Tuesday, May 14, 2013

10 Tips to Build Self Confidence After a Breakup or Divorce

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building self-confidence

This is a list of suggestions for ways to work with your self-confidence after a relationship breakup or divorce. To be perfectly honest, I wrestled with half of the ideas on this list. One of the things I had the most difficulty with was avoiding what I call escape routes -- things I like to do to run away from emotional pain. Even though I have a strong meditation and awareness practice, I was very adept at masterminding escape routes throughout my separation, divorce, and recovery process.

Also, I was probably in denial for over a year after my divorce, but I was so deep in denial that I had perfected the art of denying that my denial even existed!! So working with denial and acceptance can be a slippery business.

I offer these tips as starting points for getting curious about your confidence after a breakup or divorce. They aren't measurements or goals, but rather ways of noticing how you're doing, where you've slid off course, and give you a sense of how to get back to center. How you're doing is neither "good" nor "bad." It's just the way things are with you today and tomorrow will be different.

Work with Denial & Acceptance

The best medicine I have for working with denial and creating acceptance is staying in the present moment. Like a detective look around you and observe with intensity the present moment and realize the person you loved is not with you and let everything be as it is. Accept this moment exactly how it is and accept that being without this person is how it is. Be gentle and kind to yourself as you work with your denial and acceptance of change.

Express Your Feelings

Try not to let your feelings become trapped inside your body and mind. Express your feelings to friends and family members that you trust or a support group. If you like to write, utilize a journal to express your feelings.

Explore Your Self-Esteem

Consider your breakup or divorce as an opportunity to explore possible issues with self-esteem. Work with a therapist to understand issues of low self-esteem that may have been triggered by your breakup or divorce.

Create a New Social Life

Look at the people in your life. Who do you socialize with and why? Use this breakup or divorce as a time to examine what kind of social life you want to have in your life and make appropriate changes if necessary. Do you want to bond with family more? Do you want to find communities that have the same interests as you? Have you grown out of certain friendships and need to find new ones that match your values and interests?

Avoid Escape Routes

Experiencing a breakup or divorce can be scary and one of our primal survival instincts tells us to flee from anything painful. It can be challenging to just sit with feelings and body sensations regarding your loss. You might find yourself using escape routes to avoid your feelings of grief, shame, insecurity, anger, and fear.

Pay attention to your behavior and notice if you are searching for an escape route to avoid pain. If you identify a possible escape route you are using, stop engaging in the behavior, sit, do nothing, and just be with your feelings and body sensations instead. Here are some possible forms of escape:

  • Getting involved in a new love interest too soon after your breakup.
  • Staying overly busy at work as a form of distraction.
  • Engaging in addictive behavior such as food, drugs, alcohol, or an activity.
  • Obsessing on the details of things like managing your kids lives, a project, etc.
  • Becoming attached to a particular routine. 

Think About Something Else

After your breakup or divorce, you might think about your ex-partner a lot. Try to interrupt your thoughts with something else. Write a positive affirmation using my free ebook Lemonade Mantras or come up with a phrase to say so as to notice when you have started down the rabbit hole of your thinking. Your could label it "silly story" or maybe you relate your ex to something you crave like chocolate and it could be something that makes you laugh such as "peanut butter cup."

It may take 40-90 days to soften your thinking about your ex in this way. Later when you've stopped with your "what if's," "shoulds," or internal conversations about blame you might use a loving kindness meditation to let go of your past relationship and start thinking of them in a positive way. Click here to download a free loving kindness meditation guide.

Make a List of Positive Things

Sit down and write a list of 50 things you like about yourself. They can be qualities you see in yourself or special talents. Make sure you complete the list. I'm sure there are actually more than 50; however, you may be struggling to see positive attributes in yourself right now so make a commitment to finish the list.

Believe in Your Value

You may have not felt valued, appreciated, or loved in your past relationship. Make a list of 10 things about you (experiences, wisdom, or actions), which contribute to the well-being of others and the world. Circle the one thing that has the most meaning for you and write it on a post-it note. Stick it on your refrigerator or computer so you can see it every day.

Periodically throughout your day while interacting with others at work, home, and socializing ask yourself, "Do I feel valued and loved here?" If the answer is "No," ask yourself who you want to be with or what you want to be doing instead. Start making appropriate changes in your life to be in the places and with the people who value what you have to share with the world.

Integrate New Lessons

Instead of thinking of your past relationship as a form of personal failure or a mistake, think of it as a beautiful book about life that you just finished reading. What did you learn from this relationship? What new things were brought into your life because of this relationship? How have you grown or been altered because of this relationship? What do you want to work with now because of the experience of this relationship?

Create Healthy Risks

You loved someone. You took a risk. After your breakup or divorce you may be reluctant to take all different kinds of risks because you are afraid of feeling any sort of emotional pain. Start small and create healthy risks that you can build upon. For instance, maybe you haven't ridden your bike in a couple of years and you start riding on the weekend. Later when you're feeling more confident, perhaps you build on this experience and join a group of people who ride bikes, learn how to repair your bike, or even take a bike trip.

In the beginning, choose a healthy risk (preferably not related to a love interest) where you can feel safe and have some control over decision making. Later when you feel more confident, start letting go of control more and more so taking risks, trying, failing, and mastering feels like a natural part of who you are again.

If you are experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to download my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping you through the process of letting go of a love relationship.

To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on mending after the loss of love, check out my Web site here.