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How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

How to Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Has Your Breakup or Divorce Shattered Your Self Esteem?

Hands down, one of the most horrible parts about going through a bad breakup or divorce is the way it mangles your self esteem. I know, from so many years as a therapist and life coach, that many people experience post-divorce depression (or post-breakup depression). There are many parts to this experience: Grief and loss, or feeling overwhelmed by all the practical aspects of putting your life back together.

However, for most people, the most terrible depression after a breakup comes when it damages your self esteem, and makes you start to feel badly about yourself.

If you’ve been feeling down on yourself since your relationship ended I want you to know something right off the bat, which is that feeling this way does not mean that you’re actually “less than.”

Really: I talk to a LOT of people about the most vulnerable parts of their life. I know for a fact that even the most gorgeous, amazing, successful people second-guess themselves after a divorce or breakup. Even the most naturally confident, strong, and reasonable among us — in the throes of a devastating break up — still have these types of horrible, torturous conversations with themselves in their darkest moments:

  • Anxious Thought: “Why did this relationship fail?” Self-Esteem Crushing Answer: Because of all your personal shortcomings and the mistakes you made in this marriage or relationship.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why doesn’t the person I love more than anything want to be with me anymore?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you aren’t interesting / fun / sexy / smart / successful enough.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why didn’t my Ex care enough about me to treat me better while we were together?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because you’re just not that worthy or lovable.
  • Anxious Thought: “Why did my Ex cheat on me or get together with someone new?” Self Esteem Crushing Answer: Because that someone new is much more interesting, attractive, worthy of love and respect. Basically, they’re just a better person than you.

If you’re going through a bad breakup, chances are you’re probably nodding to yourself as you see this self-destructive internal dialogue put to paper. You’ve probably been being tortured by these ideas too.

And it’s making you feel terrible about yourself.

But, believe it or not, as bad as that is…. that’s not even the most toxic, ruinous thing that can happen to your already fragile self-esteem in the aftermath of a traumatic break up.

The most terrible thing is not when your Ex betrays you or mistreats you. It’s not even when you blame yourself for why it didn’t work out, or torture yourself with ongoing commentary about all of your shortcomings and failures.

The Most Destructive Part of a Breakup: Breaking Your Trust in Yourself

Yes, your self esteem gets throttled when you feel rejected, or blame yourself for what went wrong. But it gets ground up into sausage and squished into the dirt when you betray or mistreat yourself in the aftermath of a terrible breakup:

  • When you fail to protect yourself from a toxic or abusive Ex.
  • When you do things that you’re ashamed of… all in desperate efforts to even briefly escape the pain of heartbreak, and reconnect with your Ex.
  • When you keep contacting or spying on your Ex through social media, even when you know you shouldn’t.
  • When you are still sleeping or hooking up with your Ex, even when you feel more devastated afterwords.
  • When your mental and emotional energy is still completely focused on your Ex, and your mood for the entire day (not to mention your worth as a person) depends on what they are doing or not doing.
  • When you are compromising your ethics, morals, and self respect in efforts to regain the love and approval of your Ex.

This darkness is not something that usually gets discussed openly. But it’s very real, and very destructive to your long term health, your happiness, and your self worth. And as you know only too well if you’re going through it, you need support and compassion on your path of healing and recovery.

I have spent years helping broken hearted people with divorce and break-up recovery counseling and coaching, and poured through oceans of research to write my book, “Exaholics: Breaking your addiction to an Ex Love.” I’ve spent years helping my private clients heal their self esteem in the aftermath of a bad breakup, and now we’re addressing it today on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

On today’s show I’m going to help you understand how your self esteem was damaged, and how to develop new compassion and empathy for yourself. We’re also going to discuss the five steps to healing your self esteem after a break up, so that you can start putting yourself back together again.

I hope that this helps support you on your journey of growth and healing.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: In this podcast, we discuss a number of resources. Here are links to all the breakup recovery resources I shared:

My private Online Breakup Support Group on Facebook. (It’s a hidden group, so you have to request access).
Exaholics.com
Online Breakup Recovery Program: www.breakup-recovery.com
Book: Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love

PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love, and book (poetry collection) The Hollow Of The Hand

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How To Repair Your Self Esteem After a Breakup

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Why You Keep Falling in Love With The Wrong Person

Why You Keep Falling in Love With The Wrong Person

Do you attract the wrong people? Do you keep having toxic relationships?

If so, you’re not alone.

You’d be surprised at how many people come to us for life coaching, breakup recovery, individual therapy, or dating coaching hoping to achieve one goal: Having a healthy relationship. (And how to stop getting involved in unhealthy ones).

They show up to therapy or life coaching because they have, over time (or after the latest heartbreaking breakup) become aware that they are engaging in “non-ideal relationship patterns,” over and over again. They keep getting involved with narcissists, or people who treat them badly. They keep choosing emotionally unavailable men, or aggressive / controlling women. Whatever the sad pattern is, they want it to stop.

Above all else, they want to work on themselves to heal, grow, and ensure that NEXT time they get involved with someone they can love and be loved in a healthy relationship with a good person. And so we dig in.

Identifying Your Blind Spots

The first stop in figuring out why you keep choosing the wrong man or wrong woman is uncovering what unconscious motivations are driving your choices. Getting outside help in understanding your toxic relationship patterns can be a wise move, because of the entirely subconscious nature of the problem.  You don’t consciously choose bad relationships — no one does. You choose what feel  in the moment, are good relationships…. and then wind up having bad experiences. (That are often mysteriously, eerily similar to the past experiences you thought you were trying to avoid).

Unhealthy relationship patterns can happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s old, unfinished emotional business from the past. Other times, your self-esteem or feelings of self-worth can get in the way. Yet other times, the root of the problem is imbedded in way you communicate or set boundaries with others. Because you are a complex, unique, individual, your truth will not be exactly the same as everyone else’s.

Avoiding Toxic Relationships

However, there is one very common thing that most people have done at least once, and which will almost always lead to heartbreak: Falling victim to “Black Hat Love.” Learning how to spot the one fatal factor that makes you most vulnerable to getting involved in toxic relationships can help you stop the madness, and finally create the happy, healthy relationship you’re longing for.

And that’s what I’ll be teaching you about on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

Have follow up questions for me? Leave them in the comments!

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Why You Keep Falling in Love With The Wrong Person (And How to Stop)

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: “Bad Love,” by So Brown

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How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Until now you’ve been handling your divorce or break-up process well. You’ve gone through the confusion of whether to stay or go, and all the angst and hard decisions that come with leaving. But you’ve been coping.

Then you found out that your Ex is sleeping with someone new.

Now, waves of rage, pain, self-doubt, and resentment are crashing over you. “Coping” has been overwhelmed by a storm of emotion. It feels like your blood has been replaced with Arctic seawater: Frozen and stinging at the same time.

What’s worse? It. Is. All. You. Can. Think. About.

Are they on the motorcycle right now? He’s probably taking her to that restaurant I always wanted to go to that he said was too expensive. Are they holding hands right now? I bet they’re kissing. Maybe they are having sex right this very second. They probably skipped the motorcycle ride and decided to spend the day in bed. We used to do that…

In your mind’s eye you play out scenes from your life together. Except your role is being played by someone who might be sexier, more fun or more interesting. You see your Ex — the happy, sweet, fun one you first fell in love with — sharing the best parts of themselves (and hiding the rest).

It’s worst at night, when there are no distractions. The joy and passion you envision for them is made all the more cruel by the stark contrast to your own silent bed. You lay sleepless, writhing in agony at the injustice. You want to stop thinking about it but you can’t. You feel trapped… in your own head.

Believe it or not, the part of your brain that sees things in your mind’s eye cannot differentiate between something that you’re thinking about and something that is actually happening. So when you’re imagining your Ex and their new sex partner making out on the couch, you react to it emotionally (and physically) like you were seeing it happen right in front of you: Your heart starts racing, you feel nauseous, and you are filled with pain and rage.

Being victimized by these intrusive images is incredibly traumatizing. Ruminating does not bring any value to your healing process. Instead, it keeps you from moving forward.

In order to rescue yourself from the impotent madness of this obsession, you must learn and practice three new skills very deliberately, every day, until you’re in the clear: Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, and Shifting.

1. Self Awareness

Self Awareness is the ability to think about what you’re thinking about, and the fact that you are having an internal experience—not an actual experience. It sounds simple, but it’s very easy to get swept away in our thoughts without even noticing what’s happening.

The practice:

As soon as you become aware that you are thinking about your Ex, say, (out loud, if necessary) “I am thinking about something that is not happening right now.”

2. Mindfulness

Recognize that your vivid thoughts are activating all these scary, painful feelings, but in reality nothing bad is actually happening to you right now. You are sitting at a table, eating a bowl of cereal. You are breathing. Anchoring yourself to the reality of the present moment by using your senses creates a protective barrier between you and intrusive thoughts.

The practice:

Look: Notice what your phone / tablet / laptop looks like right now. Notice the colors, shapes, things you can see in the room around you.

Hear: What are you aware of hearing, right now? Yammering in a coffee shop. Music through your headphones. The hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

Feel: The chair under your butt. Your feet on the floor. The breath in your nostrils. The aching feeling of heartbreak in your core. Emotions are really just physical sensations. That’s why they are called feelings. Notice how your body feels, in the present moment, without judgment.

3. Shifting

You’ve broken the obsession, and are in the safe space of reality. The third step to stop intrusive thoughts about your Ex is to intentionally shift your attention to something positive or pleasurable.

For example, you can shift to thinking about going to lunch with a friend this afternoon, or weekend plans. If shifting mentally is too hard you can also shift your attention to something that is happening in the present moment: Watching a movie, listening to music, or petting your dog.

Shifting is important because the thoughts we habitually think about get stronger. When you practice shifting, the intrusive thoughts about your Ex will get weaker.

Putting It All Together

You get stabbed in the brain with the image of your Ex having hot sex with the new person.

  1. Become aware that you are having a thought about something that isn’t happening right now.
  2. Shift your attention to physical reality: The color of the table, the taste of your tea, your heart pounding in your chest.
  3. Then, very deliberately, think about going skiing with your friend this weekend.
  4. Repeat as needed. (And plan on doing this many times a day, at first).

Shifting your awareness or distracting yourself does not mean that you are avoiding or stuffing your feelings. “Obsessing” is not the same thing as “Processing.” It’s mentally picking at a scab that you are not allowing to heal. You have to get unstuck from the obsession phase in order for healthy new growth to occur.

I hope that these techniques are helpful to you. I’d like to hear your thoughts about them. If you have other practices that you’ve used successfully, please share your strategies in the comments so that others who may be hurting can benefit from your wisdom.

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How to Survive a Breakup Over The Holidays

How to Survive a Breakup Over The Holidays

It’s not “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” when your heart is broken.

Even if the holiday season usually delights you, it’s hard to be cheerful when you’re consumed by painful memories of holidays past. The first year post-breakup, or post-divorce, can be especially traumatic. Everything reminds you of your Ex, and the fact that you are not together anymore. Thinking about the ice skating rink that you held hands at last year, how you’re going to explain this to your anxious Grandma, or even the sight of sparkling lights is enough to throw you into a heavy state of sadness.

The holiday season can also feel particularly lonely if you’re nursing a broken heart. Emotional pain feels isolating and difficult to share when it seems like everyone else is happy and having a good time. And of course the last thing you want to do is go to a party when 1) you need to fake cheerful “okay-ness” and / or 2) you’re worried about running into your Ex or their friends. That’s not even taking into consideration how challenging it is for the newly single to to negotiate high impact social situations without their usual “plus 1.”

In short: this time of year makes a hard situation feel even harder.

If you’re like most people in this position you probably have lots of questions: “How should I handle myself in certain situations?” “Should I even try to go to parties this year, or should I lay low?” “How do I take care of myself?” and “Will this loneliness and pain ever end?”

Truthfully, the answers to those questions are not always easy or simple. The answers really depend on where you are in the breakup recovery process. On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m going to walk you through the stages of healing after a breakup, and show you how to actually use the opportunity of this challenging time of year to move your “heartbreak healing process” forward more quickly.

Not only will your “what to do” questions be answered, but you’ll also get a good roadmap for the recovery process ahead. I hope that this information will help you invest in yourself, and make the coming year a fresh, positive new chapter of your life.

All the best to you,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How To Survive a Breakup Over The Holidays

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: “Another Lonely Christmas,” by Prince

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Are You Obsessing About Your Ex?

Are you craving contact with your Ex, even though you know it's bad for you? Are you "stalking" your Ex through social media? Are you awake at night rehashing old memories? Are you feeling stuck in sadness, anger, or guilt, and wishing you could just let go, and move on?

Help is here.

Heal Your Broken Heart: The Online Breakup Recovery Class

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is a breakup recovery expert, and she has helped countless people all over the world heal their broken hearts. Now her guidance is available to you through an affordable, online class. 

Heal Your Broken Heart teaches you how to:

Decide If You Should Try Again • Release Your Emotional Attachment • Find Forgiveness • Repair Your Self Esteem • Stop Obsessing • Restore Your Inner Peace • Trust Again •  Love After Loss

Are You an EXaholic?

Are You an EXaholic?

When You Can’t Get Over Your Breakup…

Have you been struggling with intense pain over the end of your relationship? Maybe for longer than your friends and family think you ought to? In my experience, many people struggling with heartbreak worry that something is wrong with them for taking it so hard and “not being able to get over it.” Some breakups are easier to cope with than others. Sometimes, it’s just a break up. Sometimes, you become an “Exaholic.” Learn the difference and how to help yourself move on from an unwanted attachment to another person…

Why Relationships End

Regrettably, relationships end. Neglected marriages can be overgrown with the relational equivalent of cancer, festering malignant hurts so deep that not even the best marriage counselor in the world can restore the trust and goodwill. (Though like cancer treatment, early detection plus prompt treatment with evidence-based marriage counseling can often blast it into remission). Other times couples with great chemistry, over time, discover insurmountable fractures and persistently grinding fault lines between their personalities and core values. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, one person is just less “into” the other. They apologetically leave, guilty and relieved, while their blindsided partner is left to cope with the devastation of the rejection, and their suddenly empty life.

The stories and circumstances of everyone’s relationship are unique, but the core cause of breakups is always the same: One person stopped believing that the other can ever be who they need them to be. The rest is details. When hope of improvement is lost, the relationship is over — even if the couple is still going through the motions of cohabitation and daily life for the time being.

How do I know so much about the anatomy of breakups? As a marriage counselor and relationship coach I’ve helped literally hundreds of people repair and rebuild their relationships. But some couples show up at the door with situations that can’t be repaired. They’ve waited too long, or they are fundamentally incompatible. In these instances, one partner often stays in counseling with me to work through the loss. We walk through their divorce recovery or breakup recovery process together.

Love: The Mother of All Addictions

Through this work I discovered an important concept that has revolutionized the way we think about breakups and their recovery. I’ve written about the science behind relationships and breakups extensively in my award winning book, Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to An Ex Love,”  but here’s the punchline: Love is addictive. (Want more? Read Polly Drew’s article about Exaholics on Recovery.org).

It makes sense, when you think about it. Nature has built us to bond, fiercely, to one “irreplaceable other” just as we must attach deeply to our children (and they to us). The literal survival of our species depends on the strength of these attachments. This is powerful, primal stuff. We have survival drives that compels us towards love and bonding. And when those bonds are broken against our will, the pain is unlike any other. It’s like every cell in your body is protesting the disconnection, screaming for reunion.

What Are Exaholics?

I think of “Exaholics” as people who have bonded, at a deep chemical and emotional level, with someone in the context of an unsustainable relationship. There is nothing necessarily wrong here, except the circumstance. When two compatible people become fiercely bonded to each other in the context of a healthy, sustainable relationship it’s an epic love story that lasts a lifetime. But sometimes people become intensely bonded to people who can’t be good long-term partners. (Read: Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?) When the relationship inevitably ends, they have the harrowing experience of being thrust into a biological / emotional / psychological state that has a lot in common with the withdrawal from other addictive substances: Obsession, craving, and compulsions for a “fix.”

Signs You are an Exaholic:

  1. You cannot stop thinking about your Ex, even though you want to
  2. You fantasize about getting back together, even if you know the relationship was bad for you
  3. You crave their love and approval, even through you know you don’t want to care
  4. You do things you know you shouldn’t to maintain your connection to them (stalking them online, pumping friends for information, accepting “friends with benefits” arrangements).
  5. You have intense and persistent feelings of anger, hurt, regret, guilt that don’t get better with time.
  6. Other relationships, even good ones, don’t feel the Ex-shaped-void in your life
  7. You feel like your friends and family don’t understand why you feel the way you do
  8. Your self-esteem has been damaged, and you feel ashamed that “you can’t just get over it”

But What About “Normal” Breakups?

Here’s the confusing part: Not everyone goes bananas during every break up. Why? What’s the difference between an “Exaholic” and someone going through a “normal” break up? We all know lots of people who rationally decided a relationship was wrong for them, collected their toothbrush, returned the key and went on their way. You’ve probably done that yourself at least once in your life. Yes, you may have spent some time feeling sad, eating too much ice cream, daydreaming about the past, and feeling the absence of your once-present companion. But you also thought about how “it’s better this way,” and knew, in your heart, that this relationship really needed to end. You didn’t feel like you were slowly dying in the flaming pit of unrequited love.

There are lots of reasons why not every one descends into Exaholic madness with every single breakup, but I’ll distill it into the two big ones for you:

  1. You didn’t feel that intense of a connection with that particular person
  2. You came to terms with the need for the split (and grieved the loss) before the relationship ended

Again, neither of these circumstances is better or worse, or more emotionally unhealthy or more virtuous than bonding deeply. It just is what it is. It’s not your fault that you felt that way when you did the breaking up, and it doesn’t mean anything terrible about you if your Ex is inhabiting this space either. (Even though I understand that it might feel like it). Similarly, being an “Exaholic” doesn’t mean anything about you except that you cared deeply about this person. 

You CAN Get Over Your Breakup

The good news is that healing and recovery is possible. You can stop hurting, get your life back, and rebuild your self esteem. While this doesn’t necessarily get better with time (as your well-meaning friends and family tell you earnestly, I’m sure) there is a path through heartbreak and into peace. The first step is establishing connection with a safe person or group to help you process your pain, and support you in the deeper work of healing.

So here’s my question for you? Who are your “safe” people that you can turn to for non-judgmental support? Make your short list, and plan to be in contact with them regularly for the time being. If no one readily comes to mind I sincerely hope that you take positive action on your own behalf and get some. You can try the free online support group available at www.exaholics.com, google “divorce support groups” in your area, or consider getting involved in supportive therapy. Breakups are isolating, and it will be worse for you if you try to go it alone. Be brave, reach out, and let caring people help support you on your journey.

All my best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

For more information and advice on handling your breakup, check out this free Q & A Webinar from exaholics.com:

 

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching