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Suzie Johnson, cpc

Marriage coach & Affair Recovery expert since 1999

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WELCOME!

This website is designed to be a two-way conversation. Where you can ask questions, read or listen to my answers, advice and insights about love, trust & overcoming infidelity.

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I WILL DEFINITELY BOOK SOME MORE COACHING WITH HER

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an Affair Partner

How to Rebuild Self-Esteem After Betrayal

Helpful Insights for Improving Your Confidence & Self-Esteem After Betrayal

Answered by Suzie Johnson

Updated:

Build Self-Esteem After Betrayal

Ready to get your self-confidence back?

One of the many causalities of infidelity is often the betrayed partner’s confidence & self-esteem. (That’s the bad news). The good news is it doesn’t have to be a permanent loss. There are things you can do to bring back your confidence and build self-esteem after betrayal by a spouse.

In this article, I’ll share with you some ideas, tips, hints, suggestions, and strategies to help you improve your self-confidence and repair your self-esteem. 

And if I have my way, by the time you’ve read this article all the way through, most (if not all) of your fears will be greatly diminished, and you’ll know exactly what you need to shift this experience from draining your self-confidence to revitalizing it. 

As usual, you can use the menu to go directly to a topic, or you can read along at your own pace. (I prefer you to read along of course. 😊)

Out of the clear blue…

In the middle of dinner, my nine-year-old daughter turned to me and said, “Sometimes when I look at my face in the mirror, I think I’m ugly.” The dinner fork fell out of my hand, and a cold chill of alarm ran up my spine. “Oh, my god!” I thought to myself. “It’s too early for this. She’s only nine years old. How could she already be insecure about her looks?”

Desperately trying not to let my panic show…

I asked her, “Is it one specific part of your face you think is ugly or the entire thing?” “Well,” she amended, “maybe it’s not that my face is actually ugly. It might be because I’m so used to seeing it, it’s boring to me. Sometimes I look at another girl, and I think, ‘She’s prettier than me.’”

To which I asked

“Do you wish you had a prettier face?” She answered, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe I do.”

We sat silently for a few minutes, with me not sure of which way to go next. Then an idea popped into my head. I asked her, “Have you ever considered that your opinion of your face could be wrong? I have been looking at your face for a lot longer than you have. And even though I have gotten used to your face, in my mind, it’s still a pretty face. So, obviously, we both have different opinions about your face. And what about the girls you know whose faces you think are prettier? What if they’re also bored with their own faces, and when they look at your face, they tell themselves yours is prettier because it’s new to them? Have you ever thought of that?” “No,” she said. “I assumed my opinion is the same as everyone else’s.”

My Insecure Chickens Come Home to Roost

Now, on the outside, I kept my tone casual and engaged in our conversation, but on the inside? A cold lump of dread had formed in the pit of my stomach. I remember once a mentor of mine told me that as a parent, the things you fail to deal with in yourself, your children will act out. It seemed to me, at that moment, some of my own insecure chickens came home to roost.

Here’s why I say that:

As a child and a teenager, all the way up until my late 20’s, I had secretly longed for two things: longer legs and a prettier face. And now it seemed my daughter was facing those same insecurities. Not knowing what else to do, I reached over and hugged her. Being in my arms caused her to start crying, and I simply held her. “I’m sorry,” I whispered to her. “I know that having that opinion can’t possibly make you feel good.”

Start doubting your self-doubt. “No,” she whispered back.

“I understand,” I told her. “When I was your age, and even older, I used to feel very insecure about how short I was. Kids used to tease me. They called me Half-Pint, and they used to sing this song: “Short people have no reason to live.’” On hearing that, she pulled out of my arms and looked up at me, “That’s mean!” she exclaimed. “Short people or tall people, there’s no difference between them!” “Well,” I said, “I agree. But it did take me a while to realize those were just opinions and not facts. What about your opinion of your face, could you be wrong?” Maybe,” she said, “I guess so.”

And just like that, the storm passed.

She happily went back to eating her chocolate ice cream with the glow-in-the-dark Oreo dirt worms. I, on the other hand, felt like I had just dodged a bullet because I know how important a good body image is for little girls (and big girls for that matter). I just pray that my challenging her on her negative opinion of her face is enough to make her doubt her… self-doubt.

Let’s talk about why you’re here.

If you’re like most of my readers, chances are that somewhere in the recent past, you made the unpleasant discovery of your partner’s infidelity, and in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

And like that other little girl…

It’s almost as if you tumbled down a rabbit hole. But rather than ending up in Wonderland, you seem to have ended up in “Horror Land,” where everything is the exact opposite of the way it was before.

Horror Land

What’s happening here?

Three things really:

  1. You’ve entered the “shock-gap”: The discovery of your beloved’s selfishness is such an unexpected twist that it’s blown a hole in your sense of certainty and left a huge gap between your expectations and reality.
  2. Your normal is out of control: Because this type of thing is so painful, it radically upsets the balance of things and leaves you living with a new out of control normal.
  3. Temporary loss of self-confidence: Because you no longer feel certain of the things you used to be certain about, and since you no longer control what normal feels like, your self-confidence, your sense of security, and your self-esteem take a beating.

If any of the things I’ve just described rings a bell for you, then keep reading because this may be exactly what you need to know right now.

I wrote this for you…

If you’ve recently had your heartbroken, your trust violated, your dreams disappointed, but you refuse to let the hurt drag you down any longer.

I wrote this for anyone…

Who’s ever experienced the pain of being betrayed, lied to, or played falsely by someone they trusted, and yet they reject the idea of growing old bitter and chained to fear, doubt and mistrust.

My hope is to turn these written words into an escalator back to peace for anyone who’s been through hell but refused to take permanent residence there. If this sounds like something you want, then let’s get to it.

Coming up next…

I’m going to share with you some ideas, tips, hints, suggestions, and strategies to help you rebuild your self-confidence and repair your self-esteem.

Here’s my promise to you: I promise that by the time we’re done, I will have done my best to provide you with as many tools, tips, hints, suggestions, and ideas as you can use to shift your life experience from unhappiness to happiness in as short a time as possible.

That’s my mission… Now here’s yours:

Your charge: As you read along, allow yourself to consider these strategies and suggestions with an open mind. Remember, consideration isn’t the same as acceptance. You can consider some things and discard them, and you can consider other things and accept them. The key is to accept only those things you believe can move you closer to your goals. Can you do that? (I know you can).

Great, then let’s begin.

4 Keys Insights About Self-Esteem After Betrayal.

   1st Key Insight  

What is Self-esteem?

Here’s a definition I like: Self-esteem is the emotional energy generated from the way you feel about yourself.

It’s the fuel that powers your motivation, risk tolerance, confidence, and ability to cope with uncertainty.

I invite you to notice…

I’m describing self-esteem as both “energy” and “feeling”. This is because self-esteem is generated from your feelings about yourself. Think of self-esteem like the gas tank in your car. 

If your overall feelings about yourself are positive, then you are full of self-esteem. If the overall feelings are negative, then your self-esteem is low.

Self Esteem

I’m describing self-esteem as both “energy” and “feeling”. This is because self-esteem is generated from your feelings about yourself. Think of self-esteem like the gas tank in your car. 

If your overall feelings about yourself are positive, then you are full of self-esteem. If the overall feelings are negative, then your self-esteem is low.

   2nd Key Insight  

Where Does Self-Esteem Energy Come From?

Your self-esteem energy is generated by your expectations. Positive emotions are created by positive expectations that generate healthy (or high) self-esteem. Negative emotions, created by negative expectations, drain or lower one’s self-esteem. So, where do our expectations originate? They mostly come from our self-image. (We’ll come back to this later.)

   3rd Key Insight  

Betrayal Tends to Negatively Impact Self-esteem.

When something as painful as betrayal rocks your world, it generally does two things:

  1. It unleashes a tremendous amount of negative stress into your life.
  2. It triggers the fear of future pain. And it’s this fear of future pain that robs you of self-esteem energy. Why? Because as I already pointed out, self-esteem energy is generated from positive expectations.

And what happens when you’re afraid of future pain?

That’s right! That generates negative expectations, which in turn lowers your self-esteem. Remember, I told you that expectations (negative or positive) are largely created by our self-image? Now it’s time to talk about how important a role your self-image plays.

   4th Key Insight  

Self-image is the Key to Self-esteem.

What is self-image?

Self-image is the foundation upon which you build your entire personality, behaviors, and expectations.

Think of it this way… 

If you were a corporation, your self-image would be the S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) that guides the day-to-day operations. If you were a house, your self-image would be the blueprint that dictates the look, style, and size. 

And here’s how Dr. Maltz described self-image in his groundbreaking book “Psycho-Cybernetics” (if you haven’t read his book, I suggest you run — don’t walk — to the nearest bookstore and get it):

“Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves (our self-image). 

It is built up by our beliefs about ourselves, and it is 100% complete, right down to the last detail that tells us ‘this is the sort of person I am.’ We do not question its validity but proceed to act upon it just as if it were true.”

Bottom line?

A person’s self-image is a composition of all the opinions, beliefs, superstitions, and approximations they’ve adopted about themselves. This tells us that self-image is a story you’ve created about who you are, what’s possible and what’s not possible for you, what you can and can’t do, and what’s acceptable and unacceptable to you.

Here’s the thing about self-image: Although there are billions of people all creating their own self-image, each person’s self-image falls into one of two categories: adequate or inadequate.

Adequate Vs Inadequate

What is an adequate (or realistic) self-image?

An adequate self-image is one in which you see yourself as having sufficient resources, skills, and coping strategies to competently deal with life’s challenges and uncertainties. As a result of having that image of sufficiency, you have overall positive expectations of life. (Notice, sufficient is the keyword here.)

What is an inadequate (shabby) self-image?

An inadequate (shabby) self-image is one in which you see yourself as lacking sufficient resources, skills, and abilities needed to competently deal with life’s challenges and uncertainties. As a result of this image of inadequacy, you have negative expectations of life. (Notice, lack is the keyword here.)

Picture it like this:

  • If a shabby self-image were a stock on the stock exchange, it would be an underperformer.
  • If a shabby self-image were a boxer, it would be outclassed in every bout.
  • If a shabby self-image were a country, it would be a Third World country.
  • If a shabby self-image were a hotel, it would be a two-star hotel.

How does betrayal affect a person’s self-image?

Well, that depends on the type of self-image you had before you were dealt the blow of betrayal. It goes without saying that those who have an adequate self-image will fare better than those who have a shabby self-image. And yet, neither types are immune because betrayal is an equal opportunity offender. This is why if you want to repair self-esteem, you must begin by repairing your self-image.

Why is repairing your self-image so important to rebuilding your self-esteem? 

That’s a good question. Let me share a parable that will help you understand why this needs to be done.

The Parable Of The Wishing Tree

This is a parable about a poor man who was walking through the woods reflecting upon his many troubles. He stopped to rest against a tree, a magical tree that would instantly grant the wishes of anyone who encountered it. He realized he was thirsty and wished for a drink. Instantly, a cup of cool water was in his hand. Shocked, he looked at the water, decided it was safe, and drank it. He then realized he was hungry and wished he had something to eat. A meal appeared before him.

“My wishes are being granted,” he thought in disbelief.

“Well, then I wish for a beautiful home of my own,” he said out loud. A home appeared in the meadow before him. A huge smile crossed his face as he wished for servants to take care of the house. 

When they appeared, he realized he had somehow been blessed with incredible power, and he wished for a beautiful, loving and intelligent woman to share his good fortune. 

A stunning woman appeared. 

“Wait a minute. This is ridiculous,” said the man to the woman. “I’m not this lucky. This can’t happen to me.” As he spoke… everything disappeared. He shook his head and said, “I knew it!” Then he walked away thinking about his many troubles.

Did you notice it?

Because of the self-image, the man had about himself, he couldn’t tolerate positive results for very long.

What else can this parable teach us?

I believe it gives one very key insight: As you believe, so it’s done unto you. Therefore, it’s the story you believe about what’s possible for you (not your life circumstances) that guides your expectations, and therefore, your results.

Am I saying that your self-image (and therefore your self-esteem) is determined by a story and not facts? Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying.

This is actually very good news.

It puts you in control of your own self-esteem. And this means that even when something as painful as infidelity strikes, you don’t have to remain at the mercy of that negative stress for very long. You have options. You have alternatives. Rather than letting negative stress drain you of self-esteem… you can use it to your advantage. Coming up next are four secrets to help you do this.

4 Secrets to Repairing Self-Esteem After Betrayal

   1st Secret  

Cherish Only Positive Expectations.

It’s just as easy to find arguments to support positive expectations as it is to find arguments that support negative ones. Expectations are future predictions, which means they’re not facts… they’re opinions.

The question is this: Which is more helpful? If you’re having a hard time answering that question right now…

Remember this: Self-esteem is created by your confident expectation of good. Low self-esteem, on the other hand, is created by your confident expectation of bad things (think of the man from the Wishing Tree parable). And since both of these are based on your opinion, why not hold an opinion that’s helpful, rather than one that is harmful? From this moment on, I want you to make the decision to only look for evidence that supports positive opinions and positive expectations of life.

   2nd Secret  

Only Believe Helpful Stories.

Remember, it’s not the event that causes the pain as much as the “story” or the interpretation we make about the event. And there are always two ways to look at any event: from a positive perspective or from a negative perspective.

May I suggest? Despite all the temptations not to, you choose to only look at this situation from a positive perspective and only believe those stories and interpretations that you find helpful.

Do this!

Make a list of these stories, clichés, catchphrases… that come from this more positive place. (If you’re a high achiever, you might want to stop and make that list now.)

   3rd Secret  

Grow Up Your Self-image.

As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” The reason? Because it’s our imagination that produces the images that either empower us or disempower us. And since those images are in YOUR mind and YOUR imagination…

May I suggest? Allow yourself to only create winning images from this point forward.

For example:

  • Only see yourself winning.
  • Only see yourself improving.
  • Only see yourself overcoming.
  • Only see yourself coming out of this better than before.

   4th Secret 

Self-image is the key to self-esteem.

If you haven’t paid much attention to any of the previous secrets, pay attention to this one because many of the opinions, stories, and ideas you formed about yourself as a child aren’t necessarily factual about you as an adult. 

You’re not the child you were yesterday.

 Today, you are way more.

  • You don’t have the same skills, awareness, intelligence, and resources you used to have — you have far more.

  • The child of the past didn’t have access to the coping strategies the adult of today has.

It would be ludicrous to hang on to any inadequate (or powerless) image you once had of yourself. (And who says you have to continue to think that way?)

Remember: Stories of inadequacy (or not feeling worthy) only have power if you believe them.

Do you realize what that means? (Cue the choir.)

This means, if it’s our willingness to believe these things that give them power, then it goes without saying that our willingness to disbelief renders them powerless!

My suggestion? Grow up your self-image and discard any stories of inadequacy. Withdraw your loyalty and allegiance from any image of yourself as powerless or helpless. Do you believe you can do that? (I know you can.)

Here’s an exercise to help get you started. 

Your assignment:

Grab a mirror (or go stand in front of one), look into it, and ask yourself… “Mirror, Mirror, reveal to me any negative stories I believe about myself.”  

  1. Now, get quiet and listen to the beliefs, phrases, and words… that your mind whispers back to you.

  2. Write them down as you hear them. Don’t judge. Simply record them.

If you do this exercise (and I have faith you will), you may notice there’s a layer of mean and hurtful statements and clichés that bubble up to the surface. It’s those stories that need to be discarded like cheap jewelry, so you can “grow up” the image you have of yourself.

Now that we’ve covered the secrets of repairing self-esteem, let’s move on to round two… rebuilding self-confidence.

Things You Need to Know About Repairing Self-Confidence After Betrayal

1. What is self-confidence?

Here’s a definition of self-confidence that I really like: Self-confidence is the belief that you can and will get your needs met.

  • When you have self-confidence, it’s because you believe that you have the necessary resources to handle whatever emerges.
  • Self-confidence is what gives us the faith that we can solve problems, tolerate risks, bounce back from adversity, recover from loss, and surrender to change.

2. How does self-confidence look like?

It shows up in your life as faith in yourself, self-assurance, self-reliance, personal power, fearlessness, resiliency, and (believe it or not) confidence in your own ability to learn.

3. What is the opposite of self-confidence? Self-doubt, which is a lack of faith in yourself and your ability to get your needs met.

4. How does infidelity affect self-confidence?

Although many things can trigger self-doubt, the discovery of betrayal (or feeling played for a fool) has got to be at the top of the list. So, how does self-doubt after betrayal manifest itself?

Self-doubt after betrayal shows up in two key ways:

  1. Lack of faith in your ability to prevent a future betrayal

  2. Lack of faith in your own ability to handle possible future pain

The Worst Part? Your selfdoubts can be crueler than the worst of their lies.

So, how do you rebuild self-confidence after you’ve been cheated on? 

Here’s the secret: You don’t focus on rebuilding confidence… you focus on removing doubt. That’s right. Rebuilding confidence is actually a process of undoing, more than it is a process of doing. Unfortunately, many people miss this key point because if you were to try and rebuild your confidence without first dismantling self-doubt, it would be like rebuilding a house using just straw. All it would take is for one Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and blow all your self-confidence to smithereens.

So, let’s take the bull by the horns and learn how to pull out those weeds of self-doubt so that confidence grows back naturally. Because in the end, the only security is the courage to trust yourself.

 Here are my five suggestions for doing this.

5 Tips for Dismantling Self-Doubt & Increasing Self-Confidence

   1st Tip

Don’t Believe Everything You Think.

Just because a thought, idea, or belief is in your mind, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Be willing to look at all thoughts… question every premise… and discard all the shabby ones. From today forward, give yourself permission to rethink any negative expectations… any belief that suggests any lack or limitation… and any idea that tries and undermines your faith in the future.

   2nd Tip

Opinions Should Never Be Treated as Facts.

Remember that story I told you about my daughter? You might have wondered why I didn’t just hug her and reassure her that she does have a pretty face. That might have done the trick, but for how long?

Let me explain what I was thinking.

I recognized that she was in the process of forming her self-image (which includes body image). So, I asked myself, “What is the most important thing I can do to guide that process?” The answer I came up with was to help her learn how to separate facts from opinions. I wanted her to be able to challenge any opinion, even her own.

And I want you to do the same thing.

It would give me great joy for you to recognize that opinions (even your own) are not facts. It’s important to understand that a fact is immutable, while an opinion is not. Therefore, all opinions (including your own) should never be given too much of a superior position in your mind. In other words, it’s OK to doubt your own self-doubts. They are just opinions.

   3rd Tip

Unpleasant Memories Need Never Be Relived.

The best thing about the past is that it’s over. It’s gone. This is a fact, not an opinion. The only way the past comes back is if you relive it in your mind.

Why do so many of us relive the past over and over again?

Well, here’s my theory: People believe that by reliving a past unpleasantness, they will gain the power to prevent it from happening again. But when you look at this belief rationally, you’ll find it doesn’t make much sense. It would be like sticking your hand in an electric socket over and over again to remind yourself not to stick your hand in an electric socket!

Forget about that.

Remember this: The past is over. There’s no need to relive it. (Because the deeper lessons aren’t learned from pain but from insight.)

   4th Tip 

Changing Your Mind Is Your Privilege as An Adult.

This is my favorite part of being an adult: No one tells you who you are. (You’re the one telling yourself who you are.) And the best part of being an adult is the freedom to change your mind about who you are and what’s possible for you. If you find you’re lacking faith in yourself, then it’s your privilege to change your mind about yourself and about what you’re capable of.

Keep in mind, the stories you tell yourself about yourself are the wood for the fire of self-doubt or the fire of self-confidence. So, make sure you only add fuel to the one you want to grow.

   5th Tip 

Shift Your Focus from Loss to Learning.

I believe there’s always a way to turn any adversity into an advantage. Every single negative can lead to a positive. And one way to jump-start this process is to shift your focus from what you’ve lost to what you’ve learned.

Here’s what this means:

Rather than looking, focusing or obsessing on the things you lose in any situation, adversity or crisis… I want you to shift your attention to the lessons you’ve learned.

Now, the experience becomes a teaching device, not a torture device. And at that moment, you awaken a power within yourself that transforms that which was sent to curse you into that which has come to bless you. Once you’ve experienced this power for yourself, a new level of confidence is awakened… as you realize that you now have the capacity to handle whatever curveballs life throws at you.

This power is called resiliency, and it’s an antidote to self-doubt and the precondition to self-confidence. So, go ahead and shift your focus from loss to learning and awaken that power now.

Let’s recap together

Well, there you have it… my best tips and suggestions for rebuilding self-confidence and self-esteem after betrayal. And since you’ve read all the way to this point, let’s recap what you’ve learned so far.

You now know:

  • Why it’s okay to doubt your own self-doubts
  • Why it’s okay to challenge any opinion (even your own)
  • Why the only security is having the courage to trust yourself
  • Why your own self-doubts are crueler than their lies, and so you’ll want to dismantle them
  • Why it’s the story you believe about what’s possible for you (not your life circumstances) that guides your results
  • Why you’ll want to only look for evidence that supports positive opinions and positive expectations of life (you’ll be glad you did)
  • Why you want to remember you are not the child you were yesterday (today you are way more)

Why you should happily withdraw your loyalty and allegiance from any image of yourself as powerless or helpless.

Your self-esteem and self-confidence are gifts given from you to you, and they’re gift wrapped in the stories and images you believe about yourself.

Two things to keep in mind about your gift:

  • Nothing outside of you increase or decrease your value.
  • There’s no limit on how much you can increase in value.

And just like how…

I wouldn’t presume to know all there is to know about you, neither should you. Because I believe you have just as much right as anyone else to become curious about what else is possible for you.

This suggests a new level of experience is available.

All that’s required for you to experience it is for you to change your opinion about what’s now possible for you.

Could it really be so simple? Yes, it could because it is.

And just maybe, even as you walk through the valley of the shadows of uncertainties of life… you might still be able to know that there are more than a few things totally new and fresh about you, still left to be discovered.

I wish you joy in that self-discovery.

Until we speak again…

Remember… Love Wins!

 

    Keep in mind

If you found the insights in this article helpful, then you are going to benefit even more from taking my Betrayed  Partner Affair Recovery Masterclass because I save all my best secrets for my students. Learn more about it here.
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