of my biggest frustrations as a success coach for women are the 3 P’s you mention (and the 5 P’s, too!) Women love to take ownership of things that are not their doing — like when someone is in a bad mood, for instance. As one of my therapists said, “That’s pretty big-headed of you, don’t you think?” We are not the center of the universe; people are not consumed with thoughts about us; we are not to blame for every little thing that goes wrong.

    1. Thanks, Jackie Harder for your compliment and comment. I could have taken this subject only into the world of work, only I saw it was far more reaching into other areas of our life. It must be challenging to work with clients who have not done the personal growth work to see how trapped they are by their limiting beliefs. I’m sure you tread carefully, or maybe you don’t, knowing how direct you are, when coaching them to see something from a different perspective.

  9. Loved this, Roslyn! It is so important to keep a touchstone to who we are as women and people… So easy to get lost in taking care of everyone else and saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”, or “just after this happens”…
    I am a member of a BNI group where I have to speak about myself for a minute each week. That has helped me immensely to be able to speak about myself and what I do.
    Thanks for the reminder to keep ourselves front and center!

    1. Kimberley, that is just one of the bonuses of attending a networking group. It is of course about a pitch of what we do, but more than that, it does give you the confidence to speak proudly about what you do. It also reminds you of the other parts of yourself, separate from wife, mother, friend, sister. It is great that you have a successful BNI group in your area.

  10. This is a wonderful post Roslyn! I have two clients in one of my coaching groups who are pessimists. Funny, one of them has the ‘permanence’ style. All bad events according to her are permanent. The other’s style is more ‘pervasiveness’. She tends to allow one negative event to turn her entire life into a catastrophe. It seems that pessimists, especially defensive pessimists, can be just as effective and successful as the optimists in the group though. Additionally, sometimes they can be pessimists constructive and do not negatively affect the rest of the group, so I find it best to take a “hands-off” approach and simply appreciate the benefits that they can bring to the group.

    1. Rachel Lavern, appreciate your contribution to the conversation. Very interesting observation as applied to members of your group. I am surprised the pessimists do not impact others and taking a hands-off approach seems to be working out for your dynamic and interesting group.

  11. This: “Moving into a new phase of your life calls for a conscious effort to think about yourself, your own needs, and what you want and like.”

    To which I’d add willingness. Willingness to step away from the belief that we can’t because we’re too old. Not easy, sometimes, but so worth it!

    I love the stand you take, Roslyn. Keep it coming!

    1. Thank you, Sue Kearney, for adding ‘willingness’. I like to think that the willingness is there, even if hidden from their view and it might take a friend, a book, a blog, a tsunami of sorts, to open them up to growth and development regardless of age

  12. I love this post, Roslyn. Fortunately, it is never too late for any of us – there is always a chance at growth and fulfillment, and the ideas you shared here are such important guidelines. xo, Reba

    1. So glad you appreciate this post, Reba Linker. I do think these thoughts have been percolating since joining your Leaders in Self-Love group and Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address bubbled it out.

  13. Love the idea of a pitch. When I needed to create a bio, it was an awakening as to wow, I am impressive and that is just the bio for publicity notions. Let alone the many others. So, let’s shine from the mountain tops and show how truly wonderful we are. Thanks for the reminder! xoxo

    1. One of the best tips I received Natasha Botkin at a networking meeting was to use a ‘hook’ before the pitch. It resonated with me and I no longer dreaded the self-introduction. I wanted to help all the women who struggled to shine and so I did informally give them their hook. Many need reminders and that seems to be one of the wonderful things about Reba’s group- the giving and receiving.

  14. I really admire this woman and feel inspired by her words – and yours too Roslyn – thank you. We so need each other’s wisdom, insight and strength to carry into our own lives so we can have the courage to fully express ourselves too. I have been a victim of personalizaton and on occasion it still tries to sneak in and sabotage even after years of awareness and growth. Sometimes I wonder if we are ever done learning and growing but I know the answer to that too. We continue to evolve as long as we choose to allow it and are here kicking and putting ourselves out there. Getting trained as a coach and my spiritual has helped me to help others – but mostly it has made me a better person. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and reminders, love the article.

    1. I am so glad Teresa that this post resonated with you. I do believe that with ongoing growth and development, we don’t stop being the best person we can be. So key to create a life you love.

  15. Hi Roslyn,
    Wonderful post and very thought-provoking especially for those of us in our mid-life who are trying to figure out how we become the best of ourselves at this most awesome time in our lives 🙂 I can totally relate to what you shared, thank you! As that is where I am at in my life at this moment 🙂 I know that where I am going that I am on the right path! Appreciate the 3 P’s…love that!

    Great share 🙂

  16. I really enjoy the clarity in your writing. Moving on to those “next chapters” can be daunting, no matter our circumstances and experience. Today I particularly appreciate your specific action steps at the end of the post. I’m headed to some workshops and suspect that some of my “note taking time” will be devoted to your suggestions. Thanks.

  17. Roz – what a wonderful post. I needed this. I listened to Ms. Sandburg’s speech, also, but I must tell you that I found your own bullet points at the conclusion of your article much more useful. As heartfelt and helpful as her explanation of the 3Ps are, things like owning my own accomplishments and practice talking about myself are things that boost me up more. I’m willing to bet that when you were a career counselor, you were superb. Thanks again.

  18. So appreciate your comment Joan Poter. Pleases me to contribute to you. I thought her speech was right on for the graduates and it really resonated with me for those further along in life. I did extrapolate and often it takes many years and distance to see what works.

  19. Wonderful advice Roslyn! I’ve run a couple of programs on self-care and the points you raised sound so familiar. So many of the women who participated in the series understood the need for self-care but struggled to push through the feelings of guilt and selfishness that surfaced every time they dared to make themselves a priority. In fact, I’m working on an update for this series to run a little later this summer and one of the changes is a new section on how to stop asking for permission just to do something for yourself. Thanks for the inspiration and thoughtful insights!

  20. Appreciate your comment Marquita Herald and the work that you do to coach women in self-love. Over the years, I have met many women who knew and wanted to create time for themselves, but those feelings of guilt and selfishness were so strong. Your program sounds perfect for them.

  21. We’ve placed such emphasis on women breaking the glass ceiling, that I think we overlook what it takes to reach these ahievements. I’ve been a big follower since Sandberg wrote Lean In. Even that generated a backlash from the women she is advocating for. With the death of her husband, she could have stepped away, but she demonstrated in a very public way the strength that women bring to adversity. Her message is coaching us to our own next level of personal greatness which is achievable if we are willing to stop selling ourselves short.

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      Joyce Hansen, appreciate your comment so much. It captured why I referred so much to Sheryl Sandberg’s speech and advice. She is an advocate for women stepping up to the challenges they face. Some women have the strength, some must develop it.

  22. Great article! I believe that when life brings us unexpected pathways, we’ve got lessons to learn and perhaps life is actually taking us to that destination we’re meant to arrive! Thank you for writing this and sharing Sandberg’s video! Love her!

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      Welcome to our blog Kami Guildner. Appreciate your comment. I do agree that each happening prepares us for the next. We are surrounded by lessons. Just need to be open to them.

  23. You hit the nail on the head when you say selling yourself short has become a habit. I agree that changing it requires conscious effort. I think that your list of suggestions is excellent. The tips can be tried out together or one at a time. They are very timely for me. I recently started short videos for my business, which calls for lots of practice and a very strong sense of self.

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      Thanks, Jane Gramlich for your comment. The tips I gave could apply to job situations, personal relationships, personal growth, business development. It takes either the 3, 4 or 5 P’s.

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