Divorce rocking your self-image?
I’m the responsible one!
I’m the committed one!
I’m the fill in the blank one!
Every single one of us has a carefully cultivated perception of who we are.
I’m not talking about the face you show other people – I’m talking about the face you show yourself.
That’s right – the internal mask.
You may think, “I know exactly who I am!”.
Great – this article is not for you!
Except….that it very likely is.
As we go through our lives we pick up clues to our identity.
- Got straight A’s in school? I’m the smart one!
- Baby of the family? I’m the one that gets away with murder!
- Oldest? I forge the way!
- Got fired? I can’t hold a job!
- Getting divorced? I’m flaky!
The problem is that most of these self-identifiers are only partially true. They may have described a portion of who we were at one point in time, or in a specific situation, but they do NOT sum up the total of who we are.
Humans like labels.
It makes things neat, tidy and easy to categorize.
So as we pick up various experiences, we assess how we “performed” in the situation, label ourselves with that performance evaluation, and make it a part of our enduring self-image.
The trouble is, our performance may have been affected by any number of variables, things that are ever changing and certainly not present in every situation.
What happened when you were 13, and how you dealt with it, is the sum total of your 13 years on the planet.
Perhaps your boyfriend of 2 months broke up with you and dissolved into a blubbering, depressed mess.
You may decide that you are the type of person that cannot handle a breakup.
Uh – hello! No one is very good at breakups when they are 13!
But for someone that has internalized that experience and made it into some sort of personal deficit, breakups become a huge stumbling block in their life.
Flash forward 20 or 30 years. A marriage is in trouble. You know it’s not going to get better but you cannot bear to end it because you think you will never recover because that’s the kind of person you are.
Sitting here, reading it, it sounds rather ridiculous.
But for the person who has made this their truth, it’s a gut wrenching FACT! Nevermind that it’s their 13-year-old making the decisions for their now middle aged life.
It’s real! It’s who I am! I’m the kind of person who fill in the blank!
But you’re not.
None of you are.
Sure, your life experiences inform you. The things that you have lived through, dealt with, suffered with, rejoiced over – these are all frames with which you see the world.
But they aren’t YOU.
They can change at any time. YOU can change them.
The background you’ve come from is just that – a background.
Isn’t it time that you look at the present, the person you are right now?
You can allow your past to weigh in on the present but never let it dictate who you are or what you will do.
When you think about divorce and all that you think it implies about you, know that your perception is coming from the past.
I grew up thinking – KNOWING – that divorce was wrong. It was bad. It was for sinners. It was for people that were unwilling to be long-suffering (a highly prized trait in my world at the time).
Basically, it was evil.
If I continued to allow that thinking to dictate my life, I’d still be in that horrible marriage. Or more likely, dead.
By opening up my perception, just a little, I saw another world.
A world in which I was actually courageous and bold for leaving an abusive marriage. One where I was giving my kids a role model of what a person with self-respect looks like.
Did everyone agree with my new assessment of what divorce meant?
There were plenty of people that did think I was evil. Namely, the people that had drilled it into me for years that divorce, under almost any circumstances, was a horrible sin.
My decision did not fit into their frames.
And I didn’t give a damn.
My safety, sanity, and self-respect became more valuable to me than anybody else’s definition of who I was.
I realized that all divorce actually said was that someone got married, it didn’t work, and so they ended it.
The meaning of divorce is simply what each person, given their own life experiences, their own frames, their own ideas, gives it. And you can change that meaning at any time.
And you can change that meaning at any time.
The real question is, whose meaning is the most important to you – your own, or someone else’s?
P.S. Did you get everything you needed from this article? No? Maybe it’s time for a little more.
My goal is to meet you where you are and walk with you until you’re ready to set out again. A little strategy goes a long way. Let’s set up a FREE mini-strategy session to get you started!
Not quite ready for 1:1? My book, “Divorce is a Push Up: Get Strong To Get Through” is a practical and emotional guide to take you from the decision – made by your or by your spouse – all the way through post-divorce.
Stop feeling overwhelmed, guilty, confused or afraid and get prepared!
And don’t forget to grab your FREE Divorce Survival Kit before you go!