It’s hard not to feel judged if you’re divorced. From people who call your divorce a ‘failure’ to politicians who rail against single mothers, it seems like everyone has an opinion on your choices. And feels free to express them–loudly. Forget thick skin–some days I think divorced moms need skin as thick as an elephant’s hide to keep going!
I’ve always been somewhat sensitive, so I’ve struggled with feeling judged during and after my divorce. Life rarely works out as planned, and divorced by age forty wasn’t in the life I envisioned for myself as a naive twenty-two-year-old graduating college. No matter how strong you are, divorce is an emotional roller-coaster.
It’s waking up one day and feeling free, ten pounds lighter. Or it’s spending an afternoon responding to lawyer’s e-mails, balancing the budget, and trying not to cry. It’s losing old friends but gaining new ones.
You’re not just growing emotionally, you’re being stretched to grow as a person. Learning negotiations skills, or managing a household budget for the first time. Trying to make a plan to get out of debt, starting up a new yoga or meditation practice. You’re learning and changing.
With all that new learning, you’re going to make mistakes. I have. I’ve left insensitive comments on Facebook posts and had to apologize. I’ve screwed up the budget by forgetting an expense and had to pull money from savings. And I’ve felt judged for my screw-ups.
Why hasn’t that friend ‘liked’ one of my posts in a while? Huh, I emailed two weeks ago about grabbing a coffee and she hasn’t got back to me. Maybe she thinks I’m a mess after I vented for two hours the last time we got together?
At times, I’ve become hyper-sensitive and deeply insecure. I doubt I’m the only divorced woman dealing with this. And I’ve noticed it, particularly when dealing with friends who are still married.
When you judge someone else, you reveal something unhealed within yourself. I think the same goes for when you’re feeling judged.
Their marriages are still intact, they still have two incomes and fewer money worries. Maybe they’re judging the messy post-divorce life I lead; my complaints about online dating, or writing about seeing a therapist and mental health struggles. It’s harder to get together with them because they don’t have ‘off’ weekends away from the kids, or a custody schedule like mine where I get whole weeks free. From texts my other divorced girlfriends have sent, I’m not the only one dealing with the gremlins of doubt and insecurity.
A few weeks ago, I ran into a still-married friend at Starbucks. We hadn’t seen each other in at least a year. After exchanging hugs, we chatted. She was one of those friends that I thought had given up on me, or at least my messy life. To be honest, I’ve always kind of envied her perfect, cute two kids and nice husband and a decent career, but she’s so damned nice I couldn’t hate her. I did, however, somewhat assume she’d judged my messy life.
She hadn’t. In our chatting she said several supportive things, she’d read some of my work, she genuinely seemed to care about everything I’d been going through. It was a good reminder for me to not jump to conclusions.
In the midst of all the learning and growth I’ve gone through post-divorce, learning to not project my insecurities on others and to give them the benefit of the doubt has been a hard one. When I feel like I’m being judged, I take a mental step back. Because that feeling probably springs from my insecurities.
When you judge someone else, you reveal something unhealed within yourself. I think the same goes for when you’re feeling judged. I’m super stressed about money and my financial situation right now, so guess what? I wonder if I’m being judged when I tell a friend I can’t afford to go out that night. When I judge someone else for their physical appearance, well, I’m probably not feeling too good about how I look that day.
Handling feelings of being judged is less about developing a thick skin and more about giving people the benefit of the doubt, looking at why you feel that way and what could be coming up for you, and remaining calm and focused. Taking a deep breath and not engaging with the other person or situation until you’re in a centered state of mind. I don’t think there’s an easy way to get there except through practice, time, and developing the courage to look deep within ourselves and work on healing.
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