I have just broken up with someone I was in a same-sex relationship with for 10 years. The relationship was difficult, there was little emotional and physical intimacy. At first I thought this was my fault but slowly I began to understand that my partner had gone through traumas and we were not on the same page of what we wanted in the relationship and how much we were able to invest in it. We have come out of it as great friends, and respect each other. However, I feel such a mess now. I have very low self-esteem. I don’t know what to do. T.A. Lambeth
Breakups have a way of making you feel that your whole life has been wrecked. Ending a relationship can cause us to question everything: who we are; what we are; where we in this world; and whether we have any worth. We all put a lot of ourselves into a relationship, and over the years it can become a sort of pillar by which we define ourselves. So it’s no surprise really that your self-esteem shatters when that pillar falls or is taken away. And, as you have discovered, you may also struggle with feelings of everything being your fault or of not being worthy.
But I am glad you wrote to me because I am here to tell you to stop that right now, because it’s not true. What happened to you is very sad, but it does not define you. You worked hard at your relationship for a long time and have finished it having built what sounds like a strong, much-valued friendship.
Try to think of the breakup as a rupture that can be repaired. If you fell and broke your leg, you would be able to concentrate on healing the broken part of yourself and not feel that your whole body had failed or broken. The same logic applies to the way you are feeling now.
Even though you have just had a knock, you are not damaged goods. You are worthy of respect and love. You are a valued friend and have as yet undiscovered potential deep inside yourself. The split and being wounded by it makes it too easy to focus on things that you feel you did wrong or that you don’t like about yourself, but if you tackle your low self-esteem now and learn how to heal and rebuild the hurt part of yourself you can prevent depression or anxiety developing further along the line.
Some people think that you are either born with confidence or you will never have it. That is not true. We can all can build and grow self-esteem and confidence at any point in our lives. However insecure and lacking in self-esteem you feel right now, it is possible to work on yourself and acquire it.
I have put five tips on how to build self-esteem below. But if you’re really struggling with negative feelings about yourself, talk to someone you trust, like a family member, or seek a trained profession who can guide you through this.
How To Build Your Sense Of Self-Worth
Be kind to yourself. Try to learn more about you, what makes you happy and what you value in life. It might be that you’re comparing yourself to others and basing your sense of self-worth on things that aren’t really you
Challenge your inner critic. If you find yourself automatically putting yourself down or calling yourself stupid. Stop and think: is this true? and would you talk to a friend this way?
Look after yourself. Sleep well, eat well, avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. Exercise whenever you can because it can really lift your mood and improve your sense of self.
Register the positive. Acknowledge the things you like about yourself. Learn to accept compliments from others and give yourself affirmation if you have done something well.
Learn to be assertive. Don’t automatically say yes to everything, pause a second and think how you feel about it first. This will help you to become more boundaried and value yourself more.