After a marriage to someone who puts himself first, you may feel lost.

How to Develop Self-Esteem After Marriage to a Narcissist

by Ashlea Campbell

If you were married to someone who always put himself first, developing self-esteem after the relationship has ended can be challenging, to say the least. While you may think you have rid yourself of your problem, your ex-husband, you may ignore the lasting effects that his actions, whether abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, had on you.

1. Examine You

'Self-imposed' and 'self-absorbed' may be the terms you use to describe your ex-husband. While you may not be subjected to his behavior anymore, you should evaluate what attracted you to him in the first place. If you have a nurturing personality, you may have been attracted to someone for whom you could care, suggests marriage and family therapist, Wendy M. Schwartz, Psy.D. During the relationship, your former partner became the most important person in his world and yours. Now it is time to focus on what makes you an important person.

2. Make a List

To focus on yourself, psychiatrist Neel Burton, M.D. suggests making three lists: one for strengths, one of your achievements, and one of things that you admire about yourself. This list will serve as a reminder and will help you battle negative thoughts such as self-doubt. In addition, let this list guide you. Start planning for a future for you. Assess what you want for yourself and determine how to achieve your goals. Your three lists are your tools to reaching those goals. Remember: by making lists that focus on your strengths, achievements and likable qualities, you’ve already taken the first steps towards developing healthy self-esteem.

3. Develop a New Routine

Your daily routine probably revolved around your ex-husband, and you might continue that routine. Breaking away from the routine might seem easier said than done, but it is possible and beneficial. In addition to reaching your goals, decide what you need to get through the day. If having a clean house makes you feel good, set aside time to clean. If saying daily affirmations works well for you, start and end each day with them. For example, start your day by identifying your talents and how well you use them. Compliment yourself on your physical attributes as well. Determine what you need to feel good about yourself each day, and start working them into your daily routine. Soon, your old routine will no longer exist and you will have healthy, functional routine.

4. Seek Support

Surround yourself with people who love and care about your well-being. Lean on your family and friends during this time, especially when you feel as though you are experiencing a setback suggests Burton in his article "Building Confidence and Self-Esteem." If the majority of your friends are friends you have in common with your ex-husband and you do not feel comfortable sharing with them your struggles, look into finding a support group. Sometimes, meeting people who will know you outside of your ex will help shed some of that old, negative self-esteem. They can see your situation objectively, recognize your talents, and like you just the way you are. While it may seem like common sense, Burton reiterates avoiding those who bring you down or fail to help you see the good in you.

About the Author

Ashlea Campbell writes about families, relationships and health-related issues. In addition to writing professionally, she teaches writing courses at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She holds a Masters degree in English education from the University of Kansas.

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