Getting divorced can bring out the worst in anybody. Your ex might try to find numerous ways to put you down and make you feel worthless. You might be putting yourself down along the way as well. Depending on your circumstances you might say, “If only I were prettier/smarter/ nicer/ more tolerant..etc, maybe my marriage could have worked out.” “No one will ever want to be with me now that I am divorced.” “If I couldn’t make my marriage work I am a failure/no good/a horrible person..etc”. These negative statements do nothing to help and everything to destroy your self-esteem.
If anyone else spoke to you the way you speak to yourself would you still talk to them? If the answer to this question is a resounding “No way!” you are not alone. So how do you learn to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you?
Here are some suggestions to explore that you’ll find helpful when building your own self-esteem.
1. Notice what needs to be changed. How often are you self-critical? Many people who have low self-esteem report they constantly engage in negative self-talk. It might be helpful to start writing down what your critical voice says to yourself. Does it sound like anyone you knew when you were a child or your ex?
“Can’t you do anything right?”
“I can’t believe you just did that..what a moron!”
“How could you make such a stupid mistake?”
When you find you are putting yourself down STOP IT! Try to then replace that negative comment with a more positive one, i.e. “I am doing the best I can” or “I can do this!”
2. Praise yourself! The more you can self-praise you will see your self-confidence rise and you will start to value yourself more and more. Make a list of all of your positive attributes, strengths and things you like about yourself. Is this list longer than your list of negatives? Which do you focus on more? Give yourself permission to think positively about yourself. Write the list and then read it over and over again until some of it might sink in!
3. Stop Letting Others Define You. (Especially your Ex!) How much do you care about what others think of you? If your ex, or someone else, points out one fault of yours do you take it as a complete criticism of your whole self? If someone compliments you does it make your whole day? Of course, it is okay to feel good when others notice something positive about you and get somewhat affected by a criticism, BUT, those comments do not need to define you. Instead, let yourself be your own praiser with lots of positive self-talk.
4. Set a goal and chart your progress. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t think you could ever accomplish it? Run a marathon? Write a book? De-clutter your house? Clear out your email box? As you can see from my examples, your goal does not have to be a lofty one, but just one you have always wanted to do but didn’t have the time/energy/interest. Give yourself ample time to complete your goal with markers along the way to show how far you’ve come.
5. Take care of yourself. I mean this physically as well as mentally. It is always a mood booster when you know you are staying healthy and taking care of your body but don’t forget about taking care of your mind and emotional well being too. You need nurturing during this time and the best person to give it to you is you!
6. Keep your cool with your ex. Imagine how good you will feel when you do not flip out when your ex tries to bait you and you don’t break out into tears at the frustration you feel during this time of turmoil. You can look back after you held it together and stand tall and proud with the knowledge that you did not let him get to you.
7. Spend time focused on you. What do you like to do? Do you have a hobby or passion you have had to put on the back burner while you’ve tended to your ex and children? It is not selfish to make the time to do something you enjoy that is just for you and not you as his ex-wife or your children’s mother.