Why you need to clean up your self-talk after divorce
Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson on Unsplash
We all have an inner critic.
The little corner of our mind that stands to the side, judging us harshly and constantly telling us what we could have done better. Holding us up to unrealistic standards and never allowing us to be the flawed humans we are.
Divorce is like the inner critic’s utopia. So much fodder! So many ways to find fault, guilt, blame, shame and then start piling it on top of you every day until you’re weak and depleted.
Those that initiate their divorces experience extreme guilt, and those that are left struggle with shame and a feeling of inadequacy.
If you’re anything like me, you went on a frantic and constant search for information on how to survive this onslaught after divorce.
The terms ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’ came up constantly.
When you hear the term self-love, what images come to mind?
A quick Google search bought up images of women hugging themselves, a lot of pink heart designs and a few bubble baths with a glass of wine made the cut.
Although self-care is often referred to as pampering yourself and doing things that bring you joy, I would like to share the true definition of loving yourself. A life-changing lesson I learnt after my divorce.
Spoiler alert: It’s nothing like a bubble bath!
Men, you need to hear this too because self-love is something we all need to do to feel good. In fact, many men suffer from being way too hard on themselves after divorce and the inevitable feelings of failure sink in.
Failure is linked to negative self-talk, which could be holding you back from taking risks and being able to connect and thrive in your relationships, your career, and working towards your life goals.
What self-love really is
Fundamentally, self-love is the act of being aware of how you talk to yourself and how you think every second of every day. I can honestly liken the realization of this to a personal epiphany.
Here’s a scenario that highlights how doing something nice for yourself is only a small part of self-care. I’m sitting in a bathtub with a scented candle, telling myself that I’m selfish and defective because I couldn’t keep my marriage together.
Does that sound like practising self-love to you?
True self-love is when you catch those thoughts and sucker punch them right in the middle of their faces.
That is actually what it felt like once I realised what I was doing to myself and decided to start speaking up against those voices.
I vividly remember the day I became cognizant of my constant self-talk in the first few months after my divorce. I was putting folded towels into the cupboard, and I heard a voice clear as day say, “I hate myself”.
I almost looked around to see who said it was so clear and noticeable. Up until that moment, I would have extremely negative and self-defeating thoughts and barely register them.
Thoughts such as the following were on a constant loop:
You’re a bad mother
Nobody will ever love you again
There’s no point in you even being here
You are dysfunctional and don’t know how to love
You’re unattractive, and you don’t have anything to offer
You are going to be alone forever, and that’s all you deserve
It takes a lot for me to put that into words and tell the world that that is what I was saying to myself. It’s very confronting to see those thoughts in a list.
Is it any wonder I ended up in a toxic relationship two years after my divorce?
When I look back on all the things I was saying to myself daily, I understand now why I had to look for someone else to tell me that I wasn’t any of these things.
If someone else could look at me and recognize that I had value, then all of the messages I was giving myself must be untrue. I must be ok after all.
All of sudden, I was being told how amazing I was, what a great mother, a career woman, so attractive, ‘out of his league’ etc.
I found emotional solace and relief in finally feeling worthy and appreciated.
It felt like being drip-fed morphine after lying broken on jagged rocks for years, bleeding out with no pain relief. Here was my pain relief in the form of grandiose statements of love and admiration that cancelled out the vitriolic voices.
This person knew that by bombarding me with affection, admiration and compliments, I was becoming addicted to feeling good and worthy again.
I rushed in before I knew what I was getting myself into to escape the constant berating of my inner critic.
My own best friend
After three and a half years of being stuck in a toxic cycle of emotional abuse, I could finally practise true self-love by ending the relationship and making the call to give myself the love that I yearned for so much.
I started to talk to myself like I was my own best friend. I made the conscious choice to love myself properly. And that’s when I realized that finally, I was getting to a place of REAL self-love.
As a younger woman, I thought I had high self-esteem and confidence because I was assertive and outgoing socially. How wrong I was!
I had no conscious awareness of the real stories I was telling myself about who I was and what I deserved until the searing pain of divorce finally got me to concentrate with a laser focus on ways to finally heal from past trauma.
Through therapy, I realised how abysmal my self-talk had been for most of my life. I began to explore the power of subconscious thought and the actions we take based on the stories we tell ourselves.
Acknowledge your inner critic
Through my coaching work, I’ve realised how many people are not practising real self-love.
So many people struggle with their inner critics, their fears and their negative self-talk daily.
With the process of sharing these thoughts in a safe place, they can hear them aloud and realize how cruel they are being to themselves without even consciously noticing it.
From there, they can begin to put together some strategies for reframing their negative self-talk and get to a place of being kinder to themselves.
Once they do this, they start to feel a lot happier and more at peace with accepting themselves exactly the way they are.
Your thoughts trigger your feelings
Any time you are feeling anxious or sad, you can trace the origin back to the thoughts that you are having. They are not usually at the surface; it can take a little digging to get to those subconscious messages.
It’s helpful to really ‘tune in’ to your thoughts as they flash through your mind while you run on autopilot.
If you notice a negative or self-defeating thought, imagine someone saying those things to your mother, child, nephew or sibling. Would you allow that? Or would you stand up for them?
Stand up for yourself the way you would stand up for anyone you love by consciously challenging and changing that narrative day-by-day.
A new way of living and loving
I practise self-love every single day now. I will never go back to allowing those voices to have air time in my mind again without immediately shutting them down and replacing them with encouragement and empathy.
I’m back to feeling like I belong here, have lots of offer, and am important to the people in my life.
I have realised that the greatest gift I can give to anyone now is to help them understand how to truly love themselves.
If even one person resonates with this and can see how to begin changing their negative thought patterns, then I’m happy.
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