Is rebuilding self-esteem post divorce, a charade?
You know those big property developments where the site is surrounded by hoardings – great walls preventing you from seeing within – and they paint a vision of what the construction will look like when it’s finished onto the walls, whilst they slowly and noisily create the buildings within?
Well, regaining your sense of self-worth and confidence post divorce is a bit like that. The building work is so intense, so painfully messy and it takes so long, that building some walls around to provide a level of protection is a good idea. Painting a picture of the desired outcome – some might say, ‘fake it to make it’ – can also be a necessary stage of the process.
When a woman has been pummeled and crushed by the tsunami of divorce, getting back her confidence is a momentous achievement. But I discovered that it’s not as impossible as it may first seem. Beyonce’s mum Tina Knowles has spoken publicly about how she grappled with self-esteem for years until she began putting herself first, and creating her own business was part of how she become confident once more. But are the trappings of success – a business, a handsome man on your arm – the way to build self-confidence, or simply the outward manifestation of inner work?
Even in an amicable divorce, there can be a silent war going on. In a war most of us want reclamation and for the other side to suffer, when really what we should want is to be able to master the art of forgiveness.
I believe learning how to forgive is the key to true self confidence. It’s the solid foundations to the new life you are beginning to build.
“I forgive him – but deep down I feel good about him being unhappy because it serves him right” – is not real forgiveness. And when we allow ourselves to place our sense of self worth outside of ourselves, reliant on others in any way to feel good or bad about ourselves, then we give away our power. And when we feel powerless, it’s hard to feel ‘self confident’.
“Do not mourn the past, nor worry about the future, but live in the present. By decluttering our possessions from our past, we can then declutter our own minds of negative memories and thoughts, allowing us to live in the present and look forward to a clearer future.” Cheryl Carter: Every Home Matters
“It’s really important to take your time, to be kind to yourself when you’re working on rebuilding your confidence, changing your life, especially when you’ve been through a period of high stress like a divorce. Don’t worry: small steps are fine – it’s the step forward that’s important, not the size and speed of the step!” Sue Terry: Metroline Coaching
When your self confidence is on the floor, it is easy to seek outside of oneself and that is particularly true when you begin dating again. The result of dating before you are really ready – in other words, whilst your confidence is still very low and you are likely to attract the wrong kind of partners into your life – can be disastrous. Rebound relationships rarely bring much long-term joy.
It’s so vital to get the divorce or the breakup of your relationship out of your system, before attempting to find a new partner. Use the opportunity to work on the reasons why your partnership failed, so that when you do go into a new partnership it doesn’t become a repeat of the old. There are a wide range of healing techniques that can make this an empowering process. Debbie Talalay: Healing For Change
People are often surprised at the physiological response to the trauma of a life change like divorce. It’s hard to feel psychologically strong when your body is suffering tangible effects that often go undiagnosed.
“During times of stress the adrenal glands go into overdrive producing too much cortisol which affects many body functions such as tiredness, an inability to sleep soundly, blood pressure and immunity. The Bowen Technique (or Bowen Therapy) works on the nervous system damping down the ‘fight and flight’ response helping to reinstate the body’s equilibrium. Bowen is excellent to help you feel like your ‘old self’ again. Every Body Feels Better With Bowen.” Catherine Ford: Feel Better With Bowen
For me, true self confidence – an ongoing process – is founded on being responsible for everything that happens in my life and everything I feel and think, with the humility to know that I am ‘work in progress’, and the compassion to be OK with myself when I sometimes feel beaten up by life’s events and learning experiences. Those inevitable times when I feel small and scared because I’ve forgotten that I am connected with all that is – to get to the nub of it – Love.
So my advice for when a life event such as divorce knocks the stuffing out of you, and you get fed up feeling battered, bruised and a victim of circumstance, is that you can then take the following steps:
…that you are beautiful and loved – even if you can’t quite put your finger on how that could be;
Take responsibility for everything….
…without blame. Just stop giving away your power. This is hard to do alone, as most people around you may prefer to play the blame game. Getting your finances in order and working with a financial planner can be a productive, empowering outward expression of taking responsibility for your life;
…you are allowed to be human and enjoy the gifts of learning that we invite into our lives, though when you are in anger stage, this will be tough to accept. But keep it on the list, and find healthy ways to release that anger if it’s getting in the way;
…with yourself, especially. All the love your Ex ‘took away’ has in truth gone nowhere. You already have all the love you need inside of you. Tap into it;
Take your time….
…this is not a race. Know that those temporary hoardings that protect and also project the vision of how you want your life to be, are useful. Don’t take them down too soon. Life coaching, counselling – if focused on letting go of any sense of being a victim – and working with wellbeing experts, are all practical ways to rebuild the infrastructure of a much more resilient and happy life. The one you deserve.
I believe self confidence is not something you can really possess – it is something you inhabit bit by bit through practice until other people feel better when they are around you, and they mirror back to you how you are truly feeling inside.
The very process you use to navigate a divorce or breakup will impact heavily on how much your self-confidence gets a bashing. Using empowering processes such as Collaborative Law or Mediation will leave couples in a far stronger emotional situation post divorce – as well usually a better financial situation as well. Getting closure on the relationship – even using Family Arbitration perhaps to bring a dispute to a speedy close – all help to move your life forwards in the right direction.
“The speed of recovery from the realities of a life- long marriage becoming “short-term”, can be greatly affected by the method of resolving the divorce. It is here that mediation is so much more helpful, and supportive as a process.
After the dust has settled on the divorce, you both know the mediator from earlier interaction, and can return to that forum knowing how useful discussion in that type of controlled environment can save £££,s in legal costs. I know this to be the case, being myself both a solicitor and a mediator.” John Stebbing: Stephen Rimmer LLP
In our darkest times, we can tap into that feeling of universal connection and love more easily than when our ‘confidence’ (or arrogance as it may more truly be) is high. I see now that my self confidence post break up was mostly arrogance and façade. Another wall to hide behind. But then you do need to fake it to make it, right? How can you build a new city without first creating a vision? One that begins as just an idea in someone’s mind? But my walls of self-confidence were always going to be fragile and dependent on the quality of relationships I was in at the time.
When I finally ‘got it’ – that my self worth needed to be developed from my relationship with myself – and connected to Spirit, the Universe, or whatever name I chose to give that sense of peace and connection where I saw the world as no longer scary and threatening – only then did the protective walls become ready to be pulled down. Like when the picture painted on the hoardings around a new construction finally matches the creation within. And then the real confidence and zest for life can truly return.