by Niamh Edwards
Finding Your Self Worth After Your Relationship Ends
A note of concern: If you have prolonged feelings and symptoms of Depression due to your breakup, such as no energy, loss of weight and appetite, panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide, please seek professional help and guidance. There are links at the end of this article.
Finding your self-worth when your relationship ends: a love letter from one girl to another.
Your self-worth can take a dip when a relationship ends, especially if the relationship was long-term, or the breakup wasn't wholly mutual (which is rarely the case). Even if the relationship was short-lived, perhaps even just a few dates old, for whatever reason, when things come to an end, you may find yourself in a place where you question yourself; your desirability, your confidence, and maybe even life itself.
There is no question that a partner can have a huge impact on your life, for better or worse. And so it is justifiable, normal, and 100% okay to see your breakup as a big deal.
Everybody experiences breakups differently. You may be absolutely fine (even relieved!) or feel completely traumatised over the ordeal. However you feel, you are probably not alone in feeling the way you do.
This particular article, however, is for those of you feeling on the bluer end of the scale (put mildly for some).
So we begin matter of factly. As well as the mental health effects of a breakup: sadness, fatigue, depression, anxiety, stress and so on. The stress from a breakup can manifest itself physically and can feel (if not be) debilitating. So it is crucially important to get help where you can, and that may be starting with yourself (self-care).
Low self-worth and self-esteem after a breakup are, again, common, but it is important to keep a keen eye-on and check-in with ourselves to make sure that they don't spiral into unhealthy patterns of behaviour.
By no means is this article the definitive answer to finding your self-worth; after all, I am currently on this learning process myself. But through research, self-care practices, lived experiences picked up from my previous relationships, advice received from and given to friends and family (or drunk people in the pub toilets...), I'm going to give you all I know.
Firstly, my new blue (but soon to be sparkly) friend, remove all judgment of yourself and others. Don't judge yourself harshly for anything you're feeling or have felt; allow yourself to do what you need to do first and get it out of the way (like crying to everybody on the phone and or eating six bars of Tony's Chocolate). If someone close to you was upset, angry, or distressed, try to think of how you would help them; you wouldn't tell them to stop feeling; you would listen without judgment.
Following this, learn to accept the positive comments that people you care about say to you. The support from being around the people who make you feel happy and safe is key; they may be affirming the things that you thought you had lost from your relationship - maybe you didn't even receive these things from your ex-partner/s. It is good to acknowledge that people can love and respect you, whether romantically or not. Of course, not all self-worth comes from other people's opinions, it is called SELF-worth after all, but hopefully, the positive messages ring true somewhere in your mind.
JOURNALING AND SELF UNDERSTANDING
Writing down your feelings, experiences, and anything relating to the relationship is a helpful way to recount what you may not have realised at the time. Don't linger on the feelings; just get it all out on paper. It can give a form of closure for the things you may not have understood at the time. Upon reflection, you may be able to process things differently. If the relationship was traumatic in any way, it might not be easy to recount everything, but documenting what happened and how you felt in certain situations, can help you to work through complex emotions and be in a more rational frame of mind, which can help on the road to recovery.
It's possible that a breakup could dig up some old and unwanted insecurities. But tackling those thoughts and actually dealing with them will benefit you going forward for the long haul.
Enabling yourself to move on may be difficult. However, you are not your trauma, and it doesn't dictate how you get to live your life. From my own experience, the people who cannot open up and learn to express their feelings, good or bad, tend to relive and repeat the same patterns.
Of course, feelings can sometimes be terrifying and overwhelming, but it is important to recognise that with the bad comes the good. When you've been hurt, the idea of loving somebody else again can feel impossible or even pointless! So as cliche as it is, 'loving yourself' can be your first step into allowing yourself to experience love again.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of your relationship fully, with as much or as little time as you feel you need. It can be a major life event, and it sometimes feels like a death.
Writing enables you to start the purge of negative thoughts and memories from your mind.
In writing down the negative aspects of what happened within your relationship, or how you feel right now, can help you to understand what you want in the future and figure out what it is that you really need: what is it that made you feel happy, what made you feel bad?
For instance, you may want to feel loved and cared for; how can you go about this without going back to the previous relationship? Prioritise yourself, list your needs, and know your standards. What does it mean, to you, to be in a relationship? Do you feel like you are missing out if you aren't in on? Do you need to feel desired to feel whole or important? By setting out what YOU want for yourself, you become more aware of what isn't right and what doesn't work for you, as well as what does.
Remember, you are not missing half of yourself, you are, and have always been, a whole person.
A writing exercise idea:
Write down the things you DO want from a relationship. You may discover that your previous relationship didn't actually offer you what you wanted or needed. Focusing on the positive aspects of what you want, rather than the negative puts you in a far better frame of mind.
- I want someone that says kind words to me
- I want someone that appreciates what I do for them
- I want someone that treats me as equal to them
I think everyone should try some form of therapy at least once. Talking things through with someone who is there to listen and provide an objective standpoint to the things you have experienced, have felt and are currently feeling can be an eye-opening and useful form of release. There are specialised therapists out there that focus on relationships and the self.
For instance, your trust may have been broken, which can (sometimes) be challenging to mend without help. A therapist can help inform you of ways to re-establish that trust for your future relationships, as well as faith with yourself. Therapy can trigger a lot of emotions; so feel them. Crying is a huge element of self-care; keeping everything inside doesn't allow you to let go of the things that are troubling you. Crying isn't negative.
There are many different forms of therapy, from traditional talking therapy to CBT. You can also access to therapy online! Explore your options.
SELF EMPOWERMENT AND SELF CARE
The power of positive thinking can help to alter your view on things and potentially change your habits.
It can sometimes be challenging to recall your positive attributes after a breakup, especially if your ex-partner was abusive in some way. But consider what empowers you. What characteristics of you and your personality make you feel intelligent and confident? You don't have to push the boundaries here; it can be the simplest things you do. Of course, it is easier said than done when you're in a negative space, but try to push through whatever is holding you back.
You may be really talented at baking, or great at listening to those that need to vent. Maybe you're grateful for your hamster!
I know that I like to help people as best I can, and I feel empowered that I know my own boundaries. I feel confident when I wear false eyelashes, and I am very thankful for my bed! Everything has a positive side. Put your love into existing and new things, not your past.
If you're really stuck, ask your friends what it is they like about you.
Remember who you are. Life didn't begin when this relationship did, nor did it end. What made you happy before the relationship is a good place to start.
Something I discovered when researching how to recover from trauma, is to cater to your inner child. Things that brought you comfort as a child, like cuddling up in bed with your favourite film, or a snack your parent used to make for you, can bring you comfort today. Likewise, dancing without inhibition and rediscovering your wonder and curiosity for the world, can ignite feels of passion and love for life again.
You may feel like you're having an identity crisis because the things you enjoyed together, are now not the same. Temporarily it might be more difficult to find things you enjoy as they remind you of your ex. But there are so many facets to yourself, so many little niche and interesting parts to yourself that you may have forgotten, potentially even lost due to the compromises and aspects of yourself that you may have dialled back on in your relationship. This is the perfect opportunity to explore these things.
From baby steps to full routines, self-care rituals can be vital in keeping yourself feeling "human". As kind as you are to others, often we can forget everyday acts of kindness to ourselves; getting up and brushing your teeth and showering - simple things that make you feel "normal" and grounded. You are always worthy of having your basic needs met.
Rest is as necessary for recovering from mental, as it is with physical injury. Low-energy moments can be hard to push through, but doing what you can to manage each day, is a gradual way of getting back to a more comfortable space mentally and physically.
Maybe set a goal per day, like making your bed, even if you plan on sitting in it all day. Don't punish yourself for lack of productivity or low feelings; small acts of kindness can make you feel a world better.
Finding a feeling of comfort within your mind and body can help exponentially. Physical self-care activities like a nice bath, face mask, or massaging your feet with essential oils (as cliche as they may sound) can really help to give you a warm and pampered feeling.
When I am ever physically unwell, I feel much better once I have brushed my teeth or showered, it is the small things that often make the biggest difference. Like when you’re physically ill, acknowledging that you need a good amount of time to be nurtured and soothed allows you to fully recover.
I like to think about how romantic it would be if a loved one ran a bath for me if they saw me feeling down. It is such a simple but thoughtful gesture. How lovely that I can also offer that care to myself. A walk for a few minutes, sitting outside - even sitting near a window with it slightly open so you can hear the birds feels so healing.
Have compassion for yourself, if someone you know was going through a hard time; think of what you would do for them to feel better.
It is possible to enjoy your own company and love who you are. You may even appreciate yourself more than you did before. New opportunities are absolutely on your horizon. You can learn about yourself physically through dating, taking pictures that make you feel attractive, exploring masturbation, and generally getting to know your body better than anyone else could, so when that next someone shows up in your life, you don't ‘need’ them; instead they are an added pleasure in your life.
These are long term benefits, not just small throw away activities. By falling in love with yourself, you can see your own desirability, what you deserve, and start to cater to yourself.
Obviously it is nice to have somebody to tell you these lovely things, but it is perhaps more important knowing your own worth regardless of who comes in and out of your life. Eventually learning to ignore self-doubt will come more easily, and you may (and probably will, because…life) have setbacks, but having a solid foundation of self-worth will certainly help you along the way.
UK Sources, Links and Help:
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) - thecalmzone.net - 0800 585858
Samaritans - samaritans.org - UK Helpline - 116 123
Shout - 24/7 Free Text Based Helpline - 85258
Mind - mind.org.uk