People often have bad thoughts and feelings about themselves after a separation. This is poor self-esteem and it can stop you moving forward in your life in all sorts of ways. You need good self-esteem to be happy and to move on healthily after your separation.

You may not realise you don’t value yourself. Poor self-esteem can creep up on you. 

Signs to look out for

Signs that you have poor self-esteem include:

  • Believing that you’re unlovable.
  • Believing that you weren’t good enough to keep your ex.
  • Feeling you didn’t do enough to keep your ex.
  • Feeling that you can’t cope.
  • Saying critical, cruel or unkind things about yourself in your head.

Find a balance

One way to start thinking about yourself in a more balanced way is to make two lists: one of the things you like about yourself, the other of the things you don’t like about yourself.

Another exercise is to ask a friend what you’re good at and what areas you might need to develop a little more.

Stresses and self-esteem

Positive stress comes from taking part in something that’s enjoyable yet challenging, for example taking part in new activities. Positive stress can be good for your self-esteem so you may want to think about how you can encourage it.

Negative stress comes from having too many unwanted demands. It can contribute to your poor self-esteem.

If you can’t reduce your negative stresses, you could:

  • Find help, support or advice to deal with them.
  • Break down overwhelming events or tasks into smaller steps. Decide what you can do now and what can wait.

Be kind to yourself

The following can help you start to value yourself more and improve your self-esteem:

  • Praise yourself when you’ve done something well.
  • At the end of each day find one thing you did well.
  • Give yourself little treats or rewards.
  • Aim for things that are achievable.

Think about qualities that you could develop

Reflecting on qualities you would like to develop can make you feel more positive. Try these steps to help you think about the qualities you would like to develop:

  • Write a list of qualities about your ex that attracted you to them in the beginning. Try not to worry whether these qualities changed over time, just focus on the beginning of your relationship.
  • If one of the qualities is a negative one, see if you can describe it in a more positive way. For example, if your ex was stubborn; you could say they were focused on what they wanted.
  • Now think of this list as qualities to develop or work on in yourself. Often we’re attracted to qualities in others that don’t sit very comfortable with ourselves.
  • Name one action that you’re going to do for each quality that might help encourage it in you.