How to rebuild self-confidence during menopause
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
This article is based on the 'Building self-confidence’ program in the Olivia app, available via the App store.
Self-confidence. Meaning, a belief in your own judgment and abilities. You trust firmly in yourself to achieve your goals and to succeed.
What kind of image does this conjure up? Does it make you think of a certain type of person?
Does that person look like someone in the midst of menopause, who is grappling with hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings and irregular periods? No?
We understand if that’s not the first picture that springs to mind. Menopause can be one heck of a ride, with unexpected and unwelcome symptoms making their presence known - in no uncertain terms.
Many experiencing menopause report feeling misunderstood, confused, out of control and invisible. Self-doubt might begin to creep in as your body and mind start to act out. Pretty much the polar opposite of self-confident, then...
You might not be feeling like the best version of yourself as you bravely navigate this new chapter of your life. Such a transformative period can even bring such feelings as grief, as you come to terms with the loss of fertility, and the passing of youth.
But it can also be a great time to look inward, and check in with yourself. Taking the time to mentally reassess and implement some gentle changes can be a great way to rebuild your confidence levels.
When you truly get to know yourself, and get used to honouring your beliefs, values and desires, this lays the foundation for sustainable, long-term self confidence. This is important at any stage in your life, but especially during the highs and lows of perimenopause.
1. Social detox
The Law of Conformity states that your environment plays an important role in both your actions, and your self-perception. Subconsciously, we begin to think and act similarly to our friends, and those who we spend the most time with.
Conformity breeds acceptance, which feels comfortable. However, you might be getting comfortable with people who actually affect you negatively.
Use this principle to start spring cleaning your social life. Take note of your energy levels around people. Who makes you feel connected, important, seen? Who makes you feel drained, and weary? (This is not necessarily about who you disagree with. It’s important to have people in your life who challenge you in a healthy way).
Slowly extricate yourself from the people who leave you feeling drained. It’s okay to have a few white lies up your sleeve to avoid those after-office drinks, if they don’t really appeal.
This might sound selfish, but consider this: right now, you’re going through a transformative and most likely challenging time. You need to guard your energy levels accordingly. If you don’t prioritise them - who will?
Freshen up your feed
The Law of Conformity also applies to social media. Do you follow certain accounts that, upon further reflection, actually leave you feeling pretty low? You know what to do: hit that unfollow button. (Or stick them on mute, if you don’t want to completely cut the cord).
You can even take it one step further, and fill your feed with accounts that inspire you to greater things. What about brightening up your work commute with a motivating podcast?
This author’s favourites include The Huberman Lab, Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. Check out the latter’s episode on developing confidence, cited in the references below.
2. Broaden your horizons
Set yourself new goals. But - and this is important - start small.
Maybe there’s an activity you’ve been really wanting to try (ultimate frisbee, anyone?). Perhaps you finally want to give that salsa class a whirl, and your friend is up for it too. Better yet, brave it alone. Hobbies are a great way to connect with people who you might not have encountered otherwise.
If perimenopause has left your confidence levels lacking, it might not feel like the ideal time to jump into something new. But who knows what avenues it may open up? And if not now…when?
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert at something in order to enjoy doing it. When nerves strike, try and think back to that feeling of joy that comes from learning a new skill, from moving your body, from interacting with other people.
The snowball effect
Often, we lack self-confidence because we are critical of our own abilities. Learning a new skill or hobby is a great reminder of how intelligent, open-minded and all-round fantastic you are. It also opens you up to trying new things in general, keeping your mind curious and excited.
After a while, you might even notice the snowball effect. As you get used to achieving the small things that you set your mind to, you may feel increasingly inclined to tackle bigger and more daunting things.
Those dainty, respectably-sized goals may begin to take on increasingly audacious proportions - who said that you couldn’t hike across the Alps?
We suggest you take that audacity, and run with it.
3. Kind words
Imagine there’s someone who follows you around all day, muttering these words in your ear.
‘You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You’ll never achieve this’.
You’d probably start to believe all those things, wouldn’t you? Before too long, those words would become the truth.
That someone is your tireless inner critic - and boy, are they working hard. Have you noticed how you speak to yourself? Do you beat yourself up over a mistake at work? Do you lose sleep over verbal slip-ups?
You’re not alone. Negativity bias is inherent in all humans, and it’s been a pretty handy survival mechanism from an evolutionary perspective. But its effect can be poisonous if you start to take all that self-criticism seriously.
Counter the negativity
It’s not easy to reverse a lifetime of talking down to yourself, but here’s a tip. Over the course of a week, make it a daily habit to notice and write down any negative self-talk that pops up in your head. Then, write down a counter-statement in which you consider the thought from a more positive angle.
For example, a mistake at work might have led to feelings of ‘I’m so stupid.'
Try and rework this as “I’m excited for the opportunity to learn from this experience and apply what I learn in the future. I’m proud of myself for trying!’
These kind words of encouragement will slowly but surely begin to take root.
Hear what you want to hear
Related to this is how you interpret feedback. It might be hard to hear something negative - or simply not-100%-positive - about yourself. That would be your ego speaking. It’s a demanding old thing who wants constant, round-the-clock attention.
So why not indulge it a little bit? Meaning - focus on all the things you’ve done right! This isn’t the same as burying your head in the sand and ignoring what you could improve on. Instead, it’s about creating a positive frame of mind where you’re highly aware and proud of your achievements.
This in turn primes your brain to notice more of your accomplishments in the future.
4. Congratulate yourself
The next time you’re feeling on top of the world, send yourself a postcard from up there.
In other words - write yourself a letter. Fill it with all the amazing things you’ve done so far. Let your ego get big and comfortable here, because you’ve a lot to celebrate! Did you visit a new place? Did you initiate an uncomfortable but necessary conversation? Did you reach a professional milestone?
Get it all down, and congratulate yourself on paper. Life isn’t always easy, and we could sometimes do with a reminder of how far we’ve come.
Save the letter for when those dark clouds come rolling in. It will be a reminder that better days aren’t far off, and that you always have the potential within you for greatness.
You can even spread the cheer to the here and now, by setting up an achievements jar or journal.
Every day, fill your journal or jar with something you’ve achieved or something good that’s happened. In this way, you will retrain your brain to notice all that you’ve accomplished as well as the many wonderful things in life.
When perimenopause leaves you feeling lost and sad, it can be a much-needed reminder that there’s still so many things to be grateful for.
5. Time to speak up
Building self-confidence has a lot to do with taking time for your feelings. Whatever is bubbling away down there will slowly rise to the surface, sooner or later. Taking time for your feelings and honouring them helps lay the foundations for self-belief and confidence.
An important part of this process includes speaking up about your emotions. Does that immediately put you on edge, with alarm bells screaming in the background? Don’t worry, that’s just your nervous system getting involved.
Your nervous system is a highly refined and complicated network, but it still has difficulty differentiating between an impending mammoth attack, and the prospect of disagreeing with a highly-strung colleague.
Often, it’s simply warning you that something new and unknown is happening. But new doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous! Either way, any feeling that you repress will come out sooner or later - so it’s much better to deal with it in the moment.
Think about it this way. Your friend was really late to meet you, but they didn’t apologise. You don’t say anything, because why ruin the fun afternoon ahead?
But that little ball of resentment doesn’t disappear, and without realising it, the next time you meet your friend, you’ve started to act colder towards them. Of course, they can’t understand why, because they never knew that you were upset.
Multiply these moments by a hundred, and you suddenly have a lot of unspoken resentment buried deep in your most important relationships.
Communicate your feelings
For one week, take note of any actions or behaviours of others that upset you. Choose the smallest one and communicate - kindly, calmly - to the person in question about how you feel. Maybe you call them, maybe it’s a text - it’s really up to you. They might even be thankful that you opened yourselves up to them.
Speaking up is less about resolving conflict in the present moment (though it certainly helps) and more about honouring your feelings.
You will notice a feeling of lightness after speaking up, as you remain true to yourself. And this is the true essence of self-confidence: believing you’re important enough to stand up for yourself.
We promise - the more you do it, the easier it gets.
6. Set boundaries
People pleasers, this one’s for you.
Boundaries is a word that gets bandied about, a lot. For good reason! Boundaries are incredibly important for any individual, but they’re crucial if your energy and patience are being tested by perimenopause.
Think of boundaries as the rules to the game - the game of your life. You’re the only person who can set these rules, and they involve saying ‘no’ to the things that you don’t want to do.
Of course, simply saying ‘no’ can feel incredibly difficult. Saying ‘yes’ makes us feel loved and important. Plus, sometimes we really do just want to be helpful!
But how many dinners and coffees and birthdays have you said yes to, when you actually wanted to say no? How much time, money and - crucially - energy have you put at the service of others, instead of yourself?
What could you have done instead, with all that time, money and energy?
Saying no to say yes
Saying no can feel difficult, so let’s reframe it. By saying ‘no’, what are you eventually saying ‘yes’ to? Turning down that lunch date can free up time for something else much higher up on your list of priorities.
Plus, you’ll also escape that heavy sense of resentment that comes from agreeing to something you actually didn’t want to do.
No more manipulation
Therapist Chloe Brotheridge goes so far as to call people-pleasing ‘manipulative’, arguing that we are presenting a false version of ourselves in order to gain the approval of others.
Of course, you probably never intended to be manipulative, but the end result is still resentment and exhaustion. For you.
As with all things, saying ‘no’ might feel awkward in the beginning. But that’s just because you’re not used to it, not because you are actually being awkward. Like any muscle, you need to get accustomed to flexing it, so start small.
And remember to enjoy that whooshing feeling of joy as you start to open up your life to all the things you actually want to do.
7. Emotional detox
Journalling is true nourishment for the soul. You might not realise how many thoughts and feelings are whirling around up there, but they’re probably adding a few extra psychological kilos.
Especially during perimenopause, when there’s so much going on! You might be mourning the passage of time, or simply feeling reflective over the next stage of your life. Either way, putting pen to paper can help you understand these thoughts.
The benefits of journalling
For the next week, spend at least ten minutes a day writing down your thoughts. It doesn’t matter when you do this. A morning session can help clear your mind for the day ahead, whereas writing in the evening can calm your brain down for a deeper, more satisfying sleep.
Journalling will help you process your emotions, and it can help give back a sense of self-control. For example, writing about hot flushes might not dispel them completely. But processing your resulting feelings might ease the emotional burden they are causing, returning some sense of control over your life.
Not sure what to write? Just let that stream of consciousness flow. Identify how you’re feeling now, or have felt during the day, and explore why. Use a Feelings Wheel online to dig deeper. You might think you’re stressed, but discover a deeper sense of loneliness hiding beneath. You can act accordingly, and organise a coffee date with a friend.
Laying the foundations
So, there you have it. By getting more in touch with your emotions, focusing on regular achievements and retraining your brain to be kinder and more positive, you are laying the foundations for long-lasting and deep-rooted self-confidence. We hope these suggestions ensure a smoother sailing across those choppy, perimenopausal seas.
Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this site are for informational purposes only. No material on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. And never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
“Developing Confidence and Learning to Say No with Chloe Brotheridge.” https://drchatterjee.com/developing-confidence-and-learning-to-say-no-with-chloe-brotheridge/. Accessed 9 March 2022.
“Generation Menopause | Invisibility Report.” https://gen-m.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/106847-Gen-M-Invisibility-Report-082.pdf. Accessed 9 March 2022.