A loved one’s death takes a lot away from you. It takes your loved one of course, but it can take your sleep, your purpose, your routine and it can take away your confidence.
It seems like such a random side effect of grief, but it was a very real one for me.
Up to the point where my mother was diagnosed with cancer, my life had always just seemed to work out and that gave me the confidence to believe in myself and take risks. We had difficulties like my father losing his job, family arguments, bullying at school, moves across the country and across the world and other less catastrophic health issues, but nothing shook my foundation like the phone call saying my mother had a brain tumor.
Things abruptly stopped just working out. Somehow that contract with the universe was now broken.
Almost every doctor’s visit delivered bad news. There wasn’t going to be a cure for this. This wasn’t going to end well.
You begin to doubt the outcome of just about everything in your life and your ability to overcome it. Am I smart? Am I funny? Am I able to accomplish anything I want?
I thought my mother was healthy.
I thought she would watch me get married.
I thought she would be grandmother.
And I was wrong.
So am I wrong about everything?
When so many things that seemed like “givens” are now impossible, it shakes you up.
I became less sure of myself and more tentative with everything.
Over time, I regained my confidence by filing away those little validations you get from others and then I slowly came to acknowledge my own accomplishments and talents. I also realized that my negative thoughts about my abilities were actually creating those realities. If I felt less confident, I was less likely to lead projects or apply for that new job, which meant that I stayed in a job doing what I didn’t want to do for too long which made me feel, you guessed it, less confident in my abilities.
Sheryl Sandberg, whose journey through the loss of her husband has been so moving to witness, put it this way in her New Year’s Facebook post, “When I first lost Dave, I felt overwhelmed with just getting through each day. My friend Adam Grant suggested that every night before bed I write down three things I did well that day. I tried to do this, although some days I had such a hard time thinking of anything I did well that I’d end up listing “Made a cup of tea.” But over time, focusing on things I’d done well helped me rebuild my confidence. Even if it was small, I could record something positive each day.”
Recording something positive you did well each day is an excellent way to build evidence in your head to refute the negative thoughts when they come around. As it has been said many times before, the mind loves evidence.
I also believe that what you actively look for, you can find. One of my New Year’s intentions this year is to the see the universe as friendly. I tried doing that in the grocery store yesterday, looking for signs, and I saw people laughing, helping each other and with smiles on their faces. I’m not saying my thought created all of the good vibes in the store (maybe it did, but that is another post), but I doubt I would have noticed it if I wasn’t looking for it.
Now I know that seeing the universe as friendly wouldn’t have changed my mother’s diagnosis, but it could have helped me to see that she had caring doctors and nurses, her medical expenses were paid, she had her family around her to care for her and she died peacefully. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that. I am grateful that she did.
If your confidence is shaken after experiencing a loss, try looking for the positive evidence of your abilities and for the goodness in the world.
I thought my contract with the universe was broken, but turns out, I had missed the fine print (I’m bad like that). The contract isn’t that everything in your life will work out, the contract is that you have the abilities inside you to weather any storm that comes your way. All your experiences, both good and bad, make you the person you need to be in this life. All of those dots will connect eventually. And your definition of “working out” will change.
As always, be gentle with yourself and look for the goodness in yourself and the world, and your confidence will return.
Was your confidence shaken when you lost a loved one? How did you get your confidence back? Share your story on my Facebook page.