A few summers ago, I sneakily checked my phone at work to find a monsoon of photos from someone that had just dumped me, who was on a tropical vacation with a gorgeous new boo. I was teaching art at a summer camp, un-ironically wearing tie-dye, covered in sweat and bug bites, surrounded by screaming kids, carrying a plastic milk crate filled with broken watercolor palettes. They were clinking cocktails served in coconuts and kissing under a palm tree. Talk about flexing on your ex. Put plainly: I was devastated.
I wanted to scream and cry. I wanted my own new boo to take a vacation with. I wanted to prove to them that our relationship meant something. But mostly, I, too, wanted to flex on my ex. "Flexing on an ex means to make an effort to prove you are better off without them, (whether that is true or not)," Trina Leckie breakup coach and host of the breakup BOOST podcast tells Elite Daily. According to Leckie, throwing a thirst-trap on the 'Gram, posting pictures of yourself with a new person, and going on amazing vacations are all pretty common ways to flex on, or emotionally provoke, your ex. (Sound familiar?)
Though IRL flexing may include going for that new promotion at work, finally moving to the neighborhood you've been dreaming about, or buying yourself a new pair of shoes, Leckie shares that flexing mostly happens over social media. "Many people will use social media as a way of seeking revenge on their ex, trying to make their ex jealous, keep[ing] tabs on what they are doing and who they are hanging out with," Leckie says. "I don’t recommend this because it can just make you feel worse about the breakup."
Though the end of a relationship may make you want to compete or "flex" on your ex, Laurie Davis Edwards, love coach and founder of The Worthy One, shares that playing the post-breakup comparison game is ultimately a confidence killer. "Here’s the truth: You can’t do the breakup 'better' than your ex," Davis Edwards says. "Everyone processes emotions differently, and anything you feel or your ex feels is valid. No feelings are 'wrong' or 'worse.'"
If you've ever been bombarded by photos of your ex seemingly living their best life or you've felt pressure to share some #killingit moments of your own, Leckie shares that post-breakup FOMO is totally real. "People try to pretend they are doing great, but they usually overdo it." As Leckie explained, "flexing" on social media often means people pretending to be doing great or performing in an attempt to appear unfazed by the breakup. Though a sultry selfie photoshoot or traveling after a split can be totally nourishing, both experts share that it's important to distinguish what you're doing for you and what you're doing to provoke or prove something to your ex.
"'Flexing' in an empowering way means turning inward and being with yourself," Davis Edwards says. "When you break up with someone, you are dissolving a relationship. There is no finish line, and it is not a contest, there is nothing to 'win.'" Davis Edwards shares that flexing on your ex means allowing yourself to feel all of your post-relationship feelings. Being your best self after a breakup can mean shifting your focus to your own wellbeing and giving yourself time to heal. "[The notion of] 'Winning' keeps you emotionally attached to the relationship," Davis Edwards says. "You’re keeping your ex in mind rather than releasing them from your life and allowing yourself to truly move on."
Davis Edwards suggests crying, journaling, giving yourself some serious TLC, and fueling yourself with your own energy. Whether you sign up for a Thai boxing class to process your anger in a healthy way or get a long massage to release your built-up stress, flexing on your ex can mean doing whatever your body needs to heal. "Emotions are molecules in our bodies, so when you allow it to physically move — by crying if you’re sad or punching a pillow if you’re mad — you’ll get over it much quicker," Davis Edwards says. "It’s when we resist and numb out by obsessing about an ex or scrolling endlessly that we get stuck."
Though wine and a sad movie may feel good for a night or two, both Davis Edwards and Leckie suggest getting out of the house. Hanging out with supportive friends and family, taking a yoga or pottery class, building your own inner confidence and self-esteem, and exploring new places by yourself are all great ways to heal your heartache. "Stay busy. Hang out with positive people," Leckie says. "Get comfortable spending time alone. Clean out your home to get rid of things you don’t need. Make room for new energy." Davis Edwards adds that taking a break from dating and even limiting your social media use may feel nourishing after a breakup. "There is no way to 'get over' an emotional experience without fully experiencing it, the only way over is through," Davis Edwards says.
If your ex didn't treat you with the respect that you deserve, or they seemed to move on two seconds after the breakup (read: Tropical. Vacation.), it's natural to question what your relationship meant to them or be insecure about your own healing process. Though it may feel tempting to show your ex how amazing you are or how much #single fun you're having, Davis Edwards shares that acting out of spite or wanting to prove something ultimately won't fix your relationship or heal your broken heart. "Comparison kills our confidence and worthiness. Inherently, it means that you need to prove and validate it," Davis Edwards says. Recovering from a breakup means focusing on your own needs and taking your own time. Flexing on an ex can look like knowing that you don't need to compare or compete with someone after you call it quits and remembering that you have nothing to prove to anyone — IRL or on the 'Gram.
If you're out and about and get hit with a wave of post-breakup FOMO (literally me), try calling a friend or family member, going on a walk, or trying that new sushi place you've been eyeing. While sharing your bliss on social media can be a great way to connect with your loved ones, it may be important to think about your posting intentions. Though stickin' it to the person that broke your heart may feel good in the moment, flexing on your ex ultimately means taking care of you.