Building Self-Esteem after Divorce


After a divorce, it is common for people to feel bad about themselves. A loss of self-worth might occur if you are treated poorly by someone who you cared for deeply. Sometimes we are our own worst critic, and our judgments about ourselves may also lead to feelings of low self-esteem.

Feeling bad about ourselves from time to time is normal; however, if it becomes a constant companion it will negatively affect you. Low self-esteem keeps you from enjoying life, doing things that you want to do, working towards personal goals and developing healthy relationships.

You have the right to feel good about yourself. However, it may be hard to feel good about yourself when you are under stress and having difficulty dealing with the changes in your life. Relationships that end badly may create a downward spiral of lower and lower self-esteem. For example, you may begin feeling bad about yourself when your ex-insults you and you are having a hard time getting along. You begin to have negative self-talk, like “I’m no good.” Pessimistic thinking makes you feel worse about yourself. Our minds have a way of creating what we think about most of the time, and if you are negative and think negative thoughts, you are going to start believing it and your life will become a product of your thinking.

Raise Your Self-Esteem

  • Pay attention to your own needs and wants. Listen to your body, mind, and heart. If your body is telling you that you have been sitting too long then get up and walk around. If your heart is longing to call a special friend, then do it. If your mind is thinking bad thoughts, stop! Listen to your favorite music and don’t take the thoughts seriously.

  • Take good care of you. You may or may not know how to take good care of yourself because your past was taking care of others. Begin today by learning to take good care of yourself. Avoid junk foods and start eating healthy. Moving your body and getting physically active not only helps you look good but improves your self-esteem. If possible, go outside and go for a walk, jog, and a bike ride or take up a sport. Exercising doesn’t have to be boring!

  • Take time to do the things you enjoy. We often get so busy working, worrying and feeling bad about ourselves we stop doing the things we enjoy such as, playing music, photography, going fishing or sewing. Make a list of the things you enjoy and add a few new things you want to try and do something from the list every day.

  • Get something done that you have been putting off. Clean out that closet, write a letter, pay a bill.

  • Use your special gifts and talents. For example, if you are good with your hands, make something for yourself, friends and family.

  • Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself. They don’t have to be expensive or new, but they do need to look nice on you. Get an opinion from a friend or relative who will tell you the truth about what styles work for you.

  • You are a great person so reward yourself with a massage or pedicure Do something that makes you feel pampered and special.

  • Be social. Spend time with people that make you feel good and treat you well.

  • Learn something new or improve your skills. There are many adult education classes that are free or offered at an inexpensive rate. The library has a large section of DIY videos and resources.

  • Do nice things for other people. Volunteer at a local organization or get involved in the community or at your local church.

  • Make it a point to treat yourself well every day!

Identifying Negative Thoughts

Many people are constantly thinking negative messages. These messages are sometimes deeply ingrained and learned at a young age from other children, caregivers, parents, and teachers. The media and our society can send us powerful messages about the ideal life and body, and if we fall short of these (usually very unrealistic) ideals, we can feel like failures.

Once you have heard these messages, you may have repeated them over and over to yourself, especially when you are having a difficult time of things. You may have come to believe them. These negative messages (self-talk) can make you feel bad about yourself and lower your self-esteem. Some examples include:

  • I am stupid.
  • I am a jerk.
  • I will never be good enough.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I am a loser.

Most people begin to believe these messages no matter how untrue they are. You think of them instantly when you make a mistake. For instance, you get a question wrong on your test, and you think, “I am stupid” or you get rejected by another person, and you instantly think, “No one will ever love me.” These messages can be difficult to turn off or unlearn. Many people are unaware of their negative thoughts because negative thinking has become a habit.  If you want to break the negative cycle, you need to start paying attention to every thought that you think. Jot your thoughts down in a notebook for a week as they come to mind.

Take a close look at your negative self-talk and determine whether or not it is true. When you are in a good mood and have a positive attitude, ask the following questions about each negative thought you have noticed:

  • Is this message really true?
  • Would anyone ever say this statement to me? If not, why am I saying it to myself?
  • What am I getting out of thinking this thought? If it makes me feel badly about myself, why not stop thinking it?

Building Self-Esteem Part 2