I was an awkward and lanky 13-year-old girl at a church BBQ when I first saw him. He was tall, with dark hair and a beautiful smile. I remember telling my girlfriend I "liked" him (what does that even mean to a 13 year old Jen?) and wouldn't you know it, her mother was good friends with his. Before I even realized what was happening I had plans to go bowling with this 16-year-old boy, his friend, and my girlfriend. A group thing, you know, because....well.....I was 13. And church, people.
He and his friend picked us up from my house. My mom supervised the hand-off. I think I said hello? I might not have said hello. I couldn't for the life of me look at him. I sat in the backseat of that car, silent and sweating, my heart pounding, while my girlfriend and his friend chatted it up. By the time we got to the bowling alley I was in full-blown panic mode, my mind racing between the drive-in scene in Grease and those horrible 1960's sex ed videos they'd started showing us in health class. What am I doing here? What should I say? What does he want to hear? How am I supposed to act? Do I need more lip gloss? Do boys even like lip gloss? Teen Magazine, oh how you've failed me!!
After an hour of me staring at the ground, lips sealed shut, he and his friend gave up and took me home. I practically jumped out of the moving vehicle when it turned down my street and I, of course, never heard from him again.
Dating, I realized right then and there, absolutely sucks.
Flash forward to present day and I can't say I'm any better than my 13 year old self. Here I am, fresh out of a ten year marriage with someone I thought I was going to die next to like in The Notebook (yep, welcome to Jen world), and I am scared shitless. The pain hangs on me like dead weight. It gets me stuck in insecurity, doubt, and shame. It's like quicksand. I am afraid to shake and fight it because all that moving might make me die faster, right? But if I just stand still, I will sink.
The answer, dear readers? The answer is to find the confidence to fight. And risk. And continue pulling upwards and out of that mess of a person who was left behind when her marriage went to shit. We don't need to feel helpless. We don't need to feel like we're not in control. We don't need to stand there and let the sadness and unfairness and disappointment overtake our happiness. Imagine how different my first date would've been had I flashed a smile, been proud of who I was, and stopped questioning myself. The best things that've ever happened in my life happened because I was brave enough to ask for them, pursue them, and grab them.
So let's build some confidence, shall we?
The last thing a broken person needs is someone telling her she's broken. People who criticize, complain, can't be satisfied, and otherwise make you feel like garbage have no place in your journey right now. Consciously consider who you surround yourself with and choose to weed out those who cause you pain or anxiety. This is the time to rally your support people. Do yourself a favor and lean on your friends. The good ones will understand and be overjoyed to help.
I talked about some great, frugal ways to be alone a few weeks ago. One of the key components to gaining confidence is knowing you will be ok all by yourself. You will not go crazy. You will not be seen as someone to be pitied. You will be ok....happy, even. This was an especially hard lesson for me to learn (and one I am actually still learning) as I love being with those I love. I love to talk and be with others - I've always felt I was made to be a partner. If that's how you feel, too...kick rocks. Seriously, cram that crap with walnuts, it's time to be your own partner. Figure out how to get stuff down from the top shelf. Learn basic home repairs. Redo your bedding so there's one giant, fluffy pillow right in the middle of your bed...no more sides....just you. Wonderful you.
My best dear girlfriend just told me the other day that music is the only thing in the world that lights up the entire brain while listening to it. Can you believe that? It's the only thing that lights up our whole brain at once. Use it. You know all those songs dudes sing about hot girls and summer girls and the loves of their life? Pretend they are singing about you. Dance and sway and sing and feel sexy and desired and love on yourself like you are the only woman in the world that he could possibly be singing about. Then listen and sing along to some Kacey Musgraves and Sia because both those women are power in a bottle.
Mirror, Mirror, on Your Wall
I'm the opposite of a "high-maintenance" woman so hear me when I say you could never wear an ounce of makeup again and you would still be just as beautiful as any woman in Hollywood. That said, even I have to admit I feel different when I leave the house in sweatpants versus cute jeans. When I'm leaving the house and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, there's a certain attitude I get when my reflection smiles all pretty back at me. I'm not saying you need to get all dolled up in the traditional sense with makeup and fancy clothes (although you can if you want to!), but try not to let your feelings of rejection cause you to give up on the things that make you feel beautiful. If you feel beautiful in long dresses and bracelets, wear them even though you're feeling gross. If you feel beautiful in flip flops with crazy hair, wear flip flops with crazy hair every chance you get. Don't let those things go just because someone made you feel worthless. If looking pretty makes you happy, look pretty, embrace it, don't stop, because you are more precious than gold.
Flirt, Flirt, Flirt
So you know the creeper guys who pull up in their cars and you get this weird feeling they're staring at you and trying to mack all up on your stuff? No? Try looking around next time. They are out there....remember me talking about them in my Worst Driving Offenses post? When you're recovering from a bad breakup you need to use these guys. I'm serious. Look their way and smile and blow them kisses. See a hott construction worker? Wave at him. Standing next to a good looking man at the grocery store? Smile at him and say hello. Take every opportunity to flirt your sweet little ass off because the reactions you'll get are priceless and definitely worth the risk of interacting with strangers.
You likely just spent weeks, months, years putting another person's needs above your own. Now is the time to break free from that for a little while. I have kiddos and they need me, yes....but they need me happy and healthy. If I can find a way to care for them while caring for myself, I'm going to take it. Try doing what you want on the weekend instead of what your friends and family want. Pamper yourself with baths every day and don't feel guilty that you're soaking in a bathtub while your kids watch a movie because you know what....nobody cares. The kids will not remember it....but they will remember your mood, your reactions, and how you treat them. So treat yourself and try not to provide excuses for it. Allow yourself to be happy, explanation-free.
Fake it Till You Make it
There's something to be said about mantras, or the act of repeating something to yourself over and over again until it becomes concrete. New routines become habit, habits become your way of life...and the same can be said for self-perception. Hate a particular part of your body? Stand in front of the mirror and look at it every single day and name at least 3 positive things about your least-favorite feature. My breasts fed my babies. My breasts don't have cancer. My breasts are soft. Over and over and over again until you start to realize that the positives are the truths......and everything else is just noise and conditioned responses. Recondition your brain. I am a good mom. I am enough. I am worth it. Fake it, say it, portray it, until it becomes reality.
The Critical Challenge
This little trick actually came to me via my ex-husband! He suggested it to me after a particularly rough conversation about our future as friends and co-parents. The challenge is to not say anything critical about yourself for one entire week. No negative comments about yourself, no excessive apologizing, no talking down about your behavior or your actions. If you can, stop apologizing all together. This is a super tough one for me. I feel sorry all the time, either by way of empathy or remorse. The first time I did this challenge I failed miserably. I'm hopeful about my second attempt. Think before you speak and don't automatically assume you are to blame and deserve criticism. Chances are you're not and your mouth just needs to catch up to this new way of life.
Use your children like the rails of a pool table. Before you say something, or react to something, mentally bounce the thought off your children - If my baby were thinking this right now, how would I feel? If my daughter were doubting herself, what would I say? If my son were to react this way, what would the outcome be? I try and use my kids as a baseline for my self-image all the time. I would never want my daughter calling herself fat, so I am careful to not say the same about myself. I would be furious if my babies bent over backwards for someone who didn't appreciate it, so I try and be sure I don't portray the same weakness. Children bring wonderful perspective to life. Use it! They think you are the most beautiful creature in the world, mama. Act like it.
Don't Keep Your Head
If you're anything like me, being single after ending a bad marriage creates this catacomb of caution. Don't let yourself get hurt again. Don't let someone break you again. Don't allow yourself to be that dependent again. Don't lose yourself in love. Keep your head on your shoulders. Take things slow and carefully. Don't make another mistake. Don't, don't, don't......don't what? Allow yourself to feel vulnerable? Allow yourself to take risks? Allow yourself to fall in love? Allow yourself to live? If it makes you happy, if it makes you smile, if it makes you feel good and it doesn't harm your body or those around you....do you really need to keep your head about it? Or can you just let go and free fall for a little bit? Chase dreams? Live in the clouds? Think about and work toward the reality you want to have instead of the one you currently have? If the idea you covet doesn't interfere with your responsibilities, I see nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be terribly, deliciously, irrationally impulsive and indulgent. You are raising kids husband-free, woman. You've earned some time to dance around, play, and lose your head. Go nuts!
There's no easy way to get back to the person you were before. You'll likely never meet her again, to be honest. But do you really want to? Chances are you've grown and evolved....you are forming new leaves and petals on those pretty flowers of yours. Don't look back and wish for what you once were. Look ahead and see, with renewed, joyful eyes, who you will someday be. Hold tight to her and think about her everyday. Practice, pretend, play, and promote yourself and your confidence each morning. Kiss yourself goodnight every night. And don't worry, mama. You are the most mesmerizing, breathtaking woman in the world.....you just need to start believing it.
I'd love to hear from you dear, readers. How do you keep your confidence up when recovering from hardship? Tell me about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)