Five ways to boost your body confidence and self-esteem

Lots of people say cancer has made them stronger. People also say there were times that they struggled to cope. It's normal to feel down sometimes - you don't always have to be strong. The most important thing is to share how you're feeling with someone you trust. The advice below could give you some ideas of practical things you can do to help you through.

Cancer can have a big impact on the way you feel about yourself. Losing your hair, weight changes, scars, medical procedures and hearing your body being talked about in clinical terms can have a massive impact on how confident you feel in your own skin.

Charlotte struggled with low self-esteem despite being confident before treatment. She experienced changes to her weight, skin, mobility and voice. But she talks about everything she's learned from that and why you should be proud. 

Cancer might have caused big changes to other aspects of your life too. Maybe it’s stopped you from continuing education, or work. Maybe you’ve had to become more reliant on your parents or partner for support. Maybe you’re finding that you can’t enjoy a social life in the same way you used to. 

These changes can impact your self-esteem and make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Here’s what to remember while you go through this:

1. Treat yourself

It’s important to do the things that make you feel good.

This could mean arranging a pamper session or an outing with friends, doing a bit of gentle exercise, dedicating some time to gaming, relaxing with a good film, or just a peaceful soak in the tub.

2. Shake up your look

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. Cancer can change your appearance but there are ways to take back control and own your new look.

You could experiment with makeup trends, try out a different hairstyle or wig, design a tattoo to enhance or hide a scar, or treat yourself to some skincare products. Make sure whatever you decide to do makes you feel empowered and confident. 

Caoimhe talks about how the effects on your appearance can bring you down and what she did to bring herself back up again, including the importance of having a routine that you commit to every day. 

3. Be kind to your mind  

You can make changes to your appearance but the most important thing is to accept yourself as you are, inside and out. 

This can be tricky if you think you don’t fit the mould the world says you should. But remember - there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ – despite what it may look like on Snapchat and Instagram. 

Find some positive sayings and mantras – stick them up somewhere handy and read them to yourself when you’re feeling low. 

4. Invest in your wellbeing

Diet and exercise can make a big difference in how you feel on and after treatment. Be mindful of what you're putting in your body and try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg.

Exercising is a great way to build up your fitness and activities like yoga and meditation can help you to feel a bit brighter in yourself. If you're finishing treatment, you might want to get back into something you enjoyed before.

Ben, who is now a personal trainer, had a rough time during treatment. He used gym training and nutrition to put weight back on and feel better about his body image. 

5. Ask for help!

We might sound like a broken record but there are so many people and organisations that can offer you support.

It’s particularly important if you’re feeling anxious or depressed to talk to someone. They might be able to help you make positive changes so you can feel better about yourself. 

This list of organisations should help find the ones that are right for you.

Charlotte talks about how difficult it can be to manage your emotions during treatment but that it's really important to share how you feel with people who care about you.

Where next?

Created June 2017, next review due June 2018.