‘Why leaving my life and marriage was the most courageous thing I’ve ever done.’

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As someone who has saved a life, scuba dives with sharks, survived a tornado and is raising teenage daughters, you might think this is an unusual answer.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is change.

I left my life and began another.

In the summer of 2013, my marriage ended and people I thought knew me and cared about me made it their mission to make me hurt more than I already did.

I wanted to move across the country, leave my hometown but I didn’t. I have two daughters who were depending on me to fight and show them what a strong woman and mother looks like. Running away was a natural reaction, starting over was courageous.

I had been a stay-at-home-mother for almost 12 years. I had to start looking for a job. I needed to find somewhere acceptable for me and my children to live. I had to find an attorney to help guide me during my divorce.

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I had very little support. People chose sides based on whatever stories they were hearing and I wasn’t sharing any. It doesn’t bother me many only believed what gossip was juiciest at the time, it proved they weren’t friends. One less thing I had to figure out for myself. That was courageous.

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The first year was very tough. I was running into people from my old life frequently. I saw them at my daughters’ bus stop and at their school. I just put a smile on my face, took a deep breath, and killed them with kindness or ignored their glares. Putting on a brave face, that was courageous.

I had to keep my mouth shut.

Throughout this period, things happened I’ve wanted to write about. Things scared me, angered me, made me feel as if I needed to defend myself. but, I didn’t. I haven’t. Part of leaving my old life behind was leaving who I was behind. I worked hard to become more compassionate, forgiving, kinder.

This meant not gossiping. Not defending myself. Letting people talk knowing I knew the truth. Letting the truth be enough and not trying to convince people of it.

I had to accept being human was enough.

I had to accept I wasn’t perfect and never would be. I had to learn to accept my mistakes and be O.K. with making them. That’s a hard thing for someone who grew up and lived never believing I was good enough and wasn’t worthy of being loved because I wasn’t going to be.

Michelle and her two daughters. Image via Facebook.

I learned to accept responsibility for my mistakes and apologise, even when I didn't think I was wrong. I learned right or wrong is irrelevant, if I've hurt someone, I'm sorry. I don't need to be right.

I changed who I allow into my life.

I learned to say, "No," and not apologise for it. I learned to make clear boundaries, especially with men. I hadn't been single in 20 years. Saying to a man, "I'm not interested in being in a romantic relationship with you," was courageous. I said it a lot that first year.

Many of these men didn't take being rejected very well. Some called me names. One even threatened my life. I learned very quickly to trust my gut and listen to it. There was a reason I was rejecting these men.

I cut family out of my life. If they weren't adding anything to my life, or causing me more stress than support, I stopped communicating with them. I learned it's fine, and there is no rule that says, "If you share blood, you have to talk."

Today, I’m married to a wonderful man who treats me the way deserve to be treated and knows I am good enough just the way I am. I know I am worthy of respect and love, and demand it it all my relationships. It's easy when I have surrounded myself with kind, compassionate and sincere people.

My daughters are happy being with me, love their Stepfather and trust us completely. They confide in us and know we provide a safe place for them to be exactly who they are. They understand who they are is good enough. They know we will always put them first. They are secure with us. They are loved

I changed so many things about how I live, communicate, love, hate, express myself. I had a paradigm shift. I learned to love myself for the first time in my life. That is courageous.

This post originally appeared on Quora. To see more from Michelle, click here.

LISTEN: This is how Chloe Shorten told her kids about her divorce.

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