PCOS & Self Confidence

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of them all?
Oh, I’m sure it  can’t be me. 
“My pimples make me feel ugly.
I just pray for no more pimples!!” 
“I have to leave for a party but I look fat and nothing fits well.
Can I stop feeling bloated for once?”
“Why do I have hair growing everywhere?
Women aren’t even supposed to have hair.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has skipped multiple social events because I felt bloated, had acne, a fluctuating mood or just didn’t feel myself. We prefer to retreat to our safe space, in our perfectly comfortable pjs, binging on comfort food, over going out. Relatable? The effects of PCOS can be stressful and  can go as far as to make us doubt ourselves and our worth. Gradually, it can cause one to spiral into a dark zone of self-pity and low self-esteem (belief about oneself) manifesting itself through negative experiences like avoiding social gatherings, or becoming overly critical of one’s flaws and weaknesses.

In a study in women with PCOS, it has been shown that low self-worth and body image perception in women causes increasing of the anxiety level. Physical attractiveness and sexual response changes affect the Self-confidence in these women. Self-confidence is the most important determinants of mental health that play an important role in promoting mental health.

While this ride with PCOS can get bumpy, improving your quality of life and pushing yourself to  overcome the challenges it poses, can help boost your confidence. Today’s blog will help you understand why you feel this way, along with suggestions you can try out to nurture your confidence.

Why do we experience feelings of low self-esteem and confidence?

The media has stereotyped beauty to meet certain standards in the way that it celebrates thin bodies. Exposure to distorted images, messages and unhealthy comparisons between binary body types can cause women with PCOS to feel stigmatised. Naturally, women with PCOS perceive their bodies negatively and experience body dysmorphia ( obsessive focus on perceived flaws in appearance). It doesn’t matter how often we are told that beauty lies within, viewing ourselves in a mirror and feeling like we don’t look our best, undeniably affects  the way we feel about ourselves. 

Another reason being, traditionally, femininity is characterised by smooth, hairless bodies, with regular menstrual cycles and the ability to bear children. Due to PCOS symptoms such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth), irregular menstruation and infertility, women with PCOS express feeling ‘different’ and almost ‘less feminine’. Did you know some women have questioned their identity and called themselves “freakish”? Some even reported feeling distressed, conscious and embarrassed of their hair growth because of which they may avoid wearing certain clothes or  avoid engaging in activities that involve revealing their bodies.

So how can you boost your self esteem and live more confidently with PCOS? 

Taking control of your life and making small positive changes can work wonders to tackle symptoms of PCOS. 

  • Acknowledge, Accept and Embrace yourself – This sounds easier said than done but love yourself for who you are and that’s half the battle won. Recalling your qualities, talents and strengths can help you feel more empowered. As you kickstart and make progress, you will be motivated to improve.

  • Identify your trigger points- Being aware of situations that make you anxious or insecure is an important step in developing your confidence. Spend some time to  understand your tiggers points – whether it’s certain thoughts, things you say to yourself or even a person who makes you feel a certain way. Let these triggers guide your journey. 
  • Counter your negative thoughts- If you’re feeling low, there is a high probability you are further reinforcing the feeling by  saying negative things to yourself. Challenge the pessimistic voice in your head and counter the judgements with compassion and positive self affirming statements such as “ I am beautiful just the way I am”, or “ I am proud of myself.”
  • Tackle your emotions- Sometimes you may find yourself struggling to understand why you are feeling a certain way. But get down to the bottom of it, meet them eye to eye and question them. Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling a particular way and allow yourself to experience these emotions. Focus on strategising, to regulate and prevent these outbursts from occurring again. 

  • Seek support from your loved ones and friends- Your support system should energize you and radiate positivity, love, compassion, warmth and care. Leverage this network as you work on becoming the best version of yourself. You can even join a PCOS support group to connect with women having similar experiences or who are on the same healing journey as you.

Every change you make is a step ahead in your journey of maintaining a positive self-image and feeling confident. Remember, you are in control of your actions. Along with  some effort to practice these tips and taking small steps every day, anything is possible. So go forth, cruise through and remember to be kind to yourself!

About the Author

The above detailed blog post has been contributed by Nainika Seth.
(blogger at pcosclubindia)