For me, and eventually for my clients, one of the most challenging aspects of getting through a divorce is trying to pick up your trashed self-esteem off the floor and bring it back to life.
In my coaching career, this subject comes up a great deal. Here are some of my favorite strategies to counteract the very debilitating and damaging effects of divorce, whether you are in the early, mid, or late stages:
Since we all have the same 70,000 thoughts a day, start with filling your mind with "healthy thoughts" through incantations, reading inspirational material, keeping a gratitude and acknowledgement journal, etc. Begin to replace and implant new, more empowering messages to begin to shift old tapes/records playing in your head. In Tony Robbins book, Awaken the Giant Within, he also recommends a 10-day mental diet. For 10 days, you must train your mind to think good/kind thoughts. He mentioned that if you dwell in negativity for more than 10 minutes at a time, then you have to begin the 10-day mental diet all over again.
Start noticing things that you are doing well and can acknowledge yourself for. It is important to acknowledge ourselves and recognize our own greatness, even if it is things like: get myself to work on time, received some nice feedback, or I made a healthy meal for the kids, etc. Conversely, the habitual questions to avoid are, “What is wrong with me?” “Why can't I ever get it right?” and “Why do I always mess things up?” Consider changing the questions to: “Where did I contribute today?” “What am I doing great?” “In what way am I grateful for the blessing of life today?”
For me, I had to learn to become my own best friend. I decided not to say anything to myself that I would not say to my own best friend. I love, nurture, and encourage my friends, so why wouldn’t I do this for myself? I would never discourage, condemn, or abandon a friend. I always think the best of my friends. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?
Mirror work is also beneficial. I promise you that it will feel silly at first, but saying "I love you" to your image in the mirror and adding "because..." over and over and over can be very powerful.
Find a way to uncover your "pay-off" or “side benefit” to your negative words or behavior. Low self-esteem is a negative habitual behavior that serves a purpose. Too much self-soothing, self-condemnation, and self-punishment can be traps. Yet we hold on to it because it serves us in some way. For example, I, too, have struggled with low self-esteem. I realized that I used it to hide from taking action on the things that would be good for me. The truth is I was too afraid to approach what would be good because I might fail. The key is to fess up to the pay-off. Develop a more empowering meaning or pay-off. Then take action. A great strategy for playing a negative script is to ask the question, “What will I tell myself instead or do instead?”
Nathaniel Brandon has great books and exercises, like The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, for increasing self-esteem. They're very easy to implement, as well.
Find one or two strategies that resonate with you and commit to it. Practice them over and over again. Soon you will find that you are thinking, feeling, and believing better things about yourself.