Going through a separation or divorce is life-changing in many ways. It is not unusual to find yourself lacking confidence and self-esteem, making it hard to move forward and thrive in your new life as a single parent.
Low self-esteem is the manifestation of negative feelings and self-criticism. If not managed they can lead to more deep-grained issues such as depression, anxiety, sadness, shame and guilt.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to boost your confidence and banish low self-esteem from your life. Here are some suggestions to get you back on track, kicking goals and loving live again.
1. DIVORCE DOES NOT = FAILURE
Just because a relationship doesn’t make it to the death-do-us-art phase, doesn’t mean it was a failure. Life is transient and people change. What worked at the beginning of your relationship may have stopped working part-way through. This is normal and natural and it happens A LOT.
Instead of considering your divorce a failure, focus on the good things that came from your relationship with your ex-partner. For example, your children and the lessons you have learned.
2. MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY
Being in a relationship with kids can be wonderful. It can also mean selflessly giving up your time to care for others. Now you are separated it is time to make yourself a priority. After all, as a single parent you are No.1 and you need to be in top form to care for your children.
Making yourself a priority can be as simple as carving out time in your busy day to do something you enjoy, serving your favourite food for dinner (not the kids) or adjusting your expectations to make your life easier.
3. SET YOURSELF CHALLENGES YOU CAN ACHIEVE
If you have a habit of setting goals that you don’t achieve, it can be hugely draining on your self-esteem. Whether it’s a large goal like saving for a car or something easy like putting the washing away, not seeing tasks through to the end can seriously bring you down. Barends Psychology Practice says:
“Setting goals is an important step when it comes to building self-esteem. By setting and achieving goals, your self-esteem grows automatically.
Unfortunately, setting unrealistic goals will make achieving them more difficult and that has a negative effect on your self-esteem.”
Instead, break down your goals into smaller challenges that are likely to yield success and make you feel good.
4. PRACTICE POSITIVE SELF TALK
Have you ever considered how you talk to yourself? You know, those voices that go around and around in your head? Are you kind to yourself, or not?
If you suffer low self-esteem it is likely you are guilty of negative self-talk. This is an inner dialogue full of limiting beliefs that will ultimately make you doubt your abilities, make positive change or reach your full potential.
Stopping the cycle of negative self-talk can take practice and time. However, you can start today by trying these simple tricks:
- Catch yourself when you are talking negatively to yourself in your head
- Change the talk to make it positive, or at least neutral
- Consider why you were talking to yourself negatively
- Try to talk to yourself as you would a good friend
- Choose some mantras to recite in place of negative self-talk
5. THINK OF YOUR KIDS
As a single parent you are a role model to your children. They are watching and learning from you every day. If they see you suffering from low self-esteem or lack of confidence, it is possible they will feel the same, and this problem could continue into adulthood.
It is important to lead by example by teaching and encouraging your children to think positively and healthily about themselves. According to Kids Health:
“Self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home, and with friends. Kids with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. … Kids with low self-esteem find it hard to cope when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. As a result, they may not do as well as they could.”
So, if for no other reason, improving your own self-esteem can have a positive impact on your children’s lives now and into the future.
6. FIND A HOBBY TO DO ALONE
If you are lacking in confidence it can also inhibit creativity or the ability to try because of what other people might think. Putting too much time into worrying about other people’s opinions of you can be soul destroying and is actually a waste of time and energy.
Find a space in your world that is just for you, where you feel at ease and without judgement. We recommend choosing a hobby which you can do alone. Something which is not too challenging, perhaps something you have been meaning to try for a while. Finding something new and enjoyable to add to your world that is just about you is hugely comforting and will give you the freedom to reconnect with your confidence.
7. UP THE EXERCISE
A list about improving self-esteem would not be complete without mentioning exercise. It is so important. Whether it’s a gym routine, an at-home workout or a short walk each day, exercise greatly improves mental health and so much more. MyZone tells us:
“Research has shown time and again that exercise can significantly increase our self-esteem. First, in the short-term, exercise enhances our mood and puts our mind in a more positive state. Second, in the long-term, exercise makes us feel good about our physical self – our abilities and physique.”
If you are feeling lethargic, start with a short amount of exercise and work your way up. Once you feel the benefits you will be keen to do more.
8. SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES
As you navigate your new single parent life you might feel like you are just keeping your head above water, however your days are filled with successes. Even getting the dinner on the table can be a success!
Don’t let these successes pass by the wayside without proper acknowledgement.
Whether it’s having made it through the day without having a meltdown, getting a promotion at work or simply feeling more positive. Pop a note on social media, tell a friend or share with your children. Successes are made to be shared!
9. SAY NO
The weeks and months following a separation or divorce when kids are involved are often filled with guilt. It is natural to worry about the effect your divorce will have on your children and how they will cope. To compensate for this guilt many separated parents unintentionally pander to their children’s needs at detriment to themselves i.e. they never say no.
Be careful not to fall into this trap. Not only will your children come to expect it which will make parenting harder for years to come, but if you reach burnout, you are no good to them as a parent.
Feeling comfortable to say ‘no’ does not just apply to your children. If a friend asks a favour or a family member has expectations of you which you are struggling to fulfil, it is OK to say no.
10. GET SUPPORT
If you find your low self-esteem is not improving over time, it might be worth seeking professional support.
Visit your GP to get advice or a referral. Counsellors, psychologists and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can all help.
Never be afraid to reach out for guidance. Separation and divorce are extremely difficult and many people need support to get back on track.