17 Jul 5 Things to Remember After a Breakup
A few years ago, I found myself in the throes of the worst break up of my life. The experience completely disintegrated my self-esteem and eroded my dignity. I became the ‘over-emotional, needy ex-girlfriend’ that I never wanted to be. I spent what felt like years in a pain that, I later realized, was self-inflicted through masochistic behaviour and the absence of boundaries. I consistently returned to an unhealthy situation in hopes that things would change, only to inevitably receive the same treatment.
Coming out of that endless cycle of mind-fuckery eventually occurred; not through the person in question changing their ways, but through recognizing my own self-sabotaging behaviour and making the necessary changes within myself.
This experience seems like a distant memory now, but while helping a friend through a break-up recently, I realized that it was the catalyst for my consistent commitment my own individual happiness.
If you are currently trapped in this dark place, it can be hard to see a way out. You feel discarded, confused, lost and terrified of what lies ahead. I get it. I’ve been there. I wanted to write this advice for my friends that may be currently struggling, for anyone still stuck in a ‘half breakup’, but most of all for my younger self who would have killed to hear these words.
- It’s okay to feel pain. Losing someone you love is a grieving process. There is a time for building yourself up and moving on with your life. But there is also a time for allowing yourself to feel the hurt, anger, betrayal or whatever negative feelings that you feel. It won’t kill you, it won’t break you and it won’t last forever. There were times during my heartbreak when I was so terrified of my own pain that I did virtually everything to avoid it, including becoming reactionary to the person who I felt had inflicted it on me. Doing so only caused further humiliation and validated my own low self-esteem. Try not to avoid pain or make decisions while you are deeply immersed in it. Allow it to come. Express it in the best way you can (cry, sleep, write) and notice it pass when it’s ready to. Only when you have shed the bout of negative emotions can you begin to rebuild yourself with positive new ones.
- Be extra kind and gentle to yourself. In the past, I would have rolled my eyes at this piece of advice, but since fully embracing it, my life has improved on so many levels. You are in your most vulnerable condition while you are dealing with heartbreak, and the hardest thing is, the person you would normally turn to for empathy and support, is the very person that inflicted that pain onto you. It’s essential in situations like this to be your own support and to have your own back. Try not to criticize, push yourself too hard or engage in negative self-talk. Instead, treat yourself with the empathy you would give a small child or animal that is in pain. Why? Because you deserve the unconditional love you gambled away on your empathically void ex. When I was recently struggling with some heart ache my good friend advised me to constantly ask myself: What is the most loving thing I can do for myself in this moment? Ask yourself this question and act accordingly.
- You can take control at any time. This point is especially important for those stuck in what I like to call the ‘half break-up’. When someone you care about begins to distance themselves from you, or takes away the love you have become to accustom to, it automatically puts you in a submissive position. The more they pull away, the more you chase their love. Before you know it, you have lost all your power and find yourself playing emotional cat and mouse, waiting for them to decide if they still want you or not. Stop. Step back and recognize that you are doing yourself a massive disservice. You do not have to wait for anyone to decide if they love you or not. Love yourself enough to not settle for ‘potential’ or someone who isn’t quite sure. Recognize that you can reclaim your own power at any time by ending things yourself.
- Their actions are not a result of your downfalls. It’s really not you. Or at least not in the way you think. While it’s important to recognize and work on your own weaknesses, tying your self-worth to how someone treats you is dangerous territory. Through my past attempts to make a dysfunctional relationship function, I was lead to believe I was too needy, too attention seeking, that I was asking too much. I did feel all of those things, which hugely dented my self-esteem and only further increased that sense of neediness. Only when I took myself out of my own shoes and looked at the situation objectively did I realize that those accusations were being projected through the lens of an emotionally unavailable commitment-phobe, who didn’t want a functioning relationship. The way people treat you is rarely personal, but rather a reflection of their own beliefs and experiences. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, you just don’t need to let it define who you are and how you view yourself.
- Engage in some self-reflection. I previously mentioned that a person’s bad treatment of you is in no way a reflection of your self-worth. Believing that you are being treated this way because you are simply ‘not good enough’ is not only untrue, but removes all accountability from the other person. It can, however, be a reflection of your self-esteem. No-one can trigger something in us that is not already there. I am a firm believer that the relationships in our life are a direct reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. It is never okay to treat another person badly. However, if you find yourself consistently attracting people into your life that treat you like you’re less-than, it might be worth exploring if there is a part of yourself that believes that too. Once you can release self-limiting beliefs and treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve,you will automatically attract others that treat you the same way.
Moving on from the mother of all break ups was incredibly difficult. But through recognizing that I couldn’t expect love and respect from others, without first cultivating it within myself, I emerged a happier and stronger person.
If you are going through something difficult right now, please trust that it will get better in time. What hurts the most in the short-term is often what’s best for our long-term well-being. Be patient with yourself, the answers will come.
Lots of Love,