Skip to main content

14 Steps to Rebuild Your Self-Esteem After Being Cheated On

Shirley is a published author from Michigan who enjoys studying the psychology of relationships. She is married and has two grown sons.

Learn how to rebuild your self-esteem after discovering infidelity.

Learn how to rebuild your self-esteem after discovering infidelity.

Rebuilding Confidence After Discovering Infidelity

You've found out that your significant other has cheated, and you've taken a direct hit to your self-esteem. After the shock has worn off, one of most painful after-effects is feeling as if you're not attractive, intelligent, or interesting. Your self-confidence (that was in good shape the day before the discovery) is now shattered.

However, I'm here to tell you that you can—and will—feel whole again. Remember that you're the same amazing person now that you were before the discovery of the affair. And, with extra self-care, you'll be back in good shape again. Some work on your ego is definitely in order. With these simple tips, you'll be looking in the mirror and smiling at the awesome person who overcame this painful bump in the road like a champion.

How to Rebuild Your Self-Esteem After Being Cheated On

  1. Remember that you're not alone.
  2. Stop your inner critic.
  3. Know that it probably had nothing to do with you (really).
  4. Give it time.
  5. Love yourself the way you are.
  6. Think constructively and neutralize the negatives.
  7. Remember that the other person isn't perfect either.
  8. Give your courage a workout and take a risk.
  9. Help someone.
  10. Chin up and shoulders straight for a boost of self-confidence!
  11. Get moving!
  12. Write about your achievements.
  13. Talk positively about someone every day.
  14. Lastly, turn up the volume!

Step 1: Remember That You're Not Alone

Finding out that your partner cheated can make you feel rejected and isolated, but you're definitely not, and the statistics show that you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't been cheated on. Just knowing this may give you some type of comfort because you're one in millions of people across the world who are dealing with this situation everyday. Surprisingly, the numbers also show that both men and women run neck in neck with regards to infidelity:

  • Men and women both play the cheating game, with 57% of men admitting to infidelity and 54% of women admitting to the same.
  • 74% of men and 68% if women say yes, they would have an affair if they knew they'd never get caught.
  • Amazingly, 56% of men and 34% of women say they'd cheat even thought they're happy in their current relationships.
  • There's no direct link between being unhappy in a marriage and cheating.
  • The tendency to cheat may be genetic, and is linked to alcoholism, and gambling.
  • 41% of marriages have either partner admitting they cheated emotionally or physically.
  • 30% to 60% of married individual admitted to cheating, but that number may be low considering the fact that the very nature of infidelity is to be dishonest, and some people will be deceitful in studies conducted about being deceitful.

Step 2: Stop Your Inner Critic

Unfortunately, everyone has an inner critic, and it can say the most brutal things when you're at your lowest. You may not even notice when your critic starts talking because you've gotten used to the constant, negative background noise as you go about your day. Thoughts like; "I'm ugly," "I'm fat,' and "I'm no good," are your inner-critic's voice, and it'll keep with the same, ugly talk until you put a stop to it. Take these steps to put an end to it and take your precious self-esteem back:

  • As soon as you realize the negative talk has started, mentally yell "Stop!" Then make a concentrated effort to shift your focus onto something positive like; "I'm going to have a great time at the party next week!" Another line of thinking could be a reward-based thought; like, "I've worked so hard all week and I loved those silk pajamas I saw at the store, I'll buy them tonight because I deserve it!" Make a habit of taking notice when the put-downs start and you'll be on your way to ending the negative criticism altogether.
  • Give the bully a fitting name; refuse to sit quietly and listen when you hear the hate-speech start by rolling your eyes and saying, "Oh, it's Big-Mouth again," or "Here goes the Jerk yet again." Putting the mental demon in its place with an appropriate name will give you a feeling of control and eventually make the critic throw his hands up and go away.

Step 3: Know That It Probably Had Nothing to Do With You (Really)

The tendency to ask yourself 'Why?' and desperately look to yourself for the answers is common among people who've been cheated on. Many times, the injured partner will reason that it's somehow their fault; "If only I looked different," "If only I had more money," or "If only I had acted differently."

Being vulnerable and picking yourself apart to find answers will damage your self-esteem even more, when the truth is, there's no rhyme or reason for infidelity. Beautiful, successful people like Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, and supermodel Christie Brinkley have all reportedly been cheated on. And people that you come in contact with every day; your ultra-confident boss, your friendly bank teller, the supermarket clerk with the perfect figure and your neighbor with the best social skills could be going through relationship infidelity.

When you stand back and look at the commonality of cheating in relationships, you'll see that cheaters will cheat; they'll cheat on anyone, no matter what their significant other looks like, what their employment status is or what they did or didn't do in the relationship. You're okay the way you are, and the chance that the cheating didn't have anything to do with you is extremely high.

Give yourself time to heal

Give yourself time to heal

Step 4: Give It Time

It's difficult to feel any relief from the intense pain of being cheated on you until some time has passed. To help you get some perspective, think back to any past relationships that have ended—no matter the reason—and the tremendous heartache you felt at the time. Do you still feel the same devastation and pain?

Although you still might feel some twinge of pain, it's probably not the anguish you felt at that time. The cliche that 'time heals all wounds' is fairly accurate, and when that time is spent giving yourself extra self-care, the heartache you're in now will eventually ease up; just like all the other heartaches you've recovered from in your life. Trust in your heart's ability to recover in its own time, take a deep breath, and begin the process of recovery with baby steps.

Step 5: Love Yourself the Way You Are

After finding out your partner has cheated on you, you might start noticing all of your mistakes and faults more, even ones that aren't real. Suddenly you may feel that your hair is too curly, your hips too big, or your nose is too small.

Don't get caught up in the trap of disillusionment; it's self-destructive and provides nothing for your healing process. You might also think that everyone sees and judges little mistakes you make like forgetting someone's name or making a mistake at work, and suddenly you feel even more insecure. Give yourself some slack and realize that at the end of the day, your uniqueness and beauty are all your own, and no one can take that from you.

Step 6: Think Constructively and Neutralize the Negatives

Magnifying things you'd like to change about yourself and turning them into put-downs like; "I'm fat," or "I'm stupid," leads to more self-esteem damage that you can't possibly benefit from. Categorize things that you'd like to improve and turn them into goals. Some examples are:

  • Instead of "I'm fat," say, "I'm going to join that gym and lose five pounds by summer."
  • Turn "I'm stupid," into "I going to enhance my computer skills by taking a computer class this fall."
  • Make "I'm a slob," into "I'm going to organize my closet on Saturday."
  • Instead of "I'm ugly," say "I'm going to pick out a new hairstyle and have it done next Friday."
  • Be your own best friend. Take "I can't do anything right," into "Really? That's a big statement from someone has a job, owns a home, helps support a charity and is an awesome cook!"

By neutralizing the negative talk, you'll not only get the critic off your back, but you'll get your mind on more constructive thoughts, get a realistic perspective on situations and gain more self-esteem when you achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Step 7: Remember That the Other Person Isn't Perfect Either

Comparing yourself to the person your partner cheated on you with will only lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration. It'll help to remember that what you think you see in the other person isn't really the truth at all; it's your low self-esteem and jealousy talking, and neither your partner or anyone else that knows that person thinks that they're the perfect specimen of a human being.

Don't waste your time thinking about them; think about healing yourself and making at least one good thing come out of situation; if not several good things, like some of the suggestions that follow.

Jealousy - The great exaggerator.

— Johann C. Schiller

Give your courage muscle a workout!

Give your courage muscle a workout!

Step 8: Give Your Courage a Workout and Take a Risk

Do something that you'd like to do but have hesitated to do in the past (as long as no physical harm is possible). Whether you succeed or not isn't the point; it's the actual self-esteem that you'll get from having the courage to try something new and knowing that you did your best. You'll be surprised at the confidence-boost you'll get from having the courage to try something new, whether it be on a small scale or a larger scale. Some things you can think about doing are:

  • Wear a bold color of shirt or outfit that you wouldn't normally wear
  • Go out of your way to start a conversation with someone
  • Go back to school or sign up for a class to learn a new language, a hobby or a new skill
  • Try a slightly different hair color
  • Take a hot-air balloon ride
  • Go camping by yourself for the weekend
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about an issue that you feel passionate about
  • Start a blog
  • Take yourself out to dinner and a movie

Step 9: Help Someone Else

Reach out and give of yourself in whatever capacity you can. Let someone who has fewer items than you do go ahead of you at the checkout; tell your coworker how much you love their hairstyle; donate to a charity, or spend a weekend morning working at the soup kitchen. When you do for others, (especially if they can't repay you) you raise your self-esteem and you feel valuable to the world and the people in it; giving you a sense of power and self-worth. And, who knows; you might form some valuable relationships along the way.

Chin up, shoulders back and hands on hips for a shot of confidence!

Chin up, shoulders back and hands on hips for a shot of confidence!

Step 10: Chin Up and Shoulders Straight for a Boost of Self-Confidence!

Straightening your posture creates chemical changes in your body that will give you an extra boost of self-esteem within three minutes!. When you physically make yourself larger by raising your chin, straightening your spine and bringing your shoulders back, you mentally feel bigger and more important. This position, called the 'power-pose', raises your testosterone (confidence hormone) level by 20% and lowers your cortisol (the anxiety hormone) levels by 25%. Higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol lead to higher levels of self-confidence. Give it a try right now and feel the power!

Step 11: Get Moving!

Exercising for just 30 minutes three times a week can have a noticeable, positive impact on your self-confidence. Breaking a sweat for that little bit of time also causes the release of beta-endorphins (feel-good chemicals) and lowers those nasty cortisol levels (anxiety hormone) making you feel better in general.

If you'd like to lose weight, your self-esteem will also increase when you lose those extra pounds, but the feel-good chemicals are released regardless of why you're exercising. The only variance is that aerobic exercise—especially when it's done with other people—tends to have more of an impact on self-esteem, possibly because of the emotional support from others. It doesn't even have to be a high-intensity workout; 30 minutes of moderate exercise will do the trick, and if you're already exercising, increasing your time by a few minutes will provide an added boost in self-esteem.

Write down your accomplishments - big and little!

Write down your accomplishments - big and little!

Step 12: Write About Your Achievements

Get your pen and paper out and write down all of your accomplishments, big and small, for at least ten minutes a day. You can list everyday things, like "I finished painting the living room today" and the big, life-changing things, like "Bought my first home in 2014." Doing this will remind you that you have an important place in this world and also make you proud of all of your achievements, past and present.

Step 13: Talk Positively About Someone Every Day

The words you speak aren't 'just words,' they actually have an effect on your self-esteem and mood. Studies show that speaking well of someone will cause a 5% increase in your self-esteem, and speaking negatively about someone will cause a 34% increase in your negative feelings.

And that's not all: doctors have found that just one negative or positive word can have a positive or negative reaction in your brain. Also, just thinking (and focusing) on a positive word can cause physical changes in the brain; affecting the way you see yourself and the way you see those around you. More than enough reasons to speak, act and think in a positive way as much as possible!

Words - The most powerful drug used by mankind.

— Rudyard Kipling

Step 14: Lastly, Turn Up the Volume!

Have you ever noticed that the type of music that you're listening to has a direct effect on your mood? There's nothing wrong with listening to songs of heartbreak, and they may help you flush out some of your grief, but to get the feeling of overcoming no matter what the situation, listen to these to these uplifting songs:

  • "It's Not Right But It's Okay" - Whitney Houston
  • "Fighter" - Christina Aguilera
  • "Perfect" - P!nk
  • "All Fired Up" - Pat Benetar
  • "I'm Still Standing" - Elton John
  • "Stronger" - Kelly Clarkson
  • "Don't Stop" - Fleetwood Mac
  • "Higher Ground" - Stevie Wonder
  • "Simply the Best" - Tina Turner
  • "Roar" - Katy Perry
  • "What Have You Done for Me Lately" - Janet Jackson
  • "The Climb" - Miley Cyrus
  • "Firework" - Katy Perry
  • "Lose Yourself" - Eminem
  • "We Will Rock You" - Queen
  • "Girl on Fire" - Alicia Keys
  • "I Won't Back Down" - Tom Petty
  • "Uptown Funk" - Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  • "Born This Way" - Lady Gaga
  • "Control" - Janet Jackson
  • "Baby I'm a Star" - Prince
  • "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
  • "Blow Me" - P!nk

Music: A safe kind of high.

— Jimi Hendrix

Signs of a Successful Relationships

Do you want to give your partner another try? Here are some of the features that successful relationships have in common.

  • Being and speaking optimistically
  • Getting out of the rut and having new experiences together
  • Having a healthy sexual relationship
  • Congratulating each other on victories, large and small
  • Participating in activities that are outside of the relationship.
  • Having friends and activities that are outside of the relationship
  • Sharing chores
  • Communicating constructively instead of playing the 'blame game'

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What do I do if I am still afraid that my partner will cheat again?

Answer: That's a valid question, and I've been through those feelings. I think marriage counseling is a good idea - if your partner will go. But, if your feelings are strong, to the point of being unhappy, you might want to consider breaking it off; so you can live your life without that fear.

Question: How can I forget the times my partner spoke with another partner on the phone behind my back?

Answer: If you're still with the cheating partner, you'll probably never forget it. They are there, with you all the time to remind you.

Question: I cheated on my husband and made him believe he was crap. Now he knows that I cheated on him. How hurt is he? He doesn't talk to me anymore.

Answer: I would think that if he knows you cheated on him, and he doesn't speak to you anymore, that he's incredibly hurt, as anyone would be.

Question: He is constantly cheating, and we're set to wed in December. Is it too late to break it off? What should I do?

Answer: I don't know why anyone would want to marry someone who is constantly cheating, (they don't change after marriage) but, if it were me, I would cancel the wedding and get as far away from him as I could get! So, the answer to your question is: No! It's never too late!

Question: Since they are cheaters, should their outside friends be of the opposite sex?

Answer: Cheaters don't care about rules. They will cheat no matter what.

Question: Why did my partner have a woman's address and phone number hidden from me?

Answer: I think there's only one reason a partner would hide someone else's contact info from another partner; he didn't want you to see it for a very good reason.

Question: Is cheating ok?

Answer: No.

© 2017 Shirley Urso-Farmer