How retiring can affect your self-esteem

“If you want to have something affect your self-esteem, retire.” Those were the words of former late night talk show

“If you want to have something affect your self-esteem, retire.” Those were the words of former late night talk show host, David Letterman at an awards ceremony in May.

He says it was during a White House state dinner that the woes of his retirement were put into perspective.

“So I’m seated at dinner next to a man who is the assistant chief of staff to the prime minister of Norway, and I’m feeling like a big shot… When it comes about dessert time, the guy says to me ‘Excuse me. Why are you here? And I said, ‘You know what? I think I picked up somebody else’s mail. And he said, ‘So you’re here by mistake? And I said, ‘Yeah’. So there you go — you get invited to the state dinner, nobody knows why. That’s the sum total of being retired.”

Not everybody feels the way Letterman does, but there is some fact that your self-esteem takes a bit of a dive around the age of retirement.

“Midlife was a time of highly stable work, family and solid romantic relationships,” John tells Starts at 60.

However, he says, things changed when he entered retirement in his early 60s.

“Although our children had been out of the home for many years, when my wife and I retired we finally felt the truth of the ’empty nest’. Personally, after several months I started to question my worth in the world — I was too old for many employers despite having the skills and experience they required, and my health started to suffer as a result,” John says.

It can be easy to think about your retirement as the end of your value. You have become so caught up in your work identity or your worth as a parent that the idea of losing those identities can fill you with dread.

Sure, there is a lot to look forward to with retirement — a more relaxed lifestyle, the option of wanting to work and if you do the further option of having it fit in with what you want to do. But going from full-time work to no work at all can be daunting for some.

While retiring means you no longer have to work within the 9am to 5pm conveyor belt of activity, it also means that you are suddenly in complete control of how your daily script will be written. It’s crucial that you make sense of the change and how it will affect you.

Whether or not you choose to retire when you do also has an impact on your self-esteem. Allow yourself time to evaluate the raft of new opportunities that await you if you are entering the realm of retirement.

Retirement might be the best thing that could happen to you, so don’t be afraid of the transition that will allow you to reset your sense of self or your purpose in life.

Have you transitioned into retirement? Are your still working towards your retirement? How do you want your retirement to look?

  1. Jan alford  

    I have to agree as a fairly recent retiree that one does have to look are how others see you. I remember someone saying to me when they retired that they became invisible which I thought quite sad, but potentially true.

    • Chrissi  

      I had to retire early due to health so i am unable to do voluntary work, get involved in any activities and feel completely useless !!😥😥

  2. I too am recently retired and I find it hard to know how I fitted work in. It must be said that I was in a highly stressful job and probably nearing burnout. Now I’m planning my overseas trip and getting out and about.

  3. Frank  

    common scenario for type-A work addicts or males who defined themselves by their paid work – when retired they can feel lost and alone

    plan for what you want to do after retirement – volunteering, hobbies, travel – so you don’t start climbing the walls when you stop ‘work’


    I retired three years ago after been in the labor force for over 40 years. As most new retirees, I too was nervous about what happens post retirement. Well, I am happy to tell that a great deal of good things has happened. I still go to bed early and get up early as well. It is great to not have to follow a schedule, deal with highly stressful situations not created by me and deadlines. Retirement is a gift to cherish for the last quarter of your life and to share with your loved ones. I always find something to do around the house and I am never bored. I have saved a lot of money doing DIY projects around the house. Even taking a nap is something to do. Reading, watching educational videos, taking short and long trips with the family without having the stress in the back of my mind of work projects and deadlines pending at the office; is so wonderful allowing me to really enjoy our quality time with family and friends. The other great thing is that I am spending less money in gasoline, clothes and eating out. Traveling back and forth to work was very expensive. New clothing and eating out is no longer a necessity. So, go ahead and retire. You will love it!

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