Dealing with Divorce, Still

Fighting off the world with insecurity is a tough thing to do. It’s impossible to ignore. There’s something in you that craves constant validation and reassurance because of the part of you that doesn’t believe that the truth could be happy. Imagine this: your parents divorce during your pubescent years, you go through middle school with everyone smelling your family’s dirty laundry. You ignore every bit of hurt, and pretend like it’s all “normal,” whatever that means.

Over a decade later, it still affects you, despite all your resistance. Some days, you feel on top of the world. People look at you like you’re someone to admire. You convince yourself you’re confident, and there are moments that you truly believe you are the person you’ve always wanted to be. Then something happens, you find old photos of when you were younger, you remember what your dad said that one holiday, and the pain comes back like a shot, coursing through your veins. You’re reassured what you really are: flawed.

Growing up, you wanted nothing more than a normal family. You wanted a mom and dad who showed up to games or rehearsal together, and after you wanted to have dinner with them both without conflict. Then you grew up, you let the pain fade, tucking it away in the attic of your brain. You’re an adult now, you go to work and pay bills like everyone else. But you’re not like everyone else. You notice the difference between you and the peers around you who have parents that are still together. It doesn’t matter to you if they’re happy or good, what matters is that is something you never had.

These kids often present as being mature, but in truth they are emotionally and often socially immature. They are frequently more emotionally needy then they come across and they are behind their peers developmentally. They have spent a large portion of the lives learning how to please others without really learning how to master fulfilling themselves. This mask leads adults to misread the kid’s sense of self worth; thinking they are doing fine when in actuality, they are hurting inside.

How Children Cope with High Conflict Divorce: How are they harmed and what can parents do to help them? By Bob Livingstone

Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are 300 percent more likely to need psychological help within any given year than teens from intact, nuclear families. Children from divorced homes may have more psychological problems than children who lost a parent to death.

Statistics About Children of Divorce By Wayne Parker

You have to help yourself.

Some days, the thought crosses your mind of your parents still being together, grieving over the figurative “death” of your first family. Doesn’t matter, everything that unfolded was necessary, and the way to heal is to recognize the feelings that have been ignored for so long. It’s a painful, ongoing process, but one that must be done in order to have successful relationships with others in the future.

If you can’t help yourself overcome your own demons, seek help in others. You have friends, family, professionals, etc. There is an endless support chain wanting to help you heal, because believe it or not, people want you to be happy. Your parents, even if they don’t say it, wish they could’ve been better to you. Yet there is no point in ruminating in the past, the thing to do is face the present and change the future.

It’s possible to trust, love, and share with others. It’s something you may have to spend a lifetime working on. You’re so used to “dealing” with your emotions yourself, it’s scary to open yourself to others. Ironically though, sharing your truest feelings in turn makes you more confident, comfortable, and relatable to others. So yes, you didn’t have the conventional idea of a childhood or parents, but you still have you. You have the ability to accept yourself, the parts that are bruised and scarred along with the shiny other bits.

Shame on All of You

It’s hard for humans to communicate. We spend all day talking to each other, but how often do you say what you’re really feeling? Either you spend your time thinking of various ways to express your emotions, or you don’t express them much at all. You put on a smile and nod, playing pretend in a superficial world where it not only matters how much better looking you are than others, but also how cool and smart you are. So, it all makes sense. When you point the finger at someone else, when you’re angry at the world for wronging you, when you ask yourself, Why don’t they like me? That you feel shame.

Shame is an incredibly painful and self-deprecating emotion. Shame hurts so deep that for some, it goes unnoticed. The thing is, just because you ignore an emotion, doesn’t mean it goes away. If you ignore shame, it will project onto others because having someone to blame for why you feel shame provides a false sense of control and superiority. The emotion is still there.

If the shame remains unacknowledged, a person may decide to focus on another emotional state, an act of emotional substitution. For example, a shamed person, unwilling to acknowledge the feeling of shame can become angry with someone else, making other a kind of scapegoat for self-blame. […] By not focusing on the shame and attending to other emotions, we lose the opportunity to understand the forces at work around us and within us.

5 Factors That Make You Feel Shame by Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.

In a previous article, I talked about how shame can cause hubristic pride, believing yourself as better than others, acting as if they were inferior. This pride is a coping mechanism for shame. You wonder where all this shame comes from. When you were a child, there were times you make a mistake or forgot to do something. Instead of focusing on the action or how it affected the people around you, your parents would tear down your self-worth. That’s a stupid thing to do. You don’t listen. You’re going to fail if you don’t do this correctly.

Still, it’s not just your upbringing. Shame is also related to your self-confidence and your need for control. It’s natural, the urge for some type of control over out lives. We want to know a reason. We want solve problems. We want control, and shame is unfortunately a byproduct of that. Because when you blame yourself for why bad things happen to you or why people treat you poorly, you think that you can fix it by changing yourself. Controversially, if you’re someone whose manifested your shame into pride, you’d blame everyone else for the painful feelings of shame you feel, and spite them because that’s how you’re able to control your emotions.

Many people transpose shame and guilt. The main difference is that shame is about one’s self, whereas guilt is the result of your actions unto others. A person who feels shame from an action tears at their core thinking, I’m stupid, I’m lazy, I’m not good enough. As person who feels guilt about their action thinks about others, I let them down. I made them feel bad. Sometimes, you can feel both shame and guilt.

When we feel shame about something we’ve done, we’re probably much more reticent to speak about it or acknowledge it in such a way that we can rectify our mistakes. Guilt, however, is much more of an actionable emotion—when we feel guilt, we are more motivated to undo any damage we’ve done or try to make up for our errors.

Strong Leaders Experience Guilt Without Shame by Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.

There is no way to prevent these emotions from flooding into our mind, they are every bit as necessary to our psyche as happiness and pleasure. Don’t ignore these emotions. Understand them, work through them, know why you feel that way. Allow yourself to feel the pain of shame and guilt. Let it flow over you and dissolve, like most other emotions. There are things you can and cannot change. You can’t control everything, but you can work on understanding yourself, and why you feel the way you do, especially when you don’t like it.

You Do You

Persistence is key in following the path to success, but along the way, you may put too much value on others for guidance. Whenever you’re unsure of something, rather than trying it yourselves, you’ll ask others for advice or assistance. You forget, however, that despite their knowledge in wisdom, the situation of others differs from your current state and you must try things your own way in order to know what’s best.

There are only so many hours in a day, and days in a year to accomplish everything you’ve ever wanted. Most days, all you want to do is forget the world and avoid your personal responsibilities. It’s easy to judge others because it distracts you from your own faults. You care about what others think, and how to present yourself. You don’t allow yourself to try your way due to the risk of failing.

“What one person considers to be true about you is not necessary the truth about you, and if you give too much power to others’ opinions, it could douse your passion and confidence, undermining your ability to ultimately succeed.”

Five Ways To Make Peace With Failure by Susan Tardanico

For example: I’ve never golfed in my life, and recently, my husband has been learning how. We went to the range. I’ve never been good at sports, so naturally my expectation for myself was low. My husband gave me some tips on how to stand, hold the club, and how to hit. I’d go through the whole process in my head: straightening my back, breathing deep, and keeping everything else in check. And of course, I’d miss.

The heat was peaking on a Saturday afternoon. There weren’t many others there besides us. Suddenly, something inside snapped. I cared so much about doing things right and not embarrassing myself, I hindered my own ability to do better by not fully trying. I let go of my insecurities. I pulled the club back with the twist of a hip on an inhale. Then, swinging with exhale, and I hit the ball, straight. A sense of accomplishment rushed over me and I accepted that I was indeed capable of doing it. I still missed many shots, but when I was able to do it correctly, I did it right.

After our practice that day, I learned something about myself. Because I cared so much about not letting myself fail in front of others, I was too afraid to try. I didn’t trust myself or my own ability. Isn’t that something we all do? You don’t want to pursue your dream because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of others. You want to fit in, even subconsciously.

Stop caring and be self-reliant.

“People who act with self-reliance feel more in control of their environment, and feeling this way is an important ingredient of well-being. […] Being self-reliant means doing things for yourself. “

How to Let Go of the Need to Be Perfect By Ilene Strauss Cohen Ph.D.

There are certain things in life to care about, like family and friends, but most things in life don’t require that attention, especially negative things. Take all those negative thoughts that are buried in your subconscious and push them out. Don’t dwell in your mistakes, regret your decisions, or fear your failure. It can be difficult. We are human and it is in our nature to questions and probe, especially our own rationale.

Often, you allow ourselves to care too much about the opinions of others. You let them decide what’s best for you because they must know what they’re doing. They’ve lived longer and have a certain level of success you find admirable, so when it comes to trying something outside your expertise, you look to others. You forget that although their situation may have been similar, it’ll never be the same as yours.

Do what you want and don’t apologize for doing what’s best for you. Of course, that doesn’t mean to be malicious and do wrong upon others for your own benefit. Rather, when you stop caring so much about pleasing others and being perfect at what you do, you’ll succeed.