Has your self-esteem taken a knock during lockdown? Being shut behind closed doors for the best part of three months is bound to have had an effect on you. You may have taken week-on-week of quarantine completely in your stride. But if you haven’t coped quite so well, how you feel about your place in the world may be rather different than how you were before the pandemic took hold.
Self-esteem is related to how you feel about yourself and how you value yourself. High self-esteem powers you forward in life towards goals and outcomes that you believe you deserve. Low self-esteem can rob you of belief in yourself and can diminish your levels of motivation.
Factors affecting your confidence and self-esteem during lockdown may include whether you’ve carried on working or have been furloughed, whether you live alone or with others, whether you have a network that has supported you, how resilient you feel, and how robust your relationship is with yourself. If you’re an outward-looking person who relishes being with others, then this time may have been a struggle. If you’re comfortable with your own company, then this time may have been easier for you.
The psychological impact on your self-esteem
However, let’s not underestimate the psychological impact of being in quarantine for so many weeks. You may have found yourself:
- Fearing that the boredom of lockdown will have turned you into a boring person. Being by yourself limits the number and type of interactions you have each day. Will you be able to have ‘normal’ conversations in a ‘normal’ way again? And will you actually have anything interesting to say?
- Questioning if you’ll be able to read social cues and give eye contact again (after weeks on online calls where you may see many people, but no one looks directly in the eye).
- Worrying about staying safe now that lockdown is easing, and dreading having to wear a mask and socially distance in public spaces.
- Beating yourself up for not having achieved all the things you said you would do with the free time on lockdown. Accept lethargy crept in and you couldn’t be bothered.
- Feeling deskilled after being out of the face-to-face workplace for some time.
- Having a sense of anxiety generally about life and what it’s all about.
- Asking existential questions about your meaning and purpose.
Boosting your self-esteem
While there is no quick fix to boosting your self-esteem, you may wish to consider taking care of the following:
Practical, physiological needs
Are you taking care of yourself on a personal level? Think about exercise, personal grooming, ironed clothes, polished shoes, showered and fragrant body. You may have let standards slip during lockdown but getting into a personal routine can help boost your self-esteem. Haircuts may still not be an option right now, but are you taking care of your physical self?
Safety and security needs
The world right now requires new ways of being. Have you prepared your mask and gloves? Do you have hand gel or wipes in your bag when you’re out and about? Are there ways you can ensure you feel more secure when out and about? Pay attention to your senses. Listen to calming music on your phone when you’re out and about. Have a friend on speed dial if you’re feeling triggered and need instant support. Work out what you need to feel safe, and take steps to make that happen.
Love and belonging needs
This is a biggie. If you’ve been isolating for some time, and haven’t had any human contact, then you may feel hungry for human contact. We are sociable as human beings and we’re built for interaction. The lack of it may have left you feeling depleted. Work out how you can re-connect with people close to you. If face to face isn’t possible, then take steps to reach out to people important to you. Don’t wait for them to contact you, or feel resentful or lonely because they haven’t made that first step. Taking charge of your social interactions may make you feel way more in charge of your life.
The act of completing something significant on your to-do list can’t be underestimated. The lethargy of lockdown may have left you feeling depleted. Counter that lethargy by starting to build a sense of agency. Step one is to complete a task that you may have left undone for some time. It may be something major or minor. Irrelevant. The feeling of accomplishing a previously incomplete task can provide a sense of agency and completion. Give it a go. Even the tiniest of tasks ticked off your list can help build your self-esteem.
Have a think about what nourishes and fulfils you. Lockdown may have given you a new love for gardening, cooking, knitting, crosswords, jigsaws, writing, painting, sewing, colouring, drawing. Whatever your urge, follow it. Let a creative side lead you. Allowing yourself to be in flow – to be attuned to a creative part of yourself – can help build your self-esteem from the inside out.
If you’d like some professional support to help build you up again as we come out of lockdown, do get in touch. We’re offering therapy sessions via phone and online video, and some of our private therapists are offering face-to-face sessions from our centres in Clapham and Tooting. Call 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected] to speak to our reception team.