Has your self-esteem taken a nosedive along with your oestrogen levels? It’s a common issue and can happen for a number of reasons. But there are lots of ways to feel good about yourself again
How menopause can affect your confidence
Chat to a group of girlfriends about self-esteem and you’ll probably find most tell you their confidence has taken a hit in one way or another since reaching menopause. It can affect different areas of your life in different ways - both physiological (yep, those pesky hormones play a part) and emotional, as you enter this new phase:
In the workplace, physical symptoms such as hot flushes can make you feel self-conscious in front of colleagues. Brain fog, common at menopause, and tiredness due to night sweats can leave you feeling less than sharp, which can really impact on your confidence. "Brain fog and extreme fatigue make it very hard at work," says Munkeybites on our Live Better With Menopause forum.
In your sex life, body image issues may crop up, and that can have an impact whether you’re single and dating, in a new relationship or have been with the same partner for years. Changes in fat distribution and skin texture can mean your body may look different, and that can leave you with doubts about your attractiveness. "Body image insecurity most definitely affects all my girlfriends in one way or another - we laugh about it and console each other when we’re miserable," says JuJu23. Low libido as a result of hormone changes can be a real problem. And let’s face it - body image and sex drive issues aren’t helped by any physical discomfort caused by vaginal dryness, night sweats, hot flushes and fatigue. ‘"t's really hard to be sexy when you feel as if you're about to spontaneously combust," says KazKenn24.
In your social life, you may find yourself with niggly self-doubt you never experienced before. Some women in our community say they no longer have the energy to keep up with the fitness regime they used to love. And the drop in oestrogen can leave you feeling withdrawn and anxious, which may affect everything from your social life to your confidence about driving. Some women experience urinary incontinence as a result of hormone changes, too, and knowing you need to be close to a loo on a regular basis can have a huge impact on your drive to get out and about.
What you can do to help boost your self-esteem during menopause
Menopause can challenge your sense of self, and that can be very difficult. But it can also give you an opportunity to look at aspects of your life you may need to change. Plus there are lots of practical ways to regain your va-va-voom. Here are our tips for bolstering your midlife confidence.
Talking to people in your life can help them understand what you’re going through so they can support you. Many workplaces are developing better policies to help with menopause so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep the focus on how your symptoms affect your ability to do your job and ask your employer whether they can help you come up with solutions – small changes, such as a fan on your desk to help with hot flushes, can often make a big difference. With your partner, try to be straightforward and clear about how hormone changes are affecting your body image and sex drive – that way, they’re less likely to take things personally and may be able to support and reassure. And sharing with friends can be really helpful – some of them may be grateful to you for initiating the conversation. Remember to hop over to our community forums for support, too. You’re not alone.
Don’t always blame your hormones
This is where it gets tricky – while hormonal changes can exacerbate issues, they may not be the sole cause of your confidence crisis. For example, have you really lost concentration at work or are you under-challenged and a bit bored? If low sex drive and poor body image are issues, perhaps that’s partly down to relationship problems, not just dropping oestrogen levels - some single women in our community report starting a new relationship has revamped their confidence and libido. Couples can benefit from some counselling sessions to address underlying relationship woes. Plus, it’s easy to buy into taboos around menopause and ageing – you may end up questioning yourself because of negative social messages. It’s worth taking time to explore all this – for many women, menopause is a trigger to look at what is and isn’t working in their lives. Why not talk it over with friends, our community members or even a counsellor?
Exercise is probably the number one way to boost mood and confidence, get in shape, and help you value your body for what it can do, not just how it looks. Worried you don’t have the energy? It may seem counter-intuitive but getting more active will give you a burst of vitality. Exercise doesn’t have to mean the gym – find something you enjoy, whether that’s bellydancing, yoga, going back to netball or joining a running club. Finding a fitness community and setting small goals for yourself can be helpful.
Overhaul your lifestyle
Alongside exercise, getting some of the basics in place can make a surprising difference to your self-esteem and overall mood. Cut back on booze – it may seem to help in the short term but is guaranteed to send anxiety levels rocketing if you overdo it. Make sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, based on lots of fresh, whole foods. And prioritise sleep – you may need more than you used to. Of course, that’s not always easy if night sweats and anxiety are affecting you, but taking extra steps to unwind before bed and hit the hay early can be helpful.
Seek medical help
If uncomfortable symptoms are affecting your self-esteem, see your GP. If HRT is suitable for you, it can often address both physical and emotional symptoms of menopause. If you’re already taking it and find you’re still experiencing issues, it’s worth talking to your GP about trying a different form. It’s also important for your GP to rule out more serious depression and anxiety – they can refer you for talking therapies and may prescribe antidepressants, if appropriate. Some women find herbal remedies such as St John’s wort and black cohosh helpful for emotional symptoms but always check with your GP before you try these.
Related article: Living better with menopause: How to kickstart your morning