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Life after Divorce: Rediscovering Your Identity and Self-esteem

Life after Divorce: Rediscovering Your Identity and Self-esteem
Written by Cate Palmer

During this healing process, you will have moments of doubt.

Divorce is a very delicate and sensitive time in anyone’s life. After all, they had certain expectations which failed. But, that is only one of the difficult things a person needs to deal with.

Although social and economic status is one of the reasons people decide to divorce, psychologists like to highlight the emotional ones.

Divorce is a legal and emotional process. However, the way it will unfold depends on the parties involved. But after it is over, you have to pick up the pieces and carry on with your life. Getting used to single life is not easy.

Until recently you shared your hopes and dreams with someone, and suddenly it’s all gone with the wind. Now you have to rebuild your identity and self-esteem.

Another problem is how society looks at divorce. Women are more stigmatised than men, although this has changed considerably in civilised societies.

Feminism and working on equality issues have helped women regain their voice and decide to take this step. Studies show that women are initiators of divorce twice as much as men. But this still doesn’t make it less painful and frightening.

You may feel lost and confused, unsure where to start recovering and reinventing yourself. This is all normal. The change that comes with divorce is not a small one, but it’s manageable.

Although every divorce is different, recovery is mostly the same. What you’re going through, other people have already experienced and survived. And so will you.

You are allowed to grieve

There is a reason why people call it the happily ever after when a wedding is formalized. No one expects to get divorced then, not even those with prenuptial agreements.

All married couples expect to live with one another until the rest of their lives. That is why a divorce is felt as a loss, even if it’s something you wanted to happen.

In her book On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone, psychotherapist Florence Falk, PhD, says: “Whatever your marriage and divorce experience has been, there will be emotions that have to do with grief.” You will ask yourself what you’ve done wrong, and feel empty. And just like with any grief, you shouldn’t refuse it, but accept it. That is the first step to recovery.

Examine your feelings

You will carry the burden of your previous relationship with you to the next one, if you don’t work through your feelings. Bitterness and disdain won’t help you move on, but will keep you glued to the after-divorce sentiment for too long.

Shying away from what you’re feeling is just going to keep you from moving forward.

You have to examine these emotions you’re going through. The best way to do that is with a therapist, someone who is objective and can help you transition to a new beginning. Dealing with emotions maturely and openly is the only way to know them and surpass them.

Love Yourself

Love yourself

Don’t reject yourself after the divorce. It is normal that you feel guilty or like you didn’t do enough. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s just the loss of confidence talking. Loving yourself is the way to heal the hole the divorce has left.

The divorce or the unsuccessful marriage are not the quantifiers of your value. Psychologist Robert Alberti, PhD, in his book Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Endsrecommends: “You have to work on getting confidence and faith in yourself and ability to believe in your own worth.”

Find yourself again

Finding yourself is hard for anyone, but that is the road to accepting who you are. You and your spouse are separate people, even though the marriage meant you were one. Losing your identity in the relationship is expected, but you existed before it and that person is still there.

There are certainly many things you liked doing that your spouse didn’t. Those interests are still there, so don’t stop doing them. Also, there must be something you liked doing but stopped because you were too preoccupied with being married. Rediscover yourself by returning to those interests again.

Rediscovering Your Identity and Self-esteem

Meet a new side of yourself

Divorce is the perfect time to discover something new about yourself. You can get a new haircut, try a new hobby or move to a different city. This may seem drastic, but it’s actually good for your self-esteem. It means moving forward, taking that first step towards rediscovering new aspects of your personality.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be drastic. Choose to do the things you love and always wanted to try, but still keep in mind that you have obligations in your life, like work or kids.

Taking too many new experiences can overwhelm your senses and tire you too fast,which can have a negative effect on your whole recovery process.

Don’ be afraid to be single

There is nothing scary about being single. As an individual, you need some alone time. That also happened during the marriage. So being single is nothing unusual. It only means that you are not part of a couple, which is also okay.

Today’s society doesn’t judge singles like it used to. It’s better to be alone than to live in an unsatisfying relationship. Sharing your life with someone doesn’t mean you have to be with them all the time, live with them and be legally bound to them.

Local family lawyers who handled your case probably told you all about the legal framework, and it most certainly didn’t include any penalties for being single.

Don’t shy away from transitional relationships.

The big uncertainty is how to date again. You will have trouble in the beginning, that is a fact. But as you recover, so should your dating life. Meet new people, go on a date and come out of your comfort zone.

Give a chance to those who may not be your type. This is not rebounding, it’s carefully taking steps to redefine yourself and find out what you’re looking for in a relationship.

People change over time, so you’ve probably changed, too. Explore that and be open-minded towards the people you meet. This doesn’t mean you should start a relationship immediately, but just have fun while getting to know someone new.

Accept your new self.

During this healing process, you will have moments of doubt. After being part of a couple for a long time, you will have to deal with every aspect of your life now. Even those things your partner took care of.

You will be clumsy, make some mistakes, but that is all perfectly normal. It doesn’t make you incompetent, but helps you accept what kind of person you are.

Maybe your partner took care of the bills and did the cooking, and now you are not so great at that. But in time you will find your footing, and your own way for how to organise yourself. This will be your new identity and you should accept it open heartedly.

Divorce Tips

After all

Divorce is nothing bad or inappropriate. It’s a solution to a problem, one which will help both parties live happy and fulfilled lives. Marriage takes two, and if one person is unhappy then the other one will suffer, too. You may feel as though it’s the end of the world, but it’s just the beginning of your new life.

Identity Magazine is all about guiding women to discover their powers of Self-AcceptanceAppreciation, and Personal Achievement. We ask that every contributor and expert answer  the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the current article they have writtenIn that way, and as a team, we hope to encourage and motivate each other, thus inspiring you to Get All A’s.

What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.

I always had these dreamy beliefs about life, that love conquers all and friendships are forever. I don’t say that they’re not for some people, but for most this is true. It took me a while to understand, but when I did I was also able to accept it. People will come and go, but they all leave a mark on our lives. Learning from those experiences has helped me to better accept changes in my life, something I really had a problem with. 

Of course, I still have to work on other issues, like accepting that I don’t have the perfect body shape, that I don’t know how to show when I’m scared, as well as that I’m afraid to ask for comfort and shoulder to cry on when I’m sad.

What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? On the other hand OR in contrast, are there elements of who you are that you’re still working on appreciating?

We all appreciate different things about ourselves over the years. That’s normal as we grow older. I think that one thing that never changed about me is that I strongly believe we all could use some more love and appreciation in our lives. Maybe I’m a desperate romantic, and I know that world is more complicated, but I like that I still believe in all kinds of love: family, child, friend, lovers, spouses, etc. I believe that love is the key for this world to change for the better.

On the other hand, I’m still learning to love myself just the way I am. I think that’s the toughest love to achieve of all.

What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the goals and dreams that you still have.

I’m proud that I can take care of myself as an independent woman. I might be far away from the life I envision for myself, but I’m working on it. My biggest dream is to be a homeowner one day, something not so easily achieved in today’s global economic situation.

Of course, we all have imperfections, or so we think. In truth, we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? Likewise, what imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?

I’m afraid to say what I truly mean sometimes, so I wouldn’t hurt other people’s feelings or start a conflict. That’s why some people think that I’m incompetent or inexperienced in something and always lecture me how I should do things. However, this is something I’ve been working on for the past couple of years, and I’m improving.

I’m also a perfectionist. While that necessarily doesn’t have to be a quirk, it can be a nuisance sometimes. I can’t work below the standard I set and this also applies to all aspects of my life. I believe that if you do something then you should do it right. 

“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to appreciate and express all the positive traits that make you…well…YOU! In fact, sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (We assure you!) Therefore, Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my smile! I believe that a smile can change a person’s day.

I love that I enjoy the little things: leaves crunching beneath my feet in the fall, snow falling in winter, the smell of the linden tree in the summer and the first flowers in spring.

I love that I always moved forward, even when I thought that there’s no way out or nothing to hope for.

 

*Photos from Unsplash

About the author

Cate Palmer

Cate is an IT girl by day and a writer by night. Her fields of expertise could be summed up to web design and digital marketing. Her interests are, on the other hand, wide and ever-evolving. These days Cate is quite passionate about helping businesses in all aspects of online marketing. Cate is also one of the editors at Media Gurus.

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