I felt pretty crappy about myself after my divorce. In fact, I felt so worthless that I quit my job, isolated myself and practically hid for a from everyone I knew for a couple of years.
I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I had come to believe many of the painful things that were said to me over the course of my marriage, both by my ex, and things I said to myself (about myself) in my own head. These words were spoken from a place of anger, and yet they became my truth.
Identifying so deeply with this pain damaged my self-esteem and self worth. Now, years later, I understand that breakups are universally painful. When the person with whom you were most vulnerable breaks your heart, it's easy feel inadequate and worthless, even if you have a laundry list of reasons why you should feel good about other areas of your life.
When it comes to love, our rational mind isn't running the show. Instead, breakups make us think like this: the person who knew me best and loved me most now thinks I'm a piece of garbage, so it must be true.
My journey back to who I was, who I am, has taken time and effort. Here are six tips to help you repair your self-esteem and reclaim your self-worth after a breakup.
1. Realize you are not the many things that your ex (or others) said about you.
And sometimes the painful things weren't explicitly said, but were dynamics you internalized. In any case, the first step is to be able to see yourself as distinct, whole, and separate from the painful energy of what the relationship was.
Realize that the picture you have of yourself in your mind — the one that stems from angry comments, hurtful words and painful descriptions of your behavior — is simply not accurate. Once you can acknowledge that he or she hurt your self-esteem, you can rebuild your self-worth. You define you.
2. Be extraordinarily compassionate to yourself.
Once you acknowledge that your self-image likely stems from your ex’s perception of you, you can handle all of those free-floating angry and resentful thoughts differently.
Instead of allowing the harsh parting words to break you down and crush your self-esteem, treat the memories, harsh words and verbal daggers with compassion. And remember: this doesn't mean to push those negative thoughts away or think they are problematic. Just let them be, and do so with care and love.
Whether you're finding yourself dwelling on angry things your ex said to hurt you, or are simply rehashing memories, flood it all with compassion. Let the painful thoughts pass by like floating clouds instead of piercing you like fatal thunderbolts.
3. Forgive yourself for mistakes and forgive your ex for the pain caused.
You screwed up. S/he screwed up.
You regret what you did to him or her. S/he likely regrets what she did to you.
Your relationship may feel like a colossal failure because of everything that went wrong. And let's face it: there is always plenty of blame and regret to go around for everyone in the relationship. There is plenty of pain and heartache that each of you caused.
But the only way to keep this from weighing on your self-worth for the rest of your life is to let go of this heavy burden.
You must find it within yourself to forgive your ex and let go of the trespasses. Do it because it’s the right thing to do and you’re a kind and compassionate person. If not that, do it for yourself, so that you can let go of the burning coals of resentment. You simply won’t be able to move on until you forgive your ex.
If you’re being unusually hard on yourself and feel like you’re responsible for everything that went wrong, it will be hard to move on and work on your self-worth. You’ll have to find it within to forgive yourself for how you showed up in the relationship.
4. Create space for healing and love.
Much of your relationship was about being the “right” person for your ex, and that's natural. But odds are, you’ve forgotten who you are. That version of yourself that is authentically YOU.
So to return to your truth, you have to dig deep and start living in tune with your intuition. Start listening to those strong feelings guiding you. Stop listening to the chatter of your ex and everyone else around you. Practice getting quieter and being by yourself so that you can actively work on your self-esteem.
Try visualizing yourself as a confident person. Use affirmations like these on a daily basis: “I am confident and I trust myself,” “I am a loving person and I am worthy of love,” “I believe in myself and my abilities.”
And of course, take care of yourself and do good things for yourself while healing. Try yoga, meditation, getting more sleep, taking more walks in nature and having more leisure time for yourself.
5. Create a no-negativity zone.
You do this by setting healthy boundaries, and saying "no" to things that aren't serving you.
- Say “no” to people who bring you down and make you feel bad about yourself.
- Say “no” to unwanted obligations, unnecessary commitments and activities that suck your energy level.
- Say “no” when your ex tries to engage you or pull you back into a dysfunctional relationship.
Instead, follow your passion and engage in activities that add more bliss to your life. Do the things you enjoy with the people who uplift you and support you. It's quite simple.
6. Be kinder to others.
All of the previous tips will help you cultivate more love and compassion for yourself. But one way to continually cultivate and expand the love within is to think about serving others.
Service can be a great self-esteem booster. When you give of yourself without any expectation of return, you begin to feel lifted up.
Regularly thinking about ways to connect with others, and direct your positive energy outward, will put you in a more compassionate and kind space, both of which help boost your self-worth.
So don’t necessarily think your last relationship is another excuse to squash your self-esteem. Instead, use your broken relationship as a springboard to practice self-acceptance, compassion and confidence.
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