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Dealing with Shattered Illusions, Beliefs and Self-Concepts

When everything you hold dear turns out to be a sham, when what you believe is a lie and how you view yourself crumbles, life can be empty, painful, and without joy.

How can you come back from such personal deficits? It isn’t easy or quick, yet there is a way of dealing with shattered illusion, beliefs and self-concepts.

Why do you feel this way?

Take some time to examine why you feel so disillusioned. Were you harshly criticized as a child and were subsequently reluctant to trust your own feelings or beliefs? Were you confused by the disconnect between what your parents taught/demanded and what you actually believed? This kind of dysfunction is often the root cause of a lifelong insecurity, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

Maybe you’ve suffered a string of defeats in your career, school or home life. This could have created a perfect storm of an inability to trust in your decisions and confusion about everything you thought you believed. You might be so disheartened that you slip into depression or begin to experience a mood disorder.

Therapy Helps

Getting past the bleakness and hopelessness that often accompanies shattered illusions, beliefs and self-concepts is immensely helped with psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. In fact, there’s nothing like talking with a professional one-on-one to help you sort out what’s real and what you’ve mistakenly come to believe is true. For example, if you think you can’t make any good decisions, your therapist can discuss with you examples of things you’ve done that turned out to be sound decisions. Helping you wade through the mire of incorrect self-assumptions — often accepted without objection after others berate or belittle your actions — is what therapists do that you are not always capable of.

Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other psychosocial modalities. Learning to reframe your thoughts, turning negatives into positives, can be enormously beneficial in dealing with a bruised and damaged emotional and psychological state.

Find Someone Who Listens

There must be someone in your circle of friends, loved ones, family members, co-workers or neighbors that you know and trust and with whom you can confide your thoughts. This wouldn’t be some random person on the street or only a casual acquaintance. It should be someone who’s known you for some time and can bear witness to how you’ve weathered difficult times before. You need someone to talk with who listens nonjudgmentally, offers encouragement when you need it, and is just there for you to interact with and spend time together.

Join a Support Group

A support group for others who may have anxiety, depression or mood disorder may be a good way to augment psychotherapy. In addition to having members who know what you’re experiencing because they’ve been there themselves, a support group is a place to go where you know you won’t be judged. You’ll be welcomed and treated with respect. You can contribute or merely be present, listening to the accounts of others and how they’ve been able to overcome significant emotional challenges and feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and even despair.

Venture into Something New

It’s also helpful to identify an activity or pursuit that’s new to you and pursue it so you both broaden your horizons and provide yourself with an outlet to express yourself and learn something. Even if you decide the activity or pursuit is not what you’d imagined after you get into it, you’ve put yourself out there and done something proactive for your mental health.

Challenge Yourself to Go Beyond the Familiar

What’s familiar may have become part of the problem, especially if you’re prone to go home each night and think about how badly you’ve messed up your life. Nightly drinking, drug use, or going out and doing risky things only compounds the problem, not to mention adding to the risk of becoming addicted or getting into trouble in some other way. Take a different way to work, stop at another restaurant or market, go to the movie in a neighboring town, take a drive in the country and stop at small shops to talk with the proprietor. Going beyond the familiar allows you to see things in a different light, interact with new people, discover places you’re delighted with.

Engage in Small Acts of Kindness to Others

When you do something for another person, you’re stepping outside yourself and your own concerns. It’s a selfless act of generosity to be kind to others. Even the smallest kindness rewards both the recipient of the act and the giver. Many people don’t realize what kindness does for them, thinking that it’s only the other person who gets something out of the gift. While you may not much feel like smiling, greet a stranger with a smile when you open the door for them on your way into a coffee shop. Say “Good morning” to those you pass on the trail as you go for a walk. Pick up your elderly neighbor’s paper and bring it to the house so she doesn’t have to trek the driveway to retrieve it. While you’re at it, engage her in conversation. It will likely brighten her day, and yours.

Make a List of Goals to Work Toward

Life isn’t a vacuum, although when you’re depressed and feeling worthless, it can sometimes feel like it is. Get busy making a list of goals, things you want to accomplish and are willing to work to achieve. Make sure to add both short-term goals you can work on right away and complete relatively quickly, as well as some medium-term and long-term goals. Progressive or step goals – accomplishing one leads to the next one, etc. – is also important. Goal making gives you a roadmap, something you can return to and mark progress, cross off those you’ve achieved, revise those you’ve replaced or modified.

Give Yourself a Reward for Little Successes

When you finish a goal or make significant progress toward the next level or step, take time out to reward yourself for the success. It may seem like small progress, yet it’s vital to your rebuilding of self-esteem and self-confidence that you acknowledge and celebrate little successes along with bigger ones.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Determine who you really like spending time with and be with them as often as it is mutually possible to do so. The more you surround yourself with positive people, the more your attitude and world view will begin to shift from dark and depressing to enthusiastic and optimistic. Be with those who say what they mean and do what they say. Those who are good examples, leaders, always willing to help are excellent choices for role models you’d choose to be with.

Dealing with Shattered Illusions, Beliefs and Self-Concepts

Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at

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APA Reference
Kane, S. (2019). Dealing with Shattered Illusions, Beliefs and Self-Concepts. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 May 2019 (Originally: 19 May 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 May 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.