You felt like you had everything together. You were managing life ok; you were confident and secure in yourself. Then suddenly you are punched in the gut by something you didn’t expect. You boss fires you, seemingly out of nowhere, and you don’t understand why. Your partner dumps you, though you thought everything was fine. Someone from your past calls you or shows up on your doorstep. Encountering this person brings back painful memories, and you are transported back to a time you have wanted to forget.
Even if you refuse the call and shut the door, you feel young and vulnerable again, reliving intense memories that you thought were behind you. Yesterday you felt like you could take on the world, but today you feel small. Canceling your plans for tonight, you go home and binge on Netflix and cry. As you flip through old albums on Facebook, you study your former self.
Doesn’t she seem happy, confident and effortlessly cool? Who are you now? Some sort of loser? You feel weak and frighteningly vulnerable. You want to curl up in bed and sleep for days until you can wake up and be normal again.
But sleep won’t fix what’s going on. Allow yourself to grieve.
Grieve the lost job.
Grieve the lost relationship.
Grieve the mistakes and wounds of your past.
Have a good cry.
You’re allowed to cry and it doesn’t make you weak. Stop flipping through your Facebook photo albums. You know they’re only half-truths that make you see your past through rose-colored glasses.
Your life has never been perfect, so don’t romanticize what you have lost. A chapter of your life has ended, and now you are in a new place.
Right now, take the time to care for you. Take a break from social media and all the myths it perpetuates. Turn your phone off for a while. Pick up your favorite food and eat it slowly, savoring each bite, focusing on each sensation on your tongue. Stand in the shower and feel the water hitting your back. Feel alive in that moment, with your feet planted firmly on the shower floor. After you get out of the shower, turn the lights off in your apartment, and tighten all of the muscles in your body, one by one, then slowly relax each one in turn. Play the music that calms you, and lie down, close your eyes, and focus on the lyrics.
If you are spiritual, pray or meditate. Later, curl up with your favorite book, revisiting that familiar truth. Go for a run, take a long walk, sit at your favorite park or at the beach. Photograph anything that looks beautiful. Write. When you are ready, call your best friend, your mom, or your sister. Don’t be afraid to talk too long or cry on the phone. They love you and will listen. Don’t try to fix everything right now. Rest.
Remember, the way others view you does not indicate your worth. Often it says more about them than you. You don’t know why the firing or breakup happened, and it could be more about their problems than yours. Losing a job does not mean you are a terrible employee. A breakup doesn’t mean you are hopeless at relationships. Having the past does not mean that you are broken. Your past makes you are a survivor, with past experiences that prepare you to handle challenges of the future.
Your feelings do not indicate your worth either. You may feel small right now, but that doesn’t mean that you are small. List things that you know to be true about yourself; not feelings but facts based on what you know deep in your heart about yourself, what people have told you, and what your faith tells you. Write these things down, repeat them to yourself. Remind yourself that your core self-has not changed. Losing something doesn’t make you less. A loss of a job does not mean that you are less than others who are employed.
Being single doesn’t mean that you are less than people in relationships. Revisiting memories of the past doesn’t mean you have regressed to the past. Whatever has happened, you are the same person, just in a different situation. Repeat that. You are the same person, just in a different situation.
Take a deep breath and gather your strength to take on the world again. Read your list of strengths. Arm yourself with the support of your loved ones. Remind yourself of your accomplishments. Pray, hold on to the things that are steadfast for you. You will not let this discouragement defeat you. Speak the truth about yourself to yourself, then go back into the world with your head held high, armed and ready to face whatever challenge comes your way.