By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
Self-awareness is the key to reclaiming your authenticity after divorce. There are a lot of feelings and emotions that come with divorce – anger, betrayal, despair, guilt, rejection, uselessness, fear, elation – and they all go with the territory. You may feel confused as you establish your new identity and move on to develop new relationships.
The trauma of going through a divorce can change your perceptions; and can alter your feelings about relationships and expectations for your future. No one gets married with the intention of getting a divorce so you might find yourself ruminating about what went wrong. Now in the midst of a breakup, your brain is being rewired and reconnecting with the world in new ways. How you choose to do this is up to you. It’s an exciting time with all sorts of possibilities.
You may come to realize that you can’t be all things to all people. A life without setting boundaries can be exhausting. People-pleasing habits are ingrained in girls from an early age. We are taught to look pretty and not to complain – instead to worry about others’ happiness more than our own. Setting boundaries can help us reclaim parts of authentic selves and to learn to love ourselves again.
Truth be told, that’s exactly what happened to me. During my divorce, it became obvious to me that I had lost the essence of myself in my marriage. Like many women, I was a people pleaser who spent a lot of energy trying to comfort and appease others – neglecting my own needs. As a result, I often put my needs last. In the process, I compromised too much and was left feeling like I had morphed into someone else.
Learning to trust yourself and developing self-love is an inner journey which involves examining your past from a fresh perspective. If you can’t believe you are good enough, how can you believe a new partner would choose you? Take the time to examine how your relationships have played themselves out, and lessons you have learned from the experience. Try not to wallow in self-pity for too long. Joke. Laugh. Regaining your sense of humor can help you accept yourself and to transform your life after divorce.
Here are 8 steps to reclaiming your authenticity after divorce:
- Become more self-aware of past patterns and self-defeating messages. Develop a mindset that relationships are our teachers. Divorce can be viewed as a catalyst for personal growth. Counseling, blogging, and reading can aid you in this process of self-awareness – the first step to change.
- Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Instead, develop a healthy response to errors in judgment or failing. Practice forgiving yourself and your ex for your divorce. If genuine forgiveness isn’t possible, practice acceptance.
- Don’t adopt the role of victim and begin to make decisions that reflect your strengths. Give yourself permission to “think big” and want more.
- Take good care of yourself. You can do this by developing good self-care rituals such as practicing yoga or walking daily; or going to the gym three to four days a week. Other ways to do this include unplugging for a few hours a day, reading, and writing in a journal. Or consider spending time with friends or family to connect and socialize.
- Practice self-compassion as you explore new relationships carefully. You don’t have to pick your next partner on the first date, so have fun and approach dating as a learning experience.
- Don’t compromise your values. Figure out your core values and stand by them when you enter a new relationship, job, or friendship.
- Be more assertive in relationships. If you want to form a new relationship based on trust, practice speaking up when something upsets you or you have a request. Dating can help you learn what your non-negotiable or deal breakers are.
- Shed toxic relationships and develop healthy ones. Surround yourself with people who support your journey and can allow you to build self-worth. Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
Over time, you will get out from under the shadow of your ex and restore self-confidence. Believing in yourself is crucial to building relationships based on mutual respect, integrity, and honesty. You can’t alter your past, but you can make better choices today. Don’t let your breakup define who you are today. You don’t have to let the pain you’ve suffered in the past carry over to current relationships.
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Please email Terry at [email protected] for your 30 minute complimentary phone consult. We can set up a time that’s mutually agreeable and I will offer you tips to reclaiming your life post-divorce based on over thirty years of experience as a divorce expert. If you email me, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter a raffle and win a free copy of Daughters of Divorce: Overcoming The Legacy of Your Parents’ breakup and Enjoy a Happy-Long-Lasting Relationship (3 copies will be given away).