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?