You feel rejected after a recent separation or breakup.
You’re still licking your wounds, grieving your hopes and dreams, trying to make sense of what happened, adjusting to this new chapter in your life.
You have a hard time moving on, whereas your ex may be ready to date again.
Anger, shock, betrayal, disappointment, hurt, sadness… and with it often come the Why? What? How?
You start remembering all the reasons why the relationship ended, most of which you took personally. “If I were smarter, prettier, more passionate, had a job…. He/she/they would have stayed with me,” are common thoughts in that situation.
Your inner discourse telling you why you’re not good enough.
Why do we get so triggered and beat ourselves up after a relationship ends?
1- It's temporary: Stressful times make you more sensitive
During a fragile time like a separation, we feel more sensitive, and we’re more prone to feeling down and take things personally.
Very normal. You're off-balance.
You're going through a major life transition and you're probably not well rested most days. Maybe you usually feel pretty good about yourself but that breakup has made room for some doubt to come in and some negative thoughts you don't usually have.
This is a temporary state. You will bounce back sooner than later. And check my next blog posts for some tips to help you
2- The seed was planted a long time ago
Another possibility is that your self-esteem was not that high to start with, but with time you’ve found ways to cover it up and manage it by being in a relationship that gave you some reassurance. Maybe you thought:"if my partner loves me, I may not be that bad".
If you’re honest with yourself, you know that the patch your relationship gave you was not full proof either. You still had these negative beliefs about yourself more often than not. You still felt unsatisfied with the way you looked, thought, felt, behaved and judged yourself harshly.
Don’t get me wrong, we all need some reassurance at times, and our partner can be a great source for it. But when you get it all from the same person and that person is never yourself, it becomes imbalanced. It’s the superficial patch, you hide a hole on a wall by putting a frame in front of it.
You probably get what I mean because now when you interact with your ex, there’s no more reassurance and love, which sustained you for so long. You interpret everything your ex says as a criticism, or a personal attack of your character. (Note that you may also be dealing with a very critical person, which may not help). You have a hard time asserting yourself leaving you feeling incompetent, and worthless at times.
Here’s the thing, you tend to get hurt by what your ex says because it resonates with something that deep down you believe too. You may not even be conscious of it.
Think about it. Did your ex tell you that the kids were still hungry after you fed them, or did you hear something along the lines of "I’m a terrible mom”?
We all have negative beliefs about ourselves; they vary based on our life experiences and how we make sense of them.
Our minds trick us with their "personal pain translators" to interpret words in a negative way that resonates with what we already hold true about ourselves.
If I believe in my core that I’m not good enough, that will be one of my default filter to interpret my interactions with others.
If I said to you "you didn’t do the dishes again", depending on what your personal beliefs about yourself are, your personal pain translator may hear "I’m never good enough", "I’m a failure", "I’m not a good person"...(OK, sometimes we’re just simply stressed out and tired, therefore hypersensitive. You'll know the difference if it's occasional for you or if it's more of a pattern.)
If you feel confident about yourself, and emotionally stable, this statement will just bounce back and you may just acknowledge to your partner that you didn't do them, keep your cool and move on. The statement will wash over you but not stick, and hit something deeper to resonate with and create inner chaos.
An Opportunity for Growth
A separation opens a window of opportunity for personal growth as it can bring deeper personal challenges to the surface. So here you are, at a choice point.
You can either decide to seize that opportunity and start improving your self-esteem so you feel happier and more empowered, or...
Maybe, you’re not ready to tackle it. That’s OK.
Know that life will probably find a way down the road to remind you that it’s still a challenge for you, and you will certainly bring that baggage in your next relationship. You may meet someone else that will patch your self-esteem again, and you run the risk to be again in the dumps if the relationship ends.
Sometimes we need more experiences of the same pain to be ready for change.
So what’s next if you want to change?
How do you build that self-esteem back? You can tackle it by yourself or seek some professional support if it feels too overwhelming.
In my next blog post, I will share 5 ways to help you boost your self-esteem.
Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo
About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in couples and women dealing with major life transitions. She helps them move from feeling scared and overwhelmed to finding balance and a new normal in their lives. Valerie also provides counseling to couples to help them heal, reconnect, and grow happiness.