How I Cultivate Self-Worth in the Face of Fertility Challenges

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I ask you to meet yourself with kindness in this moment. Put your hand over your heart, breathe deeply and send love to yourself. I know how much you need it. Lean softly into the calm intuitive wisdom of your centre. Affirm to yourself: I am worthy, simply because I exist. I have a right to be here, simply because I breathe. I am whole. I belong. I am enough. I value myself. I love myself. I accept myself as I am.

Say these affirmations as many times as you need to. Let the medicine of these words seep like healing honey into the depths of your soul. Now think of one kind or healing thing that you can do for yourself right now, and then focus on allowing yourself that loving gift today.

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 I see it every day – women who feel broken, worthless and betrayed by their own bodies. They are hurting, all the while making their best effort to smile, to heal themselves and the bodies that they feel stuck in. They are nursing their broken hearts on the path to fulfil their deepest desire, the path to becoming a mother. I understand what it is like to grapple with the experience of being a childless mother. 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 long so deeply for. A simple thing – you tell yourself – that any woman should be able to do effortlessly. And in a society whose patriarchal gaze places little value on our empty wombs, one where your success is quite often still defined by whether or not you are married and how many offspring you are able to produce, how could you feel any differently about yourself?

“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry about.” ~ Amy Poehler

In my case, it took hitting rock bottom at mid-point of what has turned out to be bumpy 6-year long TTC journey for me to see this reality clearly. Somewhere between descending the downward spiral of depression and trying to keep breathing through grief, uncertainty and shame, I started to see how my perceptions of my situation and of myself were harming me. As my longing for motherhood remained unfulfilled, I’d allowed myself to be defined by a growing sense of inadequacy. In addition, not meeting the social expectations of what a woman my age ‘should be’ eroded my self-worth. At my lowest point, I found myself at a crossroads – either I would continue on a very painful path deeper into the abyss of negativity, or I could rescue myself by beginning to take positive steps that were more beneficial to my wellbeing. Making this change has not been easy. It’s still a daily effort to choose self-compassion over self-judgement.

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 compassion and offer your breaking heart the balm it really needs in order to feel more whole?

This is when I began the simple, yet effective practice I call a ‘Heart-centred pause’ to help reframe my toxic thought patterns, anchor myself in presence and re-cultivate my self-esteem. Whenever I wound up in a sticky place, felt inadequate, depressed or unworthy, I began to bring my attention to my physical self and focused on the feeling of being in my body. With the ‘heart-centred pause’ (just like the one I’ve shared as the opening to this blogpost) – I place my hand on my chest and visualise connecting with my heart-space, my soul. Thinking of it as a touch of love, I send love inward and then affirm healing or uplifting self-worth mantras to shift my mindset. I say the affirmations slowly, inviting them into my center and allow myself to embody these words.

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Some days are easier than others, but I keep at it until I feel the funk lifting. Over time this practice has become a deeply nourishing way for me to simply begin again when I fall into a rut. It’s a reminder to keep valuing myself whether I end up having a child or not, because either way I still have so many gifts and a lot of love to share with the world.

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In addition to practising presence with the heart-centred pause, here are a few more ideas to explore that may be useful when it comes to cultivating self-worth:

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Create Your own Definition of Your Worth: One of the mantras included in the affirmation at the beginning of this post is: “I am worthy, simply because I exist.” That is an incredibly powerful truth that we often overlook. Your worth should not be defined by someone else or by preconceived societal expectations. It’s important that you create your own definition of self-worth. 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’s also helpful to learn to separate your sense of worth from your fertility and to keep in mind that you are not defined by the challenges you may be facing.

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 ‘fee good file’ or journal to refresh your memory about all the important reason 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.

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 toxic thoughts with positive, nurturing and empowering ones. Positive affirmations and inspirational oracle 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.

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How do you cultivate your own sense of self-worth in light your of fertility journey? Do you have soulful anchors to guide you back to a gentle and grounded space where you feel more whole? Revisit the heart-centred pause at the beginning of this post. How do you feel when you connect with your heart and say the affirmations? Are there other ways in which you can support yourself and keep strengthening your self-esteem and sense of worth?


 

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