It wasn't until I woke up divorced with two kids that I realized I had no idea who I was. This is a common realization amongst divorcees, right? Let the WTF soul-searching begin! I love all those post-divorce blogs that suggest you "get a hobby," do something crazy like cut your hair, or buy new clothes, as if a new wardrobe is going to fix this mess. (Okay, shoes help, really they do.)
I promise you, I tried it all, from belly dancing to training for a marathon. But after I did the pole dancing class and the Indian cuisine-cooking course, the Sunday evening singles hikes and pretty much every other post-divorce to do list out there, I still felt empty and alone. I came to the realization that the reason none of these things brought me the happiness I sought was because I didn't know anything about what it is that made me happy. Really, nothing. It took me a long time to admit that and even more time to be happy about it.
See, everything in our life is based on what we believe about ourselves, and often what we believe doesn't have anything to do with our true selves. It's a hodgepodge of beliefs picked up as we wandered aimlessly through life -- things like, "I'm short, I'm stupid, no one will love me." You know what I'm talking about -- those nasty little thought monsters that lurk in the shadows beneath your carefully-crafted façade of perfection, and until we deal with those buggers, no amount of dancing naked in our yards, trips to Italy, or that Saturday pottery class is gonna change it.
In the end, what you really need to do is figure out what you believe and see if it actually aligns with what you want to believe. Stop simply moving the furniture and start rebuilding the house.
For a while, I quit all my classes and started making a list of all the things I believed about myself. Low and behold, each one of those beliefs fit nicely with every relationship I had in my life. My utter lack of self-worth was wrapped up like a birthday gift around every person: my ex-husband, my family and my friends, my work, my house. Each one of them fulfilled my need to believe I wasn't worthy. It's subtle, but if you are willing to look hard and honestly at yourself, you'll see it in every interaction, big or small.
We need to start taking the time to ask ourselves some serious questions, such as:
• What do I believe about love?
• What do I believe about my body?
• What do I believe about money?
• What do I believe about friendship?
Begin to look at your life just as it is and see how your beliefs about yourself have shaped your life. Then follow up with the big guys:
• What is it I want to believe and what do I need to do to believe that?
• What is it that I truly value and desire in my life?
When you've really figured it out, do everything that matches up with your vision, and nothing else. This can be hard, especially as you have to retrain the people in your life and offer them the new you; many will simply disappear because they no longer fit in your life.
My biggest "Aha!" moment came from my kids. I began to watch how they treated me vs. how they treated other people, and it looked an awful lot like the way my ex-husband and many other people in my life treated me. If they figured I didn't respect or value myself, why should they? I could no longer blame any of them for treating me this way, which took away much of the anger I felt towards them.
I began to practice daily, hourly, minute by minute the action of loving and respecting myself. I began to set boundaries, I began to take better care of myself, and I actually did buy some new clothes. But not as the Betsy I was, who was hurt and lost and victimized by my own mind, but the Betsy I was becoming and knew I was, underneath the layers of shame and guilt and worthlessness. I began to listen to my heart, my gut, and my soul, and move through life from my new frame of mind instead of simply falling back on my programmed responses, those old beliefs that have never truly served me -- the real me anyway.
It's not as fun as pole dancing, but I promise if you do this work, you're real core will be rock solid.
For more by Betsy Chasse, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.