My Self-Esteem Went Downhill After My Breakup—Here’s How I Got It Back

Going through a breakup summons all sorts of complicated emotions, namely one of feeling like I’m just not good enough. It seems like every time a relationship ends, I’m left doubting myself a little more each time. I have to go through some certain routines to get back to where I feel like myself again.

I let myself feel my feelings. I cried, I wrote, I vented, and I cried some more. I used to be one to hold things in, but that always catches up with me too quickly. Immediately after my last breakup, I took some time to really process what had happened and gave myself permission to be devastated, angry, and any other feeling that came up. I allowed myself to be a mess as long as it didn’t affect my daily life. I still went to work and did everyday tasks but if I needed a break, I took one.

I learned to forgive myself. I’m someone who takes the blame for everything even if I’m not at fault. I’m so hard on myself, and it’s usually for no reason—it’s just easier than getting mad at the other person. Regardless of whose fault the breakup was, I took responsibility for my part, I showed myself some mercy, and I let them have the rest.

I spent time with family and friends. This seems like a given, right? For me, it was difficult. I like to shut down when I’m going through tough times. I don’t like to burden anyone with my issues, and my go-to behavior pattern is to keep it in around company and express it when I’m alone. This time, I surrounded myself with people that wanted to listen and give me reassurance. It helped immensely. I did my best not to overshare or be too crazy, but when I really needed someone to be there, I had people that were more than willing.

I focused on being kinder towards others. With all of the love I was being shown, I decided to pay it forward. It may sound selfish but I was surprised at how good I felt just being nice to other people. There was no limit: I smiled at strangers, I held doors for people, and I always said yes if I was asked for help and could do it. It really boosted my confidence knowing that others were appreciative of what I could do for them.

I accepted that I’ll still feel hurt and sad sometimes. Even when my breakup was months in the past, there were still little things that would stir up those emotions. I’d hear a certain song or a memory would creep into my mind and I’d be right back there as if it happened yesterday. I used to chastise myself for going backward but I realized that it’s normal for that to happen. I’d deal with my feelings and once it passed, I’d go up from there.

I acknowledged the breakup for what it was. I used to revisit old feelings and the relationship became rosy again. I would convince myself that it wasn’t so bad and go through the whole cycle of wanting my ex back again. I had to learn to pull myself out of that mindset and remember we broke up for a reason. I had to remind myself of that over and over, sometimes even saying out loud all the real reasons that it ended. Instead of dwelling on the good (or the bad), I looked at things rationally and with a clear head to give myself the validation I needed to accept it was over.

I rediscovered things I loved. It was so easy for me to lose myself in a relationship. No matter how hard I tried, “I” usually became “we” without me realizing it, and I put a lot of my own passions on the back burner. Now that I found myself with a lot more free time, instead of moping around, I got some of that passion back. I watched bad television, I read books and wrote, I took some dance classes. I remembered things that I was good at and what made me a unique person.

I tested myself by trying new things. It was great to revisit all of the things I had once loved but I needed a little more. Being alone suddenly is scary, but I was still breathing, so I took the opportunity to try some other scary things. I’d never been the best cook so I dove in and taught myself. I took some online classes in graphic design because I’d always had an interest. I know I’ll never be a professional web designer, but I can cook a perfect medium rare steak.

I chose integrity. I knew it would come. I knew inevitably I would end up running into my ex and I prepared myself for it. I was nervous because I thought with one look I would throw me back to all of my old habits. I could hear myself saying “I miss you” and “let’s try again,” but I made a decision to take the high road. I wouldn’t be cold or mean but I wouldn’t be overly engaging either. When it finally happened, I did just that and it felt really good to be in such a stable place. It gave me a sense of pride I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I remembered that I’d done this before. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first breakup. It may not even be my last, but the thing I had to keep in mind is that I’d bounced back the other times, so why not now? I could argue the opposite side with anyone that asked. I even prepared comebacks: “This time it was different” or “I loved him more!” Still, no matter how I spun it, it was a breakup just like the others. You have no choice but to move forward, so you do.

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