Suffering An Identity Crisis? How To Find Yourself After Divorce
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By Ling Khao, - September 12, 2017 - Updated September 20, 2017

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With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and finding your best self.

 

When I had my children all those years ago, I was shocked to learn some hard truths about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

Some of the surprising facts no-one thought to tell me about include: there are consequences to natural vaginal deliveries, you can still look five months pregnant after giving birth, having children can lead to marital discontent, and the biggest shock of them all, many women lose themselves in motherhood.

Although it’s not widely discussed, identity loss is a real and devastating side effect of raising children.

I for one was secretly harboring a depressed state of low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, behind a calm and collected façade. It took a divorce for me to recognize this truth and eventually restore my sense of self. And now, as a Life Coach to moms, and a friend to many women with children, “motherhood, as an identity theft”, is an issue I see emerging again, and again.

Most recently I came across an interview featuring actress, Jada Pinkett-Smith, who bravely revealed that motherhood had caused her to “lose her groove”. Even as a star, in the throes of raising her children, she too found herself asking “Oh my gosh, where did I go?”.

It does seem to happen that way. You throw everything into raising your children, helping them build their own identities that you lose sight of your own. You wake up one day and realize you’re a distant shadow of the person you once were.

So, here I share my personal story about how I was able to piece together my identity and how you can do the same. 

Art has always been my passion. I’ve loved art since I was a kid.

The most memorable picture I created was that of a bird. An Eastern Rosella, with its fluorescent yellows, bright greens, and deep hues of red and blue. This drawing, at the age of 10, ignited my love for creating beautiful things.

As I got older, I continued to dabble in small pieces of art, mostly paintings I gave to family and friends. But as life got busier with the need to work and the arrival of children, art became something that I only did with my kids. Whilst I focused on helping my children build their creative muscles, my own desire for personal expression was put on hold.

It wasn’t until more than a decade later, during the early stages of my separation, that I reconnected with this part of me.

In the quest to “find myself”, I decided to take up painting lessons under the guide of an accomplished artist. I created artwork that I was proud of and felt myself come alive. As I left the studio each day with paint on my hands and clothes, I also wore a permanent smile on my face that I just couldn’t wash off.

But sadly, financial constraints and altered childcare arrangements meant that I could no longer continue the classes. What started was the equivalent of writer’s block for an aspiring painter. 

I lost my inspiration and flow

Everything I did outside of those classes, felt below par.

Frustration started to build as I was no longer enjoying the process. I bought into the ideals of our productivity obsessed culture. The guilt of wasting time and money on fruitless activity weighed heavily on me. I felt a need to make my works of art “saleable”.

To that end, I continued with my mission to create big pieces of art. I was stuck on the notion that “large paintings made a bigger impact”. Consequently, I started focusing too much on the end-result. I lost sight of why I was painting in the first place - for the love of creating beautiful things.

One after another, half-finished paintings piled up into the corner of a room. Nothing was good enough. It was only a matter of time before I gave up.

Several seasons passed by before I found myself contemplating art again. I moved into a new house and came across my old, boxed up, paints and brushes. So, I decided to give it another go. This time I would ease myself back into painting and only paint for leisure.

Like reacquainting with an old friend, I started to relive the joys of painting again. I chose to do something for myself and it felt great.

From there I started finding more opportunities to do more of what I loved. With each act of self-love, I continued to discover other parts of me that I had left behind or long forgotten.

A beautiful quote by a soulful writer, Beau Taplin, comes to mind, which I believe rings true: “Self-love is an ocean and your heart a vessel. Make it full and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”

As self-indulgent as it may seem, doing things that bring joy to your heart during divorce is not a self-fish act.

When you do things to look after and love yourself, you become the best version of yourself. Only then, can you give your children all of you and more.

So, what is it that you love or would love to do?

Were there things you wanted to do while married, but couldn’t for some reason (e.g. learn a new hobby, spend more time with family and friends, volunteer, bungee jump, etc.)?

Instead of making excuses about why you can’t do those things, research, make time, plan, find support to care for the kids, and do those things.

If money is a factor then that’s an opportunity to be creative. Brainstorm ways you in which you can engage in similar activities that will bring you joy.

In my case, I traded in big expensive canvases for small sheets of watercolor paper. I also swapped acrylics and oils to watercolor paint. Not only did this make painting more affordable, but less messy too.

Another example is my substitute for a trip to a Day Spa. A full afternoon of professional pampering may be out of reach, but soaking in a hot bath (uninterrupted), donning a face mask, with added bath salts, a good book, and a cup of tea, can make a world of difference to the hamster wheel of life.

There’s also plenty of resources and ideas online that show you how to make pampering products with ingredients straight from the pantry. Who knows, you could enjoy the DIY process more than the pampering session itself.

The possibilities are endless!

You, resilient mom, can now make your own decisions, try new things, make new friends, and eventually find someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved.

With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and finding your best self.

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