Struggling with self-esteem

Self-esteem… I never used to have much of a problem with it.  I used to be comfortable in my own skin, contented with who I was and what I was.  I stood confidently on the rock of my husband’s love and support and achieved many things.  I enjoyed people and always looked for the good in them.  I had a good sense of what others felt and needed, and always worked to help them.

I had been this way even as a child.  My dad was disabled when I was nine and there was a time when I was the only one who could make him smile inside his bitterness and physical pain.  I was a favorite among teachers and I had many friends.

I met Daniel when I was 17.  It was not long after I had suffered a personal tragedy and I had closed myself off from most people.  He was warm and comforting and drew me back into life, helping me to regain my confidence and trust in people.  I placed my heart in his care and let him lead me out of the darkness.  I rebuilt my life and my sense of self around him.

My parents were not thrilled that I was 17 and he was 21, but my dad saw how Daniel took care of me and he eased up.  My mother was another story.  Until the day she died, she gave him a hard time.  She felt he was controlling and selfish.  He did a lot of good, but everything was always on his terms.  She was so right, but I couldn’t see it at the time.

It was a huge risk to rebuild my life and sense of self around any human being, and it all came crumbling down on D-day, or Discovery Day – the day I discovered his affair.  My marriage coach James says that is a huge part of why I fell so completely apart, and why I still struggle now.

I am getting stronger and putting my life back together now in a better way.  I am still me, but more independent and less trusting.  That’s a good thing.  I struggle, however, with self-esteem.  I know in my head that his affair was all about him and his selfish, narcissistic personality at the time.  It had little to do with me, and nothing to do with my worth as a human being.  But my heart doesn’t completely buy it.

I obsess over my looks.  I obsess over my personality.  I obsess over everything sometimes.

A guy asked me out today.  He was nice and all – he just didn’t realize I was married because I was not wearing a ring.  My wedding ring is too big now, and I haven’t resized it yet.  Anyway, it was a nice ego boost, but as he walked away, my mind couldn’t help but go to my obsessions.  Why?  Why didn’t Daniel think I was worth his attention?   He has always desired me physically, but that’s not such a big deal for a man.  He pursued someone else while married to me.  It was not so long ago that he regretted ever marrying me.  Am I not pretty enough?  That guy thought I was pretty.  Am I getting old?  Well, I’m eight years older now than when he started his affair.  That’s not good.  Am I not nice enough, smart enough, engaging enough, feminine enough, alluring enough?  I am gasping for air in a sea of self-doubt.  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  But I am feeling very insecure and undesirable right now when I should be feeling flattered that someone noticed me.  Gotta go do some deep breathing Chi Gung and get back some self-esteem…


24 thoughts on “Struggling with self-esteem

  1. Anon says:

    Since your husband is a narcissist (your words), do you ever feel that you would love yourself more by divorcing him? I am realizing that my husband will probably not ever change enough.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi there – sorry to be slow in responding. It’s been a hectic few days for me.

      My husband has narcissistic tendencies and was fully acting out on it at the time. He is better now – not rid of it, but better.

      There is so much at stake in a marriage that it is difficult to make a simple blanket statement about it. I still vacillate and struggle with it all. Most of the time I feel that I am doing the right thing by staying, even when I think only of my own welfare. I have a good life and a great family and my marriage is wounded but we have rebuilt parts of it. It’s not a wonderful relationship right now, but it could be with time and effort, I guess. I am not ready to say it’s not salvageable.

      There are other times when I feel I allowed myself to be treated like dirt and yet I stayed. If someone else betrayed me so completely, I would never remain close to that person, and yet I am bonded to this man in marriage. He didn’t just make a mistake. He consciously betrayed me every day for six years. And yet I am here.

      Sometimes it fills me with such resentment and rage that I can barely look at him. Other times I see his remorse and I feel compassion for the guilt that he carries around and must face every time he looks at me. There was one day a few months ago when he and I were laughing together as we watched our baby granddaughter. His smile diminished as he looked at me and he said, “How can you still love me?” Tears came instantly to my eyes and I touched his cheek gently. I couldn’t speak, but he knew that I did still love him.

      In my struggles over this, I always think of Paula, a frequent commenter on Emotional Affair Journey, who left her partner after his affair, but now has reunited with him. We both agree. There is no win in infidelity. There is misery in staying. There is misery in leaving. Every relationship is different and every person is different. My coach James always says that affairs change the whole ball game. What you were willing to live with before is now impossible. You have to come up with a whole new set of deal breakers and deal sealers. But Paula said that while she was miserable when she tried to stay the first time, she was just as miserable without him when she left. So they’re giving it another shot. She sounds happier than she has been for a long time.

      But then there’s Anita, another commenter on EAJ, who is much happier now that she is divorced.

      We each walk a long, hard road. Does your husband know how you feel? I ask, and yet I know that my husband would never understand and would not be open to hearing any of this.

      Praying for the best for you,

  2. Foolish Woman says:

    There’s nothing like a bit of betrayal to sweep ones feet out from under oneself.
    Any small self doubts one has to start with become huge under that infidelity magnifier.
    I totally understand your feelings of not being good enough; until very recently I was feeling just the same – inadequate in every way.

    First of all – tell yourself that it will pass. It really will.
    You are strong, brave and beautiful – and if your husband’s behaviour is Aa good attitude from him towards you now can help restore you but ultimately it’s got to come from within you. It’s harsh but the reality is that they get to break things and we have to do most of the repair work ourselves.

    Secondly – get yourself an expensive and totally fabulous haircut – or do something else that makes you feel good. I suspect this may be a minor step since you’re already attracting attention.

    Thirdly – go though all the old photos and really see yourself for how lovely you are. Instead of putting yourself down, concentrate on your talents and skills and the parts of yourself that you really like.
    Look at what you’ve achieved with this blog for a start! You’ve made it a great place for us all to come and discuss this stuff. You love your job and it’s obvious you’re a great communicator so I bet you’re really good at that too.

    Fourthly – tell yourself again that his behaviour really did have nothing to do with any deficiencies on your part. It was about him being broken in some way and unable to express this to you so you could help him through it. He chose to take the easier route – which was to self-medicate with the old girlfriend. He wasn’t brave enough to face his inner demons.

    Fifthly – fake it until you make it. Stick a big smile on your face, square your shoulders and look the world straight in the eyes. If you believe you’re fabulous (and you are), everyone else will too.

    Whatever happens, DJ, with or without him you will be ok.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi FW – so good to hear from you, and with such good advice, too. I appreciate it. I have taken your advice and I feel a little better. Just telling myself that this was a phase and that it will pass was very helpful. I can bear it for a time.

      A fabulous haircut sounds wonderful – I would like a spa day.

      And I am faking it today. Doing a pretty good job of it, too.

      Thank you, FW. Most of the time, I am ok and I know I have good qualities and that I have been a good wife. There are just times when it seems like I am not enough of anything. I will be ok again soon.

      Love & prayers,

  3. Hi DJ, I really like Foolish Woman’s comment, esp. the part about who has to do the repair work and also the advice to fake it till you make it-that last one can sometimes help a little. Although, it will end up attracting more responses from others like the one you describe in your post. So, if you take that part of her advice, you might want to ready yourself to take the responses of others and use them to fill up ( the low pot of self-esteem).
    I think it’s natural for the betrayed one to feel like somehow that other person was better, able to bring out something different in one’s spouse, more effective, more attractive, etc.
    Really, I think that often when people get into an affair, it has a lot to do with escapism. It’s a fantasy and it’s such an unencumbered joy ride that it is like being a child again. Or maybe it’s even a wishful thinking childhood experience because many real childhood’s are not that idyllic.
    I know that this escapism notion and the unencumbered aspect of an affair have been discussed here before. I am not giving you anything new there. But, I think I may have an inside view to the childish quality of how a person in an affair talks about it. The point is, you cannot compete with a fantasy filled, free feeling, childlike experience. It’s not real.
    You are a real person with an actual relationship to offer and a life to share—completely different ballgame. Really, the individual who has that much distress in their own individual life— that they pursue an escape that is this dangerous, can have this many repercussions, and is so potentially hurtful—really needs to look long and hard at their own choices and the life that they have designed for themselves.
    For some reason, I wanted to share this post on your blog—now that I’m here, it isn’t appropriate to where you are now. But, since this is a very sharing blog community here, there may be some who are working on building or re-building a relationship and for those, I offer it:
    Back to you DJ, this post is very poignant. People talk a lot about defensive postures and advise things things, don’t worry about what others think, etc. but the truth is, we humans are vulnerable to one another. You have been hurt. However, you are the one who can save yourself. Your friends in this world (blog world and otherwise) can certainly help. But, in the end, you have to decide that you are worth having a good space on this planet and some happiness.

    • Not Over It says:

      Thank you, Paula. How wonderful it is to have friends who help to bring me back to myself.

      Am I worth having a good space on this planet and some happiness? I suppose I am. Happiness… what a thought…

      Love & prayers,

  4. Dearest DJ,

    How I wish I can help you with something wise to say about self esteem, but this is one issue I still cannot say I have a full grasp on. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been struggling with low self esteem, and it carried on for years and years into my marriage until a few days before D-Day, when I had the health scare. And I too relied on my husband for my own happiness and with all that nastiness brewing inside me for years and years, they have contributed to the breakdown of my marriage and especially myself. After my change, I vow not to let those issues rule who I am anymore. (But of course, I’m not fully there yet but I try)

    You are smart, strong, kind, patient, sweet and I know you have a great body! You are a fitness instructor after all =) You have nothing to feel bad about. This is one of the shits we have to deal with after our husbands betrayed us and made us feel as if we were nothing during their affairs. This too shall pass…

    Cheer up my friend! Since you’ve started this blog I think I’ve counted at least 3 guys who have asked you out… =) Hope I helped in some ways…

    Love, strength and prayers to you

    • Not Over It says:

      Ha – you remember about the guys, huh? Funny. Yes, I have written about those guys…

      I didn’t write this post to ask for compliments, but you are so gracious and kind to offer them. I appreciate that, Fighter. You’re so sweet. I will put my good qualities at the front of my mind, as we all should.

      As Aaron says below, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t doubt ourselves after our experiences. It’s good to be able to share about it here and help each other move forward.

      So you built your happiness around your husband, too? That makes the crash so much more devastating. But look at where you are now! A fighter and survivor – very appropriate name.

      Love you,

      • Yes, and the sad thing is, if someone told me that I shouldn’t have done that, I would have said, “Then who else will make me happy? Isn’t that the point of having a husband??” Yeah…
        Well now I know better. We all know better about many many things.
        And yes, I definitely agree with Aaron too. Even lately I’ve been having doubts about myself as a wife, as his wife; and I feel like I am losing my self confidence. I keep telling myself that it was a different time, and I was a different person, but it’s hard not to feel like I was just a piece of garbage that was tossed aside for something shiny and new. Didn’t even have the courtesy to walk out on me before starting with someone new. If people can only know what we go through in our minds…

        Hope you’re feeling better…
        Love you more!

      • Not Over It says:

        Most definitely I would have said the same thing. I always thought that if two became one, then your happiness would be all tied up in each other, too. But then, I couldn’t escape the fallout from his choices.

        That has been one of the big things I grieve over – the loss of innocence in believing that I could be so totally wrapped up and wrapped in the love of another, trusting completely and wholly and never doubting anything for even a moment. Evidence was all around me and I didn’t see it because I never doubted. It had to be thrown in my face before I would see it. How stupid could I have been…

        So I added stupidity to the list of things that tore my confidence to shreds. But I am better today, Fighter. Like you said, we have learned so much. We may stumble here and there on this journey, but we are growing stronger all the time.

        Aaron has said in the past that he wished it were a straight line to recovery. If only it were so…

        Hope all is well in your corner of the world, my sweet one…

  5. exercisegrace says:

    DJ, you are simply one of the most amazing people I “know”. I think other posters have made some excellent points. I agree with fighterandsurvivor. I am still struggling a great deal with self esteem issues myself, and have no wise words there! It is so easy to parrot my therapist (and if I haven’t thanked you for pointing me to marriage sherpa…THANK YOU!!) and say the affair wasn’t about you, it was about something broken in him, blah blah blah. Frankly, I am TIRED of hearing that. It may be true, but it doesn’t help me where I am right now. Knowing and understanding are two completely different concepts. Better yet….my head knows things that my heart does not. I think that is true for many of us. I can rationally discuss with you the vulnerabilities that led to the affair, how gradually a business relationship progressed through the stages, on and on. But my heart cries out BUT WHY? Why THAT choice? Why me? Why us? Why anybody? It gets better in teensy tiny increments. I am learning to accept that. One of my favorite lines in a MercyMe song is this: “the healing doesn’t come from the explained.” Yes, so very true. Lifting you in prayer today!

    • Not Over It says:

      Very well said, EG. That is it, exactly. We all come to know so much about the psychological and sociological explanations for affairs and the aftermath, but it doesn’t make it any easier to go through, and it doesn’t get through to our hearts for a long time. I am better than I was a year ago, but sometimes I still slide backwards. Then I have to pick myself up and trudge back up the hill again. One day we will get to the top of the hill. Will it be a breeze going down the other side? I wonder… God will take us through.

      I also love that Mercy Me song. Here is a link to a video with the lyrics:

      Prayers are the best! Thank you for praying for me. I pray for you, too.

      With love,

      • Not Over It says:

        Oops – I didn’t mean to say that you are exactly right that I am amazing… LOL! No, just that you are so right about the rest. *blush*

        And EG – I wanted to add, too, that I value your thoughts and opinions here. All of us together create such a wonderful sharing community.

  6. aaroncrj says:

    My Dear Friend DJ:

    Not much time to comment this week, but wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts. You well know that I have shared and share many of these same doubts about myself. After our experiences if we didn’t have some doubts, I’d question our humanity.

    Still, I think the biggest challenge is being confident in the aftermath of the floor crashing beneath us. It’s one thing to talk about not needing to be validated by others’ views. It’s quite another to have to deal with such a blow from the one person whose validation we thought was inviolate.

    Take care–I know you will.


    • Not Over It says:

      Aaron! I know your new job must be a challenge – a good one! I appreciate hearing from you. You know you are in my thoughts as well.

      You always take my muddled up feelings and thoughts and express them so well. Such a talented man…

      I crashed pretty hard this time. My husband makes things extra hard sometimes. Not willfully, but his own issues blind him to mine. But I am picking myself up again, thanks to you and everyone here.

      I can imagine the positive influence you will have in your new position… but don’t work too hard, my friend…

      Love & prayers,

    • survivamama says:

      So nicely and concisely stated. For someone who had low self esteem to start with being betrayed by the one person I thought loved me for who I truly was sure was a terrible blow. But thanks to this sickening blow I now realize how much of myself I had handed over to him to look after when I really needed to have that control in my own hands. Now I’m working on taking control of my own happiness, being happy with myself FOR myself not to please him. Just when I feel like I’ve made progress I fall back into a mushy pathetic mess…only to rebound again. Difficult but growing because of it.

      • Not Over It says:

        Way to go, Survivamama! Taking lemons and making lemonade… the mushy, pathetic mess part will slowly diminish and you will be a person of greater depth and character because of the fire you lived through.

        Love & prayers,

  7. daileytalks says:

    […] Struggling with self-esteem ( […]

  8. Teresa says:

    You know why I enjoy your blog, DJ? Because you’re so down to earth and honest about how you feel….and even though I don’t comment everytime, I will read and think on what you or someone else has written for days afterwards…This got me today…..”He didn’t just make a mistake. He consciously betrayed me every day for six years.”
    What a powerful statement that is! My H *only* had an EA, and yes, at times, I feel like I’m whining like a baby over something that to others would seem so small, after reading about your H’s 6 yr affair, and others who have endured EA/PA’s….but to KNOW that he DID make a concious decision every single day for months to deceive me, that he had me take pics of him, *for his FB page*, when the truth was, he wanted them so he could send them to HER…well, it hurts like heck, still!!
    I like todays post on EAJ blog….it’s about how you suffer from PTSD after DDay and now I know why it takes soooo long to recover…I read parts of the article to my H, he said “Yea, you’ve mentioned that before, I can see how it would affect you like that” like he was a disinterested third party….and then he fell asleep! And I’M up at 2:30am writing on your blog….so glad SOMEONE can sleep tonight! Oh wait, that’s right, he slept like a freaking baby all during the EA….I’m the one who suffers insomnia now! GRRRR…..

    • Not Over It says:

      Hey Teresa – you’re so kind. I also reflect on what everyone writes here. Sometimes it’s something we’ve read before, but someone rephrases it in just the right way to spark something in our minds and we have a moment of clarity. Sometimes it’s something we never thought of. We are all such a help to one another.

      You should never feel that you are whining over your husband’s affair. For me, the worst part – the part I can’t get past – is the emotional aspect of my husband’s affair. I can get past the sex. But the betrayal and the feelings he had for her – I am stuck there. And you deal with that, too. I wish I could make it all better.

      Oh, so your husband pulled that stunt with the pictures, too? OMG. A couple of months before D-day, my husband was in a performance for our fitness club. My daughter got it on video and we put it on our computer. He said he wanted to post it so his family could see it. So I edited it and made it all nice and put it up on YouTube as a private video. Who did he send it to? Her, of course. He didn’t send it to his family until after D-day. It makes me sick to think of it. Last week, some of the other performers were at our house and asked to see it. I had a hard time maintaining my composure as they watched it. I ended up leaving the room, saying I needed to go to the bathroom. Yep, it does still hurt like heck.

      I also read the post about PTSD on EAJ, and I commented on it. My doctor recognized it very early and recommended meds and counseling. I think people who are not familiar with the world of infidelity recovery would never think it possible, but I know personally that I went through and still suffer some effects of PTSD.

      I was actually up when you posted your comment but I was in bed already. So we were both up in the wee hours of the morning… hope you get enough rest tonight.

      Love & prayers,

  9. Teresa says:

    PS….might just have to remove my rings for awhile…sure could use the confidence boost, being asked out on a date!! LOL!!! 😀

  10. survivamama says:

    Someone flirted with me too recently for the first time since the affair and I just couldn’t wipe my silly grin off my face. it felt soooo nice to be appreciated. I think I ponder this a little too often though. Going off with someone and flirting and having fun and maybe wonderful sex. I can’t tell if it’s because I REALLY want that or if I just want to show hubby that I could do it and that other people still find me interesting/attractive. I’d almost want him to find out. Typical retaliation affair I guess. NOT THAT I’M GOING TO DO IT!

    • Not Over It says:

      Oh, I’ve had those same thoughts – not that I’m going to do it, either! LOL!

      In fact, there is a guy in our fitness club who acts like a school boy around me. He never tries anything or does anything inappropriate, but he just acts goofy. Daniel finds it annoying and tries to stand between us if at all possible. I find the whole thing rather amusing. That’s as far as I’d take it, but I like annoying Daniel like that. Ha!

      I should remember that when I my self-esteem decides to take a hike, shouldn’t I… didn’t think of it till just this minute. You have to remember that guy who flirted with you, too, just as a little reminder of what a beautiful and desirable woman you are.

      And that’s as far as either of us is going!

      Love & prayers,

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