Stoking the Flames of Low Self-Esteem

Thursday, January 14, 2016

If you're someone that already intrinsically has low self-esteem, a divorce can completely shatter you. It can cloud your eyes and rip away your future. It can beat down your self-worth and increase your negative self-talk. Divorce can be brutal, and divorce mixed with your own esteem battles can be a potent hindrance to moving on with your life. It can rip away any silver linings you may have.

I've battled low self-esteem all of my life. I've never been a fan of the way I look, or how much I weigh and have internally [and perpetually] compared myself to other women. I have gap front teeth and I'm a little heavier - why would anyone love me? I snore in my sleep, and in middle school battled bad acne (to which someone that I to-this-day remember his name) called me "Pizza Face". I used humor and my athletic ability to overcome some of those self-esteem issues. It became my little own personal pats on the back. My anger, as a result of my self-esteem, came out in my every day personality. In high school, I was a total b*tch. If I didn't want to speak to you - I didn't. If you were "beneath me" - you knew it. To say the least, I wasn't a fan-favorite at pep rallies. But it was okay because I did have friends and I was good at sports. It was better to be hated for my attitude than disgusted by my physical body.

And that's how I lived life. My skin cleared up at the end of high school, and my body filled out a bit in college [beer + junk food]. I feel like I started to come into my own, especially when I came out to my family. Things were finally moving. And, in college I had a great first-love. It was one of those experiences where your heart beats right out of your chest and every single thing about the person and the experience is brand spanking new. Someone was attracted to me. And I was attracted to her too.

But we broke up and that shattered me to pieces. My self-esteem relied on her approval of me - of her love for me. And, when she started to show someone else that love, I allowed my worth to be weighed and measured by that act and decided I was flawed. I stopped eating and dropped a ton of weight. I started partying a lot more than I normally did. Eventually, I picked myself back up - got a job back in Chicago and moved 3+ hours away from her. I also met someone new.

My second relationship lasted about 2 years. She was a lot younger than me (4 years younger) and while she was in college, we were separated by 6 hours of distance. I was living my post-college life and she was just jumping into hers. We weren't really compatible from the beginning but we trucked on. I cared about her, I truly did. But I know I used that relationship to buff up my self-esteem more, and that wasn't fair to her. When my heart healed enough, I officially ended the relationship and began the "Summer of Me". Kinda like George Costanza did on Seinfeld.

(The Summer of George) - [George's severance package from the Yankees includes three months pay, so he declares it “the Summer of George,” where he will “taste the fruits and let the juices drip down my chin!”]:

I felt great about myself and I was ready for fun, fun, fun. I wasn't focused on anyone else. I was focused on fun. And wouldn't you know - FIVE people entered my life that summer. One of those people was my current ex. And by the end of that summer, I was head over heels in love with her. We started dating and like I always did, I put my worth and value into solely her possession. It nearly ruined me the first 4 years we were together. The pain and torment that I put myself through, forcing a relationship that wasn't working, sitting in a room crying for hours - all because I wasn't strong enough to realize that I was a great person all in my own. 

Fast-forward 8 years, and post divorce and I still battle with low self-esteem. This past summer sucked. I didn't feel good enough, pretty enough for my ex. I felt used. I felt discarded. I felt that I wasn't worth the battle, the fight, the desire to stay together. And I beat that message into my own brain. Regardless of what happened in my relationship or if they were actually true or not - these are things that I told myself. What's the first feeling I had when telling someone I was getting a divorce all summer? Sheer embarrassment. I couldn't keep my wife. I wasn't worth sticking it out for 50+ years. I was so awful, that my partner would chose to live a life without me than to try to work on things. That's all that flooded my mind. 

I've been really trying to work on that negative talk but I know it's all there lingering in the back. I know I have very low self-esteem about my post-partum body and my belly that has 20 lbs extra still hanging around it. Sometimes I worry I'll never find love again - not because it can't happen but because no one will ever love me like I need to be loved. No one will find me worth fighting for. No one can stand to live their life with me and my two kids and my big belly and my gapped teeth and my reddish blonde hair. I mean, who would?

This talk isn't healthy. It isn't being fair or nice or kind to yourself. It's hatred, self-hatred and you're the only one that's fueling that fire deep inside. When will the flames go out?

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