Restoring Self-Worth When Subfertility Erodes Your Esteem
One of the most difficult things to grapple with when trying to conceive a baby hasn’t worked out the way you’d hoped yet, is the deep sense of failure and worthlessness that it stirs sometimes. Subfertility has a significant emotional impact and plays on your vulnerabilities. You chastise and berate yourself for not being able to do something that seems natural and effortless for other couples. And there is an underlining sense of alienation and negative social reinforcement that compounds the heartache you already feel in the midst of your longing for motherhood.
I know first-hand how easy it is to turn the war inward, to internalise the sense of failure that you feel for not being pregnant and not yet having created the family that you both want so much. The realities of my fertility journey led me to a place of depression and eroded my self-esteem for a long time. I didn’t actually know how common it was until I began meeting and having conversations with more women on their fertility journey as well. It’s heart-breaking that many feel broken, worthless and betrayed by their own bodies. They are hurting, all the while making their best effort to smile, something that becomes increasingly difficult when the fertility journey has completely battered your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Here’s the thing – Your worth should not be defined by someone else. It is not defined by preconceived societal expectations or by your fertility. It’s important that you create your own definition of self-worth. It makes a big difference when you remind yourself that you are entitled to the space that you take up in the world by virtue of the fact that you the Universe brought you into existence to fill that exact space. It is helpful to learn to separate your sense of worth from your fertility and to remember that although you may very well be facing challenges you, you are NOT defined by them. Having this realization was a massive turning point in my personal journey.
Throughout the process of seeking out better ways for myself to cope, I was forced to ask some important questions, like:
How do I value myself when I feel like my body is broken or like I am constantly failing?
And most importantly, how do I redefine my sense of worth in a way that empowers me and allows space for joy or at least some level of inner peace as I navigate life in the meantime?
I discovered that in this kind situation, you are met with a decision. You have to explore what the most healing thing for you to do would be: To wrestle with, berate and judge yourself OR to find that gentle middle ground where you can access your capacity for self-compassion?
By doing this, your allow yourself to start reframing self-depreciating thought patterns, as well as to re-cultivate your self-esteem and work at rebuilding your sense of worth.
In addition to creating your own definition of your worth, here are a few more ideas to help restore your sense of self-worth:
Reframe Negative Self-Talk and Use Positive Affirmations: Shift your focus away from self-judgement and reframe the negative thoughts that destroy your sense self-worth and confidence. How can you look at your situation or yourself differently? How can you meet yourself with compassion instead of harsh criticism? Take note of your limiting beliefs and then work on replacing those unhelpful thoughts with positive, nurturing and empowering ones. Positive affirmations and inspirational cards provide a wonderful daily focus to meditate on so that you start to reframe your thinking in a way that builds your sense of self-worth and also supports your wellbeing. It’s so easy to come down hard on yourself for not getting things ‘right’, not being ‘good enough’ or worthy of love or happiness at such times. These are the very moments when you need to be kind to yourself and show up as your own nurturer.
Feel Good File: What do you love about yourself? What are you good at? Which accomplishments and experiences are you most proud of? Think of the people in your life and note down how you’ve played a positive role in their lives. Keep a journal or ‘feel good file’ of all these things. When those feelings of worthlessness start to surface, then visit your ‘feel good file’ or journal to refresh your memory about all the important reasons there are to love and value yourself regardless of whether you are a mother yet or not.
Focus on Your Other Goals:Women facing fertility challenges often go into survival mode and the stress or anxiety of this rollercoaster ride (where you are constantly shifting through cycles of fear, anger, grief, disappointment, loss and resentment) can become all consuming. Having other goals to focus on aside from TTC can help to keep a balanced perspective in your life. Ask yourself – Just as I create space for a baby in my life, how can I also create space for myself to keep living joyfully in the meantime? Find a few things that light you up, create a little vision board or mini-bucket list of inspiring things to look forward to and make space for activities or experiences that boost your sense of worth, peace of mind and inner joy.
Some Further Questions to Explore
How do you cultivate your own sense of self-worth in light of your fertility journey or in any life area where you feel like you are struggling to achieve your dreams? Do you have anchors to guide you back to a gentle and grounded space where you feel more whole? Are there other ways in which you can support yourself and keep strengthening your self-esteem and sense of worth?