12 tips to rebuilding self-confidence after a messy divorce

Most people I know who have been through a divorce describe it as a period where they were not in control – of the situation, of themselves, of their life. It totally destroys your self-confidence.

It’s a situation of suddenly you’re been placed on this emotional rollercoaster, not thinking clearly about the events that are about to happen in your life. The feeling of regrets and almost as if you’re doing a hand stand as your world literally just turned upside down making it difficult to think clearly and make reasonable decisions.

Every hurdle of the process, you will need to have support in a non-judgemental manner in identifying your desired outcomes. Naturally, you will be stressed, feeling overwhelm with pain, fear, anger and bitterness. However, if you are able to reflect on the entire process from dealing with the solicitors, complicated paperwork, breakdown in communication and understand why you’ve been through such a journey, then you’ve regained control. I’ve seen individuals rebuild their self-esteem and consequently their lives following messy divorces by rediscovering themselves and regaining control of their being. Here’s a few tips that can help you to regain your positive mindset and self-worth:

  1. Have a story First and foremost, you need to understand why the divorce happened – that is the first step on the path to rebuilding your life. Having a story avoids the need to keep going over and over with things in your head. It gives you a chance to accept and move on. Often each side will have a different story – that’s fine, the important thing is that you have one. Think about patterns, behaviours, situations both in and out of your control. Don’t judge.
  2. Don’t play the blame game Going through a break up is very similar to someone close to you dying – you will grieve. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It takes a while to get through these but recognise which stage you’re at. One important thing: don’t blame (yourself or them). Accept that people and the world do not work in ways you will always understand. Blaming keeps you stuck at the denial and anger stages and you will find it hard to feel good about yourself.
  3. Embrace highly intense and stressful feelings The feelings you go through will be intense and traumatic. The way to navigate this is to accept that you will not be ‘firing on all cylinders’ (at peak performance or clarity) for a while. Allow yourself to not be the best you can be, allow yourself to grieve – you are only human, it is a natural part of our lives. It’s ok to not be self-confident for a while.
  4. Turn regret into gratitude One of the things I coach my clients to do in order to overcome great trauma in their lives is to turn regret into gratitude. The idea behind this is that if you can take the experience and learn from it – i.e. actively pull out something that changes you in a good way – then no matter how bad it is, it becomes a positive impact in your life.
  5. Separate rational from irrational thoughts Understand the difference between rational thoughts and irrational thoughts. This will help you manage your emotions. “I’m too old/ugly/useless for anyone to want to be with me ever again” is an irrational thought. “I’m in a transition where I need to rethink things and find myself again” is turning that into a rational thought. Rational thoughts are objective and practical, and protect your self-confidence. Irrational thoughts are assumptions based on fear and will destroy your self-confidence. Irrational thoughts will only make your emotions spiral out of control, so learn to name and shame them.
  6. Turn negativity into positivity Turn every negative thought into a positive thought – for instance, if you find yourself thinking something like “this is the end, it’s over”, try and convert it into “this is the end of a chapter, the start of a new one” – after all, after divorce you have a chance to totally rediscover and learn new things about yourself. Nobody ever died from heartbreak. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger – but only if you can use it to learn how to become a better person.
  7. Pragmatism is your new best friend Learning to be (if you aren’t already) pragmatic – sensible and realistic based on what is practical rather than being led by your fears and emotions – is the greatest skill you can have in getting over a divorce. After all there will be practical things to consider: children, finances, property, work etc. – and these things need to be approached as boldly and unemotionally as you can, as if someone else was advising you. Tell yourself, “be pragmatic” when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  8. Be excited about your new life Life after a divorce is scary because it is the great unknown – chances are you’ve never been here before. And like a child in a new school, or a strange place, you will feel out of place, intimidated and uncomfortable at the start. Accept that feeling and it will eventually pass as you begin to plant roots in your new life. Actually it’s quite exciting – you are in a new world of opportunities!
  9. Adopt a clear, practical approach to co-parenting If you have children, they will be your number one priority. Again, the key here is to be pragmatic – have no expectations, blame no-one, just do what needs to be done. Be prepared to accept a few hits to your pride or ego and keep communication with your ex concise, clear, and most importantly unemotional.
  10. Find the new YOU They say time heals all. The reason for this is not what you’d expect. The pain and trauma doesn’t fade over time simply because of the passing of time. It fades because you move away from it; over time you change, grow, discover new things, meet new people. One day you look back and see that you were a completely different person. Sitting indoors, withdrawing from the world, sticking to old habits and patterns will all prevent you from moving on and building confidence in the new you.
  11. Don’t be a martyr to money Finances are by far the bloodiest battle that divorce results in. If you find yourself warring over finances perhaps it is best to find someone to mediate. There will be areas of your life ultimately affected financially but try to embrace this as part of building a new future for yourself. If you cling on to old securities and comforts, you will be unable to let go of the past. Sometimes it is better to take the hit and move on, than cling on tooth-and-nail and suffer because of it.
  12. Approach unreasonable requests with integrity, not stubbornness Lastly, there will be things which you just don’t feel are fair. If you receive an unreasonable request from the ex, or their solicitor, get advice. Offer a compromise, in unprovocative language (be pragmatic, not emotional) – if you show that you are willing to concede something they may soften their approach. If not, at least you acted with integrity – which will help keep your self-esteem intact.