Relationships are, in most cases, an emotionally painful experience, even if we are the person who decided to end that relationship; That’s why many people decide to go for psychotherapy a few weeks after going through it.
However, we often forget that this kind of experience is not only something that makes us feel bad and that we must resign ourselves to living when this circumstance occurs; It is also an experience from which we can learn and which can even provide us with elements to grow as people and to understand ourselves better. So here we are talking about how to make the process of overcoming a breakup a self-esteem process.
What is the relationship between relationships and self-esteem?
Let’s start by defining the concept of self-esteem. Self-esteem is the combination of thought patterns that they lead us to see ourselves in a certain way and to feel concretely with this conception of the “I” that we create in our mind from that. In other words, self-esteem is the combination of ideas and beliefs from which we compose an image of our own identity, and the set of emotions and feelings that we associate with this identity. Therefore, it has a part that can be expressed in words and another that is emotional in nature and we only directly experience ourselves.
How does our self-esteem interact with the experience of a relationship? Through these psychological processes:
- The relationship reorganizes our priorities and our values (to adapt to living together with another person important to us).
- Our self-esteem is nourished by the comparisons we make between our actions and the values we have as a reference.
- Living together or interacting a lot with our partner means that their view of us influences how we see ourselves, providing us with insights, observations about our appearance and behavior, etc.
- Married life leads us to adopt a slightly different way of life than we would have if we had no partner, and this way of life influences what we do and what we learn about ourselves.
A psychological bond with a lot of potential
As we have seen, self-esteem is not a psychological element that arises in us independently of what surrounds us; it is the result of a process of interaction between us and the rest of the world, and in which the people most important to us, the ideas that we have internalized through education, the information transmitted by the media and the Internet , etc And, of course, this implies that Our relationships also have a significant effect on how we look and feel about our own identity.For the best or for the worst.
In this way, having a partner who supports us, helps us to become aware of our positive qualities and makes us see how we can learn from our mistakes, will be a factor that will balance our self-esteem.
And, conversely, if we are involved in a harmful relationship, the constant exposure to such unfair criticism and/or the influence of someone who only points out our imperfections and not our accomplishments, it will also make it too difficult for us to value ourselves.
Not to mention cases where there is real psychological abuse for months or years, which wreaks havoc on people’s mental health: for example, attempts at emotional manipulation through so-called gaslighting lead to many victims to question their own ability to understand what is happening around them in their daily lives (which the aggressor takes advantage of to fuel a dynamic of dependence and still have authority in the relationship).
But fortunately, the existence of this link between self-esteem and relationships means that even when it comes from a very harmful courtship or marriage, we can take advantage of the crisis that the break brings rebuilding the way we see and value ourselves… Even enjoying a more balanced and stable self-esteem than we had before starting this relationship. Let’s see what are the psychological pillars on which this process is based.
Keys to improving self-esteem after a breakup
These are the key ideas from which we start in psychotherapy to help people who, in addition to going through a bad time because of a breakup, feel how their self-esteem is in a state of vulnerability.
1. More space to construct our own narrative of what happened
The break facilitates the elaboration of our own interpretation of what we have experienced, without constantly exposing ourselves to the opinions and viewpoints of the other person (which do not have to be wrong, but start from a frame of reference and values different from ours). It helps us to better understand our own actions, our emotions and feelings present in both the relationship and the breakup, and to be more understanding with ourselves.
But keep in mind that simply not having a partner and having the time will not guarantee that one takes advantage of this potential; self-awareness strategies and exercises should be appliedlike the routine of taking notes in an emotion diary.
2. A renewed appreciation for the here and now
The breakup of a couple means not having the participation of someone important to us in our daily life, at least as we had raised it during the duration of the relationship. However, this also means that we have more time for yourself and especially to connect to the present moment without being subjected to the tensions of certain plans for the future as a couple, of certain expectations and requirements for a life together to be lasting, etc.
It helps us reconnect with our interests and develop skills and hobbies that allow us to better see what is good for us, but also allows us to take advantage of this stage to stop thinking too much about the future. and understand how we got here. at that time, allowing you to learn from your mistakes, instead of just suffering the consequences without understanding what’s going on.
In this sense, mindfulness is a very valuable resource., because it helps us to focus our attention on the present moment, to let go of recurring thoughts, worries that we have been feeding inadvertently for days or weeks, and helps us to focus on what is happening to us without giving it more important than it really is. This process of psychological “resetting” helps us to approach our problems and needs in a much more constructive way.
3. It gives us the opportunity to stop feeling so vulnerable by learning from our mistakes.
Even though we’ve been through a bad relationship, this post-breakup phase helps us look back and identify “red flags” associated with the problematic behavior of the other person and/or ourselves; signs that what was happening was only making the relationship worse. Knowing that we are able to identify these beginnings in their first manifestations and prevent their influence can be experienced as a great personal advance (and in many cases makes us realize that we are better prepared to meet other people) .
4. Noting how well we are able to deal with discomfort is in itself a boost to self-esteem
Although it is very common at the beginning to feel strongly anxious and dizzy that this relationship has ended, realizing how capable we are of facing and managing this discomfort is, if we do it well. , a self-esteem improvement experiment: what once seemed impossible has become something we have incorporated into our identity and that, although it may cause pain for the first few months, we know that we learn to better accept it and integrate it into our memories, which testifies to our ability to cope with crises.
Do you want to overcome a professional psychological support break?
If you want to start a psychological therapy process to turn the page after a painful breakup or to overcome any other form of emotional distress, I invite you to contact me.
I am a psychologist with more than 12 years of professional experience in the sector, and I offer individualized sessions in person or online via video call. Additionally, we can also work from the 8-week Mindfulness MBSR courses to improve self-esteem and self-leadership.