Rebuilding Self-Esteem after a Breakup
The roots of this article go back to earlier this year when a group of college buddies got together for drinks and to catch up after a few years absence. For some, lives had changed little. But for others, there had been some difficult separations and a couple of divorces.
Inevitably we got to compare notes on our experiences and what really struck me was the differences in the way we had responded to that period of trauma and upheaval in our lives.
Leaving aside the presumptions of guilt or innocence, most experienced some point when they got ‘stuck’ in the process of moving on with their lives. Some great advice came out of the event and my friends generously gave me permission to take copious notes on the condition that no names would appear in any future article. Of course I would agree as it’s the wisdom that I’m interested in, not the source.
The following is what I believe to be some timeless wisdom for all those whose self-esteem has been badly shaken by a relationship breakdown. I also want to preface this with the point that none of the experiences shared that night involved children, thankfully! If it did, then I believe these strategies would need to be modified somewhat.
1. Don’t Sabotage Yourself
There can be a multitude of reasons why people find themselves “stuck” in the recovery process and unable to bring closure to a failed relationship. Self-sabotage was universally agreed as the No 1. Reason, and usually occurred when ‘self-esteem’ was at a low point. It’s a double whammy! The sadness of losing your partner and the feeling of no hope or ‘unworthiness’ of a better future.
The grieving part of the process is normal and necessary; the self-deprecation is not.
Here are just some of the things you need to be on the look out for to stop sabotaging yourself during your recovery phase.
• Stop engaging in communication with your Ex partner. No texting, no phone calls, no social media connection, no ‘accidental intentional’ meetings.
• Distance yourself in all meaningful ways.
• Do not stay ‘friends’ or find ways to stay connected. You may end up being friends one day,… but not right now!
• Do not Date right away. Forgive yourself for mistakes and forgive your Ex, but do not start something new while you have this chance to discover more about yourself.
2. Generate More Activity
Now you need to create a new space so you can nurture healing and love. As hard as it is, you need to acknowledge that you also have an opportunity also to do some work on yourself. What makes your really happy and fulfilled on the inside, regardless of your relationship status? What new projects and experiences can you throw yourself into? The more time you can give yourself in this phase, the better equipped you will be for wherever your life takes you next. The objective is to feel confident and strong. To appreciate yourself for whom you are what you bring to the world as an individual being; not because a partner ‘made you complete’.
As a side note: When bad relationships become really controlling and toxic, there is usually one person working hard to deliberately undermine and destroy the self-esteem of the other person in the relationship. The goal is always to satisfy some pathetic need for power and control.
3. More Time with Family and Friends
This is also an extension of the previous point. “Generate more Activity”. Sometimes, when we are focused on a relationship, we unwittingly start seeing less of our friends and family. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It happens! So use this opportunity to reconnect with the important people in your life. They will also reaffirm your qualities as an ‘individual’ rather than you as part of a relationship. If you have good family and friends, then you have people who can give you a reality check on when you are being overly hard on yourself.
4. Work On Your Self-Development
Compassion is a beautiful word. The best way to cultivate compassion for yourself and start to repair your scars is to serve others. When you give your time and effort to those less fortunate (and yes there are always people out there doing it harder) then you will begin to really love yourself again. Connecting with others and serving without thought of anything in return is a great way to build up your own self worth.
We also need to work on our internal self-control. Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation is a great way to identify and dispel the distorted negative beliefs that will keep circulating in our heads if left unchecked. To learn more about these techniques, read my article The Best 7 Mindfulness Activities for Adults.
5. Make Space For Something Better
There is a wonderful saying that goes something like; “When something wrong falls apart, life is making space for something better to fall together”. I believe this is true, but it will only work when you give yourself the time to discover more about yourself; the choices you made or didn’t make; your core values and beliefs. If not then you will likely repeat the experience with another ‘wrong’ person.
You have probably at some time met someone that always seems to be attracted to the wrong person for him or her, on a repeating cycle! There is nothing more tragic than seeing someone doing the same thing, but expecting a different (better) result each time. This is a person who has skipped the Personal Development phase big time.
When people get their hearts broken too often, there is also a danger of becoming too cynical. They then start to build barriers to letting love in their lives. It becomes too easy to say, “Why bother. They are all users” or something to that effect. Its tough to keep putting yourself out there.
But if we can do that with a stronger sense of self worth then a wonderful thing starts to happen. We start to recognize like-minded beings! People who love themselves, not in an egotistical way, but in a compassionate respectful way. And because of that, they can and will love others in a respectful way.
There is never a guarantee that any relationship is going to be the one to last a lifetime. But when you work on yourself and approach life with better and stronger sense of self worth, then I promise you that finding the right relationship will get a whole lot easier. And you will deserve it!
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