Grace has been divorced now for over four years and during that time she went back to school and got a degree in English so she could write. She had tried to write during her marriage but her husband would ask her why she couldn’t just be happy being a wife and a mother so she’d put her pen down. She now has her Looks Great Naked blog and is working on a book and that’s proof that along her journey she’s learned to put herself first. Grace sees that as one of her most significant accomplishments since getting divorced. Here’s Grace:
It’s funny, once I decided to stand up for myself, my kids started respecting me and treating me with so much respect. It’s kind of amazing how that works. Dr. Phil says it all the time, and it’s kind of strange, but you teach people how to treat you. It’s really true. Once I said,
“No more. I’m not going to be treated like this. I’m going to go move to Florida and take care of myself,” my kids went,
“Oh, wow. We respect that and we’re proud of you, Mom.”
And then our relationship got really, really great really fast.
I think about why I didn’t stand up for myself before and I think the biggest reason, and this sounds so odd to me now, was being a preacher’s kid. The old joke is that preacher kids are the worst of any kids but I was just the opposite. I was so dead set on no one ever being able to look at me and say,
“Heathen, look at that kid, she’s wild.”
I toed the line and I was such a good kid, and that translated into being a good wife and mother. I had an addiction to perfection, so when you’re trying to please everyone else and look good for everyone else, you’re not standing up for yourself.
Then I had this thing about the teachings of,
“You’ve got to lay down your life for other people and be selfless…”
As a teenager, I remember thinking I didn’t want to be a selfish person. I always wanted to think about other people first. I think I went overboard with that and took it out of context. I think women do that anyway, mothers do. We’re going to take care of everybody first, we’ll take what’s leftover. I think that’s just the nature of women.
When I started putting myself first, I felt I was being selfish and it was horrible, but now I look back and think,
“Oh my God, what took me so long?”
It’s getting easier all the time. Still there are times I have to think it through. It’s not an automatic response, but I’m getting there.
Here’s an example. About the month after I filed for divorce, I was interviewing financial advisors and this guy was kind of a famous person in Chicago. I flew up to Chicago, they picked me up in a limo and he’s trying to court me, as far as turning my money over to him. It dawned on me in the course of that day that I was talking to my ex husband, just in a different body, so I said no to him. He went bananas and then I knew. Bingo!
A few months after that, I hired a tennis coach for my son but I realized that he was also my ex husband in a different body.
I started thinking,
“Why am I getting myself into these relationships?”
I’ve become very adept at seeing it quicker. I think what happens is if you haven’t learned to stand up for yourself, you attract people who are going to treat you badly and walk all over you. But once you learn and once people perceive you as a powerful person, they’re not forceful, they’re not trying to walk all over anyone else. They see you as a person who stands up for herself and they leave you alone. It’s like in a sense they hone in on the weak people and take advantage of them and they leave the strong people alone. I’m less and less having to stand up for myself because I’m not attracting those kind of people in my life anymore.
My blog, Looks Great Naked, is a play on a book my mother gave me when she first suspected my husband was having an affair, but the message is also about being yourself and not having to please everyone else and look perfect for how other people think you should look and act, strip away all that false persona and be who you are. That’s what really looks great and that’s what’s attractive to other people. What’s lovable is not the fake person, it’s the real person who’s lovable. That’s my biggest message.
The Divorce Coach Says
There’s much I can empathize with here. I’ve come to realize that I grew up a pleaser, never wanting to upset others around and so, being willing to just go along without voicing my true wishes/thoughts. Telling my husband I wanted to end our marriage was easily the most difficult conversation I have ever had. It was also a new beginning for me. It was the hardest and most valuable lesson from my divorce which I guest-posted about over at the Single Mothers Chronicles.
Anka was another guest who learned from her divorce, that it was important to make her own needs a priority, that if she did, she would find relationships that were more meaningful. It’s not about being selfish or narcissistic, it’s not about being aggressive or controlling. It’s about knowing what your own needs are, being guided by those needs and finding a way to comfortably express them.
I love the whole message behind Grace’s blog, can’t wait for the book 🙂