Why did this happen? Am I unlovable or there is something wrong? We all have these thoughts after getting out of a romantic relationship. We all tend to question ourselves. Why do feel this way? We form our sense of self from experiences and self-esteem is a branch of self. Break up changes our concept of self that is an individual feels a significant drop in clarity of self. When we lose a significant partner with whom we have created a life, we also lose the sense of companionship that we have lived with. With time, we build overlapping self-concepts with our partners. Break up forms a negative image of self which in turn lowers our self-esteem.
Let’s understand how the brain perceives break up. Our brain processes rejection from a partner as a threat and activates our survival needs which in turn leads to the feelings of seeking approval or rekindling relationship with an ex-partner. A romantic relationship is a form of biological addiction that is we go through withdrawal symptoms after a break up which also makes us question our self-esteem. We tend to fall in a loop where we think about what-ifs or whether they have moved on.
Let’s discuss how the concept of self-esteem is interlinked with breakups. We tend to think, “if we would have been a better person, this break up wouldn’t have happened or the person would have loved me more”. The fact that they left me is because we are worthless and it is our fault. The other aspect of this is power dynamics which partners share. After a break up we all look for “closure” or a narrative that helps us in making sense of the whole incident and we hope to get this narrative from our ex-partner which further changes our concept of self. This thought leads to unbalanced power dynamics that is the other person gets more power when we let them define the situation.
When a relationship ends, we tend to do things that are against our moral values or beliefs which further threaten our self-esteem. If we sit and observe we would see how our sentence shifts from “we were together” to “I am alone”. This shift of “we” to “me” brings a feeling of shame. For example, we start using phrases like “I couldn’t protect myself or I let my vulnerabilities show”. This concept of I brings a lot of shame which forms the core of self-esteem in turn damages the concept of self.
Our focus shifts from moving on to finding ways to protect our self-esteem which forces us to go down the lane of embarrassment making a full circle.
Now, after reading this we would be wondering how to work on it and regain our self-esteem. Here are the certain things we could try
- Seek therapy, therapy will help you build insight and work on yourself
- Talk to friends, you are not alone in this
- Self-care, is something we ignore the most
- Compassion, get yourself a break, and remember it is not about “you” it is not your fault