― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Self-confidence is a tricky thing. When one loses a spouse, one loses who they are and all that they were. Especially self-confidence.
Look at it this way – I was whole when my husband was alive. We were like two little peas in a pod, sharing everything, supporting each other. Then suddenly he was gone and my pod became an unstable entity. I have nothing to lean on, nothing to discuss my self-doubts, my failures, my successes with. My support system has been ripped from me and now I am floundering, trying desperately to re-evaluate all that I am and do.
I just finished a couple of pretty large horse shows and now am reaping the residue of not having my husband with me. He was such a huge part of it and I need his support desperately. Like every horse show, there was some good, some bad, but in my mind the bad far outweighs the good. I feel like I was getting worse towards the end, instead of improving. I feel like a failure and am questioning my ability to even do the simplest things. I don’t have my sounding board to negate or justify the rationality of my feelings.
To do reining (which is the equestrian discipline that I do), one must be an A-type personality. Demanding of one’s self, perfectionist, aggressive in goals, etc, etc… This leads to a lot of self-criticism, self-evaluation, an ever changing self-confidence. Without a stable support system, a downward spiral is inevitable.
I am in that downward spiral and gaining speed.
I need my husband to look at my doubts and criticisms with that steady eye that he had. I need him to tell me that yes, I screwed this part up but this part I improved. I need him to tell me that I do have talent to achieve my goals or I am reaching too high and need to step back. I need him to tell me that I’m going to be okay because he’s there to support me, win or lose.
My dilemma is not unique. In questioning many other widows, this sudden ripping away of our support system causes much the same situation that I am in now.
“So look to yourself!” many of you would say. But it’s not that easy. If it was, millions of therapists would be out of a job. Self-examination is not a talent that everyone has. I’ve always been my worst critic so I’m not a good judge of myself. I've yet to find a therapist that I can connect with.
“Look to your friends and family” others would say. Again, not so easy, because with this self-doubt also comes the self-doubt of your relationships. You tend to start thinking that your friends only tolerate you because they pity you. That people say nice things to be polite. That they say things because they don’t want to deal with someone whining. That the only person who ever really and truly cared about you is dead and you are so very alone.
You start to think that you need to be stronger, more self-reliant and because you are not, you are a failure.
This leads to a diminishing self-worth. You start to think that people would rather not be bothered with you. That you are repulsive, unlikable. You tend to start thinking that it is better to just go off and leave everyone alone. Sit by yourself, do things by yourself. But this again feeds that downward spiral because the more you think that, the longer you isolate yourself, which leads to intensify your self-loathing until it becomes a macabre merry-go-round that you can never get off.
Like the little train, deep down I think I can do it, but thinking, believing, knowing are three separate states of being with deep chasms between them. I need help building a bridge over those ominous pits. I need someone to help me out of this whirlpool of distrust and despair. Someone to help me look at each of these doubts and vanquish them. I need my husband back.
When my husband was alive I could soar above the clouds.
With his death I’ve forgotten how to fly.