How to Reclaim Your Sense of Self After Life’s Shattering Setbacks

Goddess Pose YogaThe past several days I have been cocooning myself in self-care. Eating food that nourishes the body, and foods that comfort the soul. Centering myself on the yoga mat. Immersing myself in a delicious novel. Cuddling with my man and relishing “us” time. Visiting with old and dear friends to help remind me who I am and where I’ve come from. I desperately needed the emotional and physical recovery and rejuvenation after the last week I’ve had.

When Life Imitates the Movies

Last Friday, I hit a brick wall with great velocity and force. I was burnt out and exasperated after a week of slaving away in an exciting, new job opportunity, which was poised to positively and significantly transform my life. My boss, however, was a man with grandiose, unrealistic expectations and was complimentary and encouraging one minute, then insulting and challenging the next. With growing frustration and suspicion, research revealed that this man suffered from much more than mood swings; he was a pathological liar and con artist.

To say that I was stunned is a gross understatement. I felt betrayed, vulnerable and foolish. All that time and all that hard work were for naught but a mentally sick man’s gain. The loss of an amazing opportunity that proved to be false made me heartsick.

I had ignored the red flags and building unease. I excused it as my own resistance to increasing challenges and to insecurities about my abilities to take on such an important, time-consuming role. I fell into the trap so many of us do—women especially—of stuffing a pillow into the mouths of our own intuition and claiming someone else’s inadequacies as something lacking in ourselves.

Any anger with him quickly dissipated and led to a depressed funk. There went the excitement over a dream job that married two of my greatest passions. Goodbye to the chance at building a very sound financial foundation with my partner. Away slid the hopes to quickly and completely pay off my debts. Not only was this a betrayal of trust, it was a betrayal of my dreams.

How to Recover and Reclaim Your Sense of Self

I refused to let the weight of this keep me at a standstill. I was not going to let the encroaching quicksand of self-doubt and sadness keep me rooted in the past, looking down. Instead I was going to brush myself off and look up and move forward. After all, I know how to successfully marry my two passions on my own two feet. I, not this twisted person, am in control of my dreams. And it helps tremendously to be surrounded by people who love me, who keep reminding me of my own skills and capabilities.

With so many of my friends enduring their own trials or raising children or living far away, on top of my own limiting health challenges, one gets used to living through much of the days solo. Staying busy with my passions, spending time with my family, my man’s friends and family, keeping touch with friends virtually, I try to distract myself from the feelings of disconnectedness and isolation inside, but it never completely goes away. So when one of my oldest friends invited me to go on a special mini-vacation, I couldn’t refuse.

Girlfriends in WinterHealing the Hurt with Social Support

When it comes to spending time with my own girl friends, the opportunity is often feast or famine. I took full advantage of the feast this time. On Saturday, I was off to the farmers’ market with a dear friend and her children. On Monday, I left for Long Island for a couple nights with one of my oldest friends. While there, we had a surprise visit from another old schoolmate we hadn’t seen in 20 years. We reminisced over old times and caught up on the 20 years of life since. Then I was re-energized by the new and thrilling experience of being on stage while an extremely popular band performed to an amphitheatre full of fans. On the way back, we stopped by my best friend’s home and spent several, life-affirming hours with her and her daughters. Her warm and familiar presence always helps to center me and remind me of the importance of balance.

Take a Step Back for Perspective

It can be extremely healing to slip out of your daily skin for a little while and temporarily leave behind whatever worries, problems and tribulations that threaten to bog you down. Sometimes you can surround yourself in a circle of loving friends. Other times you have take yourself out on a date, doing things that bring out your playful side of you, the child within who still exudes exuberance and boundless buoyancy when facing life. Or you may find solace in an absorbing saga in literature or film that takes you away into another world entirely for a couple of hours. Spewing out all your feelings in a journal (or blog) doesn’t hurt either. Releasing those emotions frees you up for bigger and better things.

Whether you take a mental escape or a physical one, playing around in a new environment or from a different viewpoint can help you find perspective, clarity and eventually peace. I’m so grateful for both my physical and mental escapes, and the people who helped to make it happen. Now I am once again ready to jump back into life, claiming the reigns of my destiny and looking ahead with hope and excitement for what is to come.


  1. says

    Hard to read because I’m familiar with the level of passion you bring full-force into every new opportunity you take on, but also tremendously inspiring and a testament to your strength and good will. Keep fighting the good fight Renee! Your words are sincere and brimming with wisdom.

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