When you feel like a failure after divorce everything carries the dark, “you suck” cloud of self flagellation.
Your once trusted instincts feel like harbingers of idiocy…because “you suck.”
Every vision of your future is torn to shreds and new ones seem impossible…because “you suck.”
You know you’ve survived worse but for the life of you, you can’t remember what or when … let alone how you did it.
Right now, all you know is that you blew it.
You committed to a marriage and quit.
Fear not, brave woman of the future!
Your angst is actually proof that you’re moving forward on the grief spectrum. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified 5 major stages of grief in the early 1970s: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness, Acceptance. Anger is really a mask for much more nuanced frustrations that went unaddressed. Bargaining is a “woulda/shoulda/coulda” mind game we unconsciously play with ourselves. The heart of that suffering comes from the misguided belief that we had control over the uncontrollable.
The movement from one stage to the other looks and feels like a collage of our greatest fuck-ups on permanent display in the foyer of your life. “Hello, new (job/relationship/opportunity/etc) please, take note of my complete and utter failure as we nudge around it and attempt to get to the heart of my actual home where hope once resided…hmmmm….it’s around here somewhere I know I saw it the other day.”
Even if beating yourself up is the only exercise you’re getting right now it’s time to redirect that attention and do these 7 small, but effective, things instead. Before you know it, you’ll be forgiving yourself for your past and confidently creating a fulfilling new future.
1. Take a third person perspective
If you had to describe the person you were at 11, in detail what would you say about her? Is she impetuous? Adventurous? Insightful? Afraid of authority?
Now do the same exercise for yourself at 18. 25. 38. Today.
At each stage of the game she becomes a unique character defined less by her circumstances and more by her character.
Habits morph. Some beliefs whither while others deepen.
From this distanced, more objective perspective you can see that she is (you are) constantly learning and growing. You see that decisions made in one set of 11 year old circumstances really were the best you could do with the information and tools you had at the time.
Just because your 18 year old choices were informed by different experiences and tools doesn’t mean your 11 year old self was an irredeemable dolt. Likewise with every age and set of circumstances.
Yes, even your divorce! You did the best that you could with the tools that you had at the time.
Your growth, your success, is iterative. It always has been. In that way, when you feel like a failure after divorce you can see that it is really, REALLY just a feeling. It isn’t truth.
2. Investigate your beliefs.
Beliefs are just habitual thoughts.
What you understand as truth is built over time, on the proof you’ve been paying attention to.
Replay every screw up and you will eventually believe that you’re a screw up.
Glom on to every success, however, and you will build the belief that you’re a success!!
Instead of berating yourself for what you’ve perceived to be your mistakes, be your own cheerleader:
- Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to your best friend. What would you tell her?
- What strengths would you point to?
- How many examples of her Amazonian awesomeness would you laud as the tell-tale signs of your grit and tenacity?
- Sure, she fell down but didn’t she also get up, for crying out loud??
Now make that best friend yourself.
- Write down all of the proof you find of your unique brand of “winner.”
- Review your strengths every day.
- Add new ones as every time someone (even yourself) sees greatness within you.
Eventually your awesome-sauce will feel as true as any old bullshit thought you held about your “failings.”