“All things splendid have been achieved by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.”
Bruce Barton – Author
A long time civil rights activist, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” I want to take her truthful observation and use it today so you can design your own destiny. I want to offer you seven key points to remember about divorce and your self-esteem.
Every event in your life contributes to who you are today. So I wondered, were there were any exceptions? For example, divorce, some people believe, reduces self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence are three terms, often used interchangeably, to describe our perception of ourselves at a moment in time and place.
Has divorce really damaged your self-esteem?
Is it really true that divorce damages how we perceive ourselves? In my professional and personal experience, not necessarily. It depends on the individual’s level of self- awareness. Let me explain briefly.
Family Memories Tell the Truth
If you ask your Mom or Dad, they will tell you that when you were born, you had plenty of all three: lots of self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. If you are skeptical, check it out. Ask them for their stories of your childhood where you displayed these traits in a memorable way. I am certain they will have several to offer you.
These are often some of the most memorable events in your parent’s parenting years. I remember my oldest daughter’s determination to use the bathroom standing up. I remember my middle daughter’s determination to challenge her insensitive teacher. I remember my youngest daughter’s determination to move on her own to another country.
These memories are so significant to all concerned because they demonstrate that self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence are there, even at a young age, at all times.
Let’s get even more specific for a moment. Do you realize for the first two years of your life you got your every need met with just a few grunts, smiles and cries. And you didn’t even speak the language of the country you were in then.
Elizabeth Alruane said it this way, “You are as amazing as you let yourself be. Let me repeat that. You are as amazing as you let yourself be.”
It’s Not a Matter of If, but When
What kind of belief and attitude does it take to know you can communicate with “giants” and do it every day successfully, until you learn to talk?
Yet you did it and every child does it. This is because you were born believing you were valuable and could be, do and have anything; you were a genius. Do you ever recall seeing a child with this attitude written all over his face?
One of the easiest times is when they are learning to crawl or walk. Their little faces just beam with determination. There is no hesitation, no second guessing and no doubt. It is not a matter of if they will do it, but only when they will do it. You were that way, too.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~Albert Einstein
So, this same attitude prevails as well when you experience a divorce. But, don’t believe me. Be skeptical. That’s healthy. But let’s check it out.
How did your divorce actually change your life for the better?
Assuming you are reading this because you have experienced a divorce or know someone who has, I would ask you to go back to that experience for a moment and consider this question.
What did you learn from your divorce which has changed your perception of yourself forever?
Now some would say things like: “I felt unloved.” or “I felt rejected.” or “I think I failed.” And while these are comments some people make, they only reflect half the truth.
If you look deeper there is another set of learnings which also occurs simultaneously.
They are often expressed in this way: “I learned to be more independent.” or “I learned to take care of me.” or “I learned to design my own destiny.”
This is not to deny or demean the down sides of divorce; they are there and they are real. But it is equally true there are up sides to divorce which impact your self-esteem.
3 Real Life Examples :
Brenda struggled for 15 years in a miserable marriage where she felt dependent and demeaned most of the time. Then, when her two children were in high school, she left the relationship, moved across town and started her own janitorial business. Her divorce shifted her perception of herself to an independent, smart, self-confident, successful entrepreneur. This enabled her to uncover self-esteem she had not felt since her childhood.
Edith was in an affluent marriage for over 20 years, raising two kids. But while her spouse was devoted to their children, their personal relationship left her feeling neglected and forgotten. Her self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence was so undermined by this, she eventually moved out and got a divorce. She soon found someone who valued her more and who was willing to make time for her. And they married. Edith kept her close relationships with her children and developed a cordial one with her ex-spouse. She took control of her life and rediscovered her self-esteem.
And then there was Paul, divorced three times and married again. He noted how each divorce had helped him gain self-esteem in a unique way. Paul said his first divorce helped him gain more self-worth by learning to be more sensitive about what a partner needs for her own space within the relationship. His second divorce enabled him to raise his self-esteem by learning his in-laws were sacred territory and not to be disrespected. And his third divorce showed him the importance of being true to himself within a relationship. Paul said it was because he had rebuilt his self-esteem with his three divorces that he was in his fourth marriage and appreciating himself and his relationship. Thich Nhat Hanh, author and poet, captured it perfectly with, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
Quiz: Check Your Self-esteem After Divorce
- What if everyone, including you, has significant benefits to be gleaned from divorce which have helped build their self-esteem?
- So are you ready to find out for yourself?
- Are you ready for my best guess how your divorce has served you in your self-esteem building?
OK, here it is.
Answer each statement as True or False, honestly.
I will bet at least three, and usually more, of these benefits are true for you.
“More Self-esteem from Divorce” Quiz
Read each of the seven quiz questions carefully marking True (T) or False (F):
- You have developed a renewed appreciation for how smart and capable you are to have come through your divorce.
- You have either developed a new appreciation for your job, or perhaps decided you need to be more conscious of your career in the future.
- You have gotten smarter financially in some important way like managing your spending or reducing your debt.
- You now know how to distinguish
real friends from acquaintances and you value those real friends even more.
- You have closer ties with specific family members such as parents, siblings, children or others.
- You are more health conscious and taking better care of yourself, perhaps by exercising more and eating better.
- Your spirit is stronger in ways which surprise you at times, such as being more determined or more reflective.
Now, connect your values so you can get on with your life
Now, make a list of the ones which apply to you. And then, just for the fun of it, connect each one to an important value you already hold in life.
So for example, if you are more determined since your divorce, why is this so important to you now and how has determination been instrumental to you in the past?
And remember it isn’t that you have gained more determination from divorce but rather you have uncovered the determination you had when you were born.
Maybe what we really mean by “recovery” is actually rediscovery of hidden resources we always had. As Haifa said, “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
So, divorce is really a self-esteem development tool used by about half of all married people to grow themselves and their partner.
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.”
~~Ralph Waldo Emerson
POINTS TO PONDER are:
- Self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence are words used to describe our perception of ourselves at a moment in time and place.
- Whether divorce is damaging to self-esteem depends on the individual’s level of self-awareness.
- You were born with plenty of self-esteem, just ask your parents.
- Nature ensures every child has a belief in their ability to deal with each life challenge.
- You learned vital lessons from your divorce which enable you to rediscover the self-esteem you had as a child.
- Find your specific divorce learnings and notice how they have raised your self-esteem in very specific areas of your life.
- Divorce is actually a self-esteem tool used by about half of all married people to grow themselves and their partner.