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5 Ways to Reclaim Your True Self and Identity After Divorce

"I went to war for what we had; you never even laced up your boots." – N.R. Shepherd

You spent years trying to turn your relationship into the partnership you hoped for – one where you (always) had each other's backs, celebrated one another's "whole" selves, enjoyed moments of playfulness, and shared intimacy. You wholeheartedly invested your time, money, energy, and other resources to make it work. You were selfless. You were hopeful. The sacrifices were "worth it" because you believed in the future you were creating and the commitment that comes with marriage.

Unfortunately, you were wrong. It ended. It's not fair. And, it just plain sucks.

What do you do after a dead-end relationship? Before you make any serious life adjustments, it's important to find yourself again. Carve out some time to rediscover what makes you, you. After you reconnect with who you are, you can make positive choices to move forward on your path. Following are five tips to help you rediscover yourself in the wake of a breakup.

Look backward

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to take a few trips down Memory Lane. If it's not too painful, consider the beginning of your relationship. Who were you then? What kinds of things did you do as a couple back when the world was your oyster? What was it about your ex that you fell in love with? And what can this information tell you about yourself?

Beyond your relationship, think about the person you were before you met your ex. Now is a good time to reach out and connect with some of those old friends you haven't seen in years. Share some memories and some laughs. Let others remind you of who you've been and who you might still be.

If it feels right, dive even deeper. What were your dreams when you were a child? How did you play, and what did you pretend? Think about awards you won and your favorite classes in school. What were your hobbies, and what did you find joy doing? Do any of those things still spark something inside you?

Indulge in fun stuff

While it's important to grieve and nurse a broken heart, it's also important to enjoy life. The simple act of having fun can put you in touch with another, perhaps long-lost, part of yourself. The word "fun" means different things to different people, so consider what it means to you. Then, enlist some friends to embark on entertaining adventures. You might attend a concert or create your own jam session. You might opt for a movie marathon, your favorite sport, or a  hike on a new trail. If you're having trouble finding others to engage in your preferred activity, check out local groups on Meetup.com or other local listings. You might even find a social group specifically for those who are newly single.

Get uncomfortable

While you were in your relationship, you probably settled into a comfortable routine. You spent time with the same group of people doing the same types of things. You might have enjoyed this routine because it felt normal and safe. But, as they say, "Life happens outside your comfort zone."

As part of your quest to rediscover yourself, challenge yourself. You don't have to do anything you'd consider insane (unless you want to), but venturing outside your standard circle will expand your horizons. Furthermore, personal discomfort helps you learn more about yourself and your values. You might fall in love with a new hobby. Or, you might decide skydiving is not for you. In either case, you will have learned and grown from the experience.

Related: Worksheet: Designing a Self-Care Plan (That You'll Actually Follow)

Spend sacred time alone

They key word here is "sacred." It's easy to spend time alone whether you're crying, sleeping, worrying, or cleaning your house. But those activities, while they might be useful and necessary, won't directly help you get in touch with yourself. Choose your sacred time wisely, and use it to help you find your center or your direction. Maybe it's reading a travel magazine that reinvigorates your love for adventure. Maybe it's heading out to the coffee shop for 15 minutes to people-watch after a yoga class. It doesn't have to be a lot of time; just commit to devoting some consistent time to yourself.

Meditation

One good way to spend solo time is meditation. Just a few minutes a day can calm you and help you stay calm when life throws those undesired curveballs. An app like Headspace can help you get into the zone without leaving your home or paying for a class.

Journaling

If you enjoy writing or illustrating, buy yourself a beautiful journal. Spend time each day writing about your thoughts, feelings, needs, and innermost desires. Another option is to draw or paint something that comes from your heart.

Vision board

Collect old magazines, and mindfully flip through them. If you see an image that speaks to you, tear it out. You might choose pictures of homes you love, words of intention, things you want to do, or places you want to visit. Organize your images, and paste them on a large poster board. Hang your vision board where you'll see it every day. The images will remind you of who you are and what you want to see in your future. These daily reminders can help you take meaningful action toward creating a life you love.

Solo vacation

One more way to spend sacred time alone – and this is a big one – is to take a solo vacation. I know the idea might sound daunting, but time away from everyday life provides a chance to decompress and relax into your glorious you-ness. Go where you want to go, and do what you want to do‚ even if it's just sitting in a hotel room soaking up the view. Once you find your sacred connection to yourself, you might never want to vacation with others again.

Related: Guest Blog: Laura Aiello, The Divorce Strategist, on Self-Care During Divorce

 Obtain professional assistance

It's easy for an outsider to look at a divorce as a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. But for the person enduring the separation, the process can be excruciatingly painful. After all, life as you knew it is over, and your foundation has been shaken to the core. It's natural to grieve. Healthy healing takes time. If you feel stuck, there's no shame in asking for assistance.

Physician

Is depression or sleeplessness getting the better of you? If so, talk to your doctor. You might benefit from nutritional counseling or temporary medication to help you function in your day-to-day life as you grow stronger.

Therapist

If you're carrying around some emotional baggage (or can't seem to shake those negative, self-loathing thoughts), schedule an appointment with a therapist. Therapy can help heal old wounds and empower you. As you develop a deeper understanding of yourself, you can prepare to make more appropriate future-shaping choices.

Coach

Are you ready to move on but feeling unsure how to do so? A coach can help. Coaching is a directional process that helps you clarify your values, intentions, and goals. A coach can help you to create a plan to move forward on your terms and according to your vision.

Other professionals

A multitude of other professionals are available as you move through this process of rediscovery. Depending on your goals, you might experiment with energy work, personal training, or financial planning. The journey from "we" to "me" can be a difficult one. But if you remain open to possibilities, you can have fun and learn a lot along the way. As you reconnect with yourself, you will become a better version of yourself.