Divorce strips so much away from you. The initial thing it takes, is of course, your marriage but there is so much more that it can rob you of. It can steal your security, your identity (as a wife or a husband), your friends, your confidence and your hopes and dreams. I am losing a great deal but one of the major things I am clinging onto for dear life is my confidence.
My husband had an affair with a woman over ten years younger than him, he left me for her. It’s fair to say my confidence plummeted in the months that followed. I felt I had been traded in, that I had been weighed up against this other person and found wanting. It truly made me question everything about myself; my personality, my worth but mainly, as superficial as this may be, the way I look.
Alongside this, there is a certain confidence that being tethered to someone in life gives you. When you lose that, it can suddenly leave you feeling well…untethered and exposed. Your husband or wife might have formed a major part of your identity, so when we lose that relationship it can rock the very core of who we are. That’s exactly what it did to me.
Although family and friends very sweetly tried to boost my confidence, I still couldn’t shake off the awful fact, that the person that I loved didn’t want me anymore. It was the biggest blow to my confidence that I have ever experienced. The raw sense of abandonment was like a label that had been hung around my neck, weighting me down, tripping me up, defining me and screaming at me, ‘You weren’t good enough!’
When we go through a traumatic experience in our lives, it can unearth even deeper insecurities that perhaps we have kept at bay and never really resolved. For example, in my case, as a child at school, I had been bullied about my weight and always felt I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls because of this. I felt so obviously different and not good enough.
Fast forward fifteen or so years and there I was, begging my husband not to leave me, to love me, to want me. Can you see how the abandonment went on to unearth those old insecurities of years gone by, that were just laying dormant below the surface? His abandonment woke up the volcano within and it was spewing its toxic content all over my life. I was that little kid again, asking to be accepted.
All of these factors chipped away at my self-esteem. I experienced this overwhelming draining of confidence from my spirit. It just went.
I hid myself away (as much as I could) for some months. I wanted comfort, security, my family, my bubble of safety. The world felt cruel, unforgiving, harsh and scary during that time and my vulnerability was almost palpable. I felt overwhelmed about the thought of starting again, of putting myself back out there in the world, especially with my self-esteem at rock bottom.
I now see that this time of being in a bubble was important. It was a time to absorb the initial shock, to lick my wide open, fresh wounds and to try to process the life altering event that had just taken place.
Over time I began to have this feeling within me. It was like a small voice in the distance. It started out a whisper but then it got louder until it was deafening. I think the voice is better known as the human spirit. God has instilled this within each and every one of us.
It spoke to my heart. It told me life is a gift and that I would need to rise up from the ashes.
I knew instinctively that rebuilding my life would mean embracing the things that once scared me. It would mean facing the demons of years gone by and shaking off my labels. Shaking off the label of the little kid that wasn’t skinny enough. Shaking off the label of the girl who didn’t feel she was pretty enough. Shaking off the label of the wife that wasn’t good enough. It would mean taking action despite my fear and my vulnerability.
The injustice of the situation seemed to fuel the voice to become even louder and more gutsy. Don’t give them (my husband and his affair partner) the power to ruin your life!
I had this sense that I needed to jump from heights that once scared me (not literally), to do new things, to put myself out on a limb. I was living out on a limb anyway, I may as well put that feeling to good use! I would become a yes person, I would simply say yes.
I felt I needed to start out with something small but meaningful. Something that was a positive change but would challenge me. My first challenge of choice was to go swimming. Now that may seem something small and silly but to me it was anything but that. My body confidence was never great and recent events meant it was now non-existent. The thing I least wanted to do at that time was to go to a public pool, in a bathing suit. So that was exactly what I did. I said yes.
I felt totally exposed, vulnerable, nervous, on show. But I was doing it, I was there.
Did it scare me? Yep. Did I feel uncomfortable? Yep. Am I glad I did it? Yes!
Pushing myself to do something that scared me, at a time when my confidence was at its lowest gave me a new kind of respect for myself. I saw that there would be personal growth amongst those ashes that my husband had left me in. I realised I was stronger than I thought, that I could surprise myself. There was new life to be had and I now had the courage to go after it.
Believe it or not, throughout this time, swimming has become a saving grace to me. I am now an avid swimmer that loves it so much that I miss it if I don’t go for a few days. I feel alive doing it. It burns up so much angry energy and chills me out. I love the fact that it is something that I do for me and that my husband has no clue I even do it, it’s part of my new life.
Doing something uncomfortable turned out to become such a positive thing during this awful time.
I have built upon this idea of embracing living life out on a limb, of saying yes. I have been doing new things that I had wanted to do in the past but didn’t feel confident enough to.
My life is precious. Your life is precious. It will take courage and time to rebuild but slowly, one step at a time, saying yes will lead to new opportunities and new life.
Each time I overcome something, each time I push that boundary, I feel immense relief, empowerment and pride that I am growing and overcoming. It is in these moments, that I know that I am going to be okay.
Sink or swim? I’m chosing to swim…literally.