How to Maintain Self-Worth After a Breakup
The more painful the breakup, the more we tend to focus on what we lost instead of what we still have. However, throughout the stages of disappointment, grief and anger at losing the love relationship, self-worth should be among the values we focus on maintaining.
Self-worth (synonym of self-esteem) is “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect1.” It requires that instead of blaming ourselves, we accept responsibility for our contribution to the break-up and forgive ourselves.
Maintaining our self-worth is also worth losing the desire for revenge. It will help us keep a level head. It will empower us to put our efforts into moving forward, instead of trying to keep back the other person.
While we process the accepting and forgiving up to the point where we manage our emotions effectively, the following ideas will help keep our self-worth intact.
(1) Take Care of Yourself
Take charge. As with any other significant loss, the loss of a relationship is stressful. Dr. Sheri Meyers, Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, suggests a holistic approach2 involving four core areas to help us take care of ourselves and manage our recovery.
- Physical: Avoid the abuse of food and drugs (meditate, not medicate), choose nutritious foods, get adequate sleep and exercise.
- Emotional: Cry, write, self-talk or whatever it takes to deal with feelings rather than ignore them. Keep company with people who uplift the spirit.
- Mental: Focus on pleasant thoughts and speak calming affirmations.
- Spiritual: Practice gratitude to change the mood from gloomy to happy. Practice generosity, which gives a feeling of empowerment.
The alternative is an out-of-control situation in which we may try to avoid pain by making rash decisions: rushing into another relationship to prove self-worth; or crazy spending on clothes, entertainment or travel as an antidote to loneliness.
Self-worth sparkles if we pass the test in patience, self-control, and wisdom. Get help, if necessary from a trustworthy source; don’t neglect divine help.
(2) Lose the Regret
It is normal to experience some regret, but it could be disastrous to get stuck in it. Regret recognizes that different choices would have produced a different outcome.
In a situation where we can alter the choices, regret may have a positive payoff; but when two people have decided to end a relationship, they have most likely tried and failed to rework the situation.
Because regret looks backward, it has to be managed in the interest of personal progress.
- Does looking back at the relationship make the individual feel foolish, miserable, humiliated, hopeless? Those feelings can sabotage self-worth. They need to be replaced with resolutions for restoration.
- Does looking back present an opportunity to learn from the experience? Then extract whatever lessons can be learned and move forward.
(3) Celebrate Your Values
Suppose an old love letter from an ex-sweetheart or ex-husband surfaces. It contains expressions of love and reasons that he loved you — your charm, friendly personality, humor, kindness and the other attractive virtues. Would you read it?
Those words boosted your sense of worth the first time you read them. Your concern should be whether they are still true; most likely they are because character assets are among the things you do not lose.
Whenever your ex comes to mind—through a letter, a Facebook photo, or an actual glimpse, focus on the values you still have despite losing the relationship. Train your mind to celebrate the essence of who you still are. Think of your value as higher, not lower, for having survived adversity.
(4) Maintain Good Judgment
The mistakes you made in entering or ending the relationship are unfortunate; but what about the mistakes you did not make? Didn’t you reject some ideas which could have produced more damaging results? Because of your good judgment, the worst did not happen.
Continue to do things which feed your sense of worth:
- Stop caring about what the other person is doing and with whom; dismiss excuses to check his or her Facebook page and drool over photographs; spend the time adjusting your schedule to accommodate new activities and events.
- Resist the temptation to talk about the other person's flaws; tell your friends who ask for an explanation of the breakup that like so many other relationships, things did not work out for yours.
- You do not have to show up at all the functions you used to attend together, with all the friends you both share; but when you do, be pleasant.
- Be civil to your ex if your paths ever cross; give the kind of respect you deserve, whereby establishing your respectability.
Loving, Letting Go, Moving On
(5) Get Back on Track
The American Psychological Association (APA) offers counsel on rebounding3 after a life-changing experience. They believe that after struggling with any kind of loss, people grow stronger. They learn something about themselves, develop spirituality, find better relationships and experience an increased sense of self-worth.
The APA suggests a daily answer to the following question:
"What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"— APA
Although you are the primary beneficiary of your survival, there are other people in your sphere of influence who will be inspired by your resiliency. Share with them who you are and what you can do; not what happened to you (except for the purpose of empowering them).
Your aim is not only to survive the breakup, but to allow the lessons you learned from it to make you better and wiser, and help you advance. What begins feeling like a loss could become an enhancement to your self-worth. Eventually, you gain more than you lose.
1. © 2014 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Dictionary, self-worth
2. Meyers,Sherri: Huffington Post, Women, 'It's Over!' 10 Breakup Survival Tips to Get You Through It (08/15/2012)
3. American Psychological Association, Psychology Help Center, The Road to Resilience (visited 5/7/2014)
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Dora Weithers