How I Healed My Low Self-Worth After Infidelity and Divorce

“It’s okay to let go of those who couldn’t love you. Those who didn’t know how to. Those who failed to even try. It’s okay to outgrow them, because that means you filled the empty space in you with self-love instead. You’re outgrowing them because you’re growing into you. And that’s more than okay, that’s something to celebrate.” ~Angelica Moone

Once upon a time, I met and fell in love with the man of my dreams. He was the most romantic, loving, amazing person I had ever met and for some reason, he wanted to be with me.

I was a nobody. I was the little girl who had lost her mommy and had control issues. I was the princess needing to be rescued by a prince. And I was rescued, whisked away to a whole other state, and loved and adored by this wonderful man whom I eventually married.

We were together for almost nine years. But my history of eating disorders caused a disconnect. I obsessed over food, exercise, and the slightest interference in my perfectly planned day. We no longer could talk with each other. We no longer could connect on a physical, spiritual, or emotional level.

Two days after Christmas, he told me he didn’t love me. He filed for divorce in early 2021.

I admit, the facts remain foggy about when husband’s affair started, but the emotional truth is this: I felt raw, exposed, ripped apart from the inside. My heart broke into pieces and then those pieces broke into more pieces.

Each time he left the house, I knew where he was going and who he was with. A pickaxe constantly chiseled away at the hole in my chest, making the constant ache and longing for the return of my former life, my husband, greater and greater.

I wanted him next to me, in our bed. I wanted to feel his weight while he slept, see his silhouette in the darkness. Hear his breath and occasional snoring. I thought I would run out of salt from the tears I shed, but they kept coming, night after night, day after day.

I blamed myself for all of it: losing my husband, my house, my dog. It was because of me that my marriage failed. I was unlovable and unworthy of love. Broken. That is why my husband didn’t love me enough to want to work through our problems.

If I had only gotten help sooner, then we would have stayed together. If I wouldn’t have been so obsessive over exercise and what I ate, then he wouldn’t have stopped loving me. If I would have loved him perfectly, then he wouldn’t have found the love he needed with another woman. 

Good and bad memories of him haunted me in my dreams. Harsh words I said, unloving things I did, waited for me in my bed and pounced when I tried to sleep. Wherever I went, the constant flood of tears threatened to destroy me.

When he filed for divorce, I made up my mind. I refused to allow the eating disorder to take any more of my life away.

I realized I couldn’t blame myself entirely for the end of my relationship. For the first time in fifteen years, I threw all of my energy into my healing process instead of achieving the perfect body.

I needed to heal for me. I needed to take real control of my past and learn from my mistakes so I wouldn’t make them again. I had experienced other life-changing trauma, and knew I finally needed to work through it. But I didn’t know where I should begin in the healing process. This is what helped me:

1. Gratitude and Prayer

I am reminded every day that there is always something to be grateful for. The light of the sun after the darkness. The gentle rain that falls after a long dry spell. The changing leaves on the trees. A functioning mind and body. People in your life who love you unconditionally.

I still experienced all of these things, and I still had people who loved me in my life, even though they were hundreds of miles away. I vocalized my gratitude for even the smallest things out loud each day.

At night, I wrote down at least three things that I was grateful for that day: I am grateful that I rose from my bed free of pain in my body. I am grateful for the ability to make my bed. I am grateful for my job.

When you express gratitude for even insignificant things, you begin to see the good in your life, and not dwell on what is going wrong.

I have always been a spiritual person, believing in a connection with a higher power. Each night, I prayed for my family. Then for my friends. And eventually for myself, something I’d never done before because I didn’t feel worthy.

I wanted the gnawing ache in my stomach gone, and my broken heart to mend. Blaming and berating myself all my life had not worked, so what did I have to lose. What I had to gain was a stronger and more confident self.

2. Counseling and Self-Love

I sought a counselor. It helped to relay my story to someone who could help. By telling someone my story from the beginning, I was released from its power. It didn’t own me anymore.

But I still had a long way to go.

The energy around my husband was cold and uncomfortable. I knew he felt it too. He avoided me. When we did encounter each other, he looked at me with disdain and disgust. I went straight to my default thoughts; he must think I’m ugly. It put me in another downward spiral of self-loathing, but not for long.

I was determined to get better, to stop struggling with low-self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

Counseling helped put things in a new perspective. In one of our sessions, she told me something I will never forget: There was nothing you could have done differently. He was going to leave anyway. To know that I hadn’t failed at my relationship and it wasn’t all my fault was a huge relief.

My counselor introduced self-love activities, which sounded so counter-intuitive. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Despite the awkwardness of looking at myself in the mirror and giving myself positive compliments full of compassion, I did it. The more I practiced compassion toward myself, the more I began to see my intrinsic worth.

I began with the simple phrase: I love you.

That turned into: I deserve love.

I kept saying these every day, wherever I was. My thinking changed my reality. I began to truly believe I was worthy of love.

3. Acceptance and Forgiveness

Even though I spoke with a counselor regularly, I still rode on a rollercoaster from hell. While I still lived at the house, my husband had told me he was going on a fishing trip a few hours away. Every fiber of my being told me he was lying.

The Monday he returned, I searched the room he slept in and found the receipt for a hotel room for two people only twenty minutes away. I confronted him and he denied anything was going on. I couldn’t mention the receipt because I was ashamed for trying to find proof.

I said horrible things to him that night, not because of what he had done, but because he was lying. After being together for almost nine years, how could he still ignore my feelings? How could he continue to lie? His behavior made it perfectly clear that our marriage was over, he had someone else, and he had nothing else to lose. Why not admit it?

I felt as though he never loved me at all. The tension between us worsened and I felt like a stranger in the home I had lived in for six years.

I wanted him to hurt like I did, to understand my pain, my devastation, to empathize with me in some way. He had never experienced a devastating loss of a parent like I had as a child. He had never experienced abandonment of people who are supposed to love all of you, the imperfect parts too. He could not begin to understand the pain and grief I experienced. He had no idea how it festers inside like a dormant volcano for years, then spews out in forms of self-harm.

Despite my mistakes in our relationship and my feelings of unworthiness, I knew I didn’t deserve his lies. The next morning, I promised myself that I would stop trying to find proof of his affair. It wasn’t worth the pain. I knew the truth and if he wanted to continue to lie, that was his choice. I also stopped berating myself for what I had said.

I knew I could never go back in time and redo everything. I couldn’t take anything back. I had to learn from it all and move forward. I had loved this man, and a part of me still did. It was at that moment I forgave my husband for what he had done. I just couldn’t forgive myself yet.

4. Meditation and Breathing

I tried meditation on my own, but I was in the same boat as so many other people who say they can’t meditate because their mind wanders. I didn’t have the patience to meditate, but I still tried.

I sat down on the floor, closed my eyes, and began thinking of all the things I wasn’t supposed to think about. I tried hard to stay focused on the present moment, like I had read so many times. I needed help.

I found a Meetup group about mindfulness and the healing process. I learned tactics for finding awareness and my own inner peace, like repeating a mantra over and over, “I am here. I am love. I am enough. I am okay.” I learned about the power of breathing and the breath cycles: inhale for four seconds, hold for seven, exhale for eight.

With practice, I was able to retrain my brain to stay in the present and not dwell in the past or worry in the future. Meditation helps to change the mind’s thoughts, too.

With meditation came awareness and acceptance of my emotions. When the sadness came, I let it. I crumbled to the floor and allowed my tears to fall for as long as needed and eventually, I rose from the floor and moved forward, telling myself that it’s okay to feel whatever it is you feel.

When loneliness threatened to debilitate me, I let it in, sensing it poke and pry at every vulnerable part of me. But then it eventually went away too. I learned that emotions are like unwanted guests: they are annoying when they are around, but they will eventually leave.

Over the next few months, I could feel a shift within me. I felt empowered. I felt more confident.

5. Writing

Writing is in my soul. It helps to put things in a new perspective. Since I was a child, I wrote my thoughts down to help process what happened to me. I can see the events anew with some distance and perspective.

I kept a notebook and carried it with me wherever I went. When I felt overwhelmed by my thoughts, I wrote them down. It served as a kind of brain dump for all the streaming thoughts in my head.

Writing is tangible proof and a reminder that the only constant thing in life is change. Our viewpoint on life never looks the same when we look back on it from the rearview mirror.

I am a work in progress. I am healing. I am growing. I am learning. I am rising stronger every day. Even if one person cannot see my value, my worth, and my intrinsic goodness, I have countless others who can and who have shown me that I am worthy of love.

Love is what humans truly crave when they futilely use money to buy new gadgets, clothes, or make fancy renovations to their homes. But at the end of the day, humans thrive and prosper on love. No amount of money or material wealth can replace the desire to feel loved and be loved in return. The most important love of all is that for yourself.

I still question myself and my value. But I am getting better at recognizing those thoughts and shutting them down sooner, then replacing them with more compassionate ones.

I have learned that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or kept secret.

Mental health is okay to talk about. It is okay to ask for help. Don’t hold it in no matter what you assume other people will think. You are worthy of finding peace and healing. You deserve to be the best version of yourself. Accept yourself so you can forgive yourself. Choose to love yourself first and everything else will fall into place.

About Kaycianne Russell

Kaycianne is a mild-mannered teacher by day, and a ferocious writer by night. She encourages her students to express themselves in writing in order to realize inner strength they didn’t know they had. A certified health coach and personal trainer, she hosts a yoga and mindfulness class for students to learn breathing and relaxation techniques. Check out her www.heartofhealing.info for more about her story and how she is taking steps along her path to healing.

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