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Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Environment, body image, and social factors like age and gender impact our self-esteem. And it is safe to say that hidradenitis suppurativa and self-esteem don’t go hand in hand.

Low self-esteem can be both a cause and be an indicator of depression. High self-esteem is associated with good relationships and life satisfaction. It’s pretty important.

Lots of people struggle with their self-esteem. Estimates as high as 85% of people worldwide have low self-esteem. Skin conditions like hidradenitis suppurativa can be particularly devastating. But it doesn’t have to be.

Working on your self-esteem is like every other change you make in your life, it’s a process. It takes practice. Here are 6 tips to get you started.

Wear what you want.

Lots of people don’t wear clothes they think they “couldn’t pull off.” Improving your self-esteem should be about doing things that you want to do and feeling good about it. A good start might be wearing something you like because you like it.

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How you dress is important because it expresses something about you. Think of a uniform, you can identify a person’s job by what they are wearing. Teens often experiment with their style in adolescence to match their identity.

If you could wear anything every day, what would it be? What would it say about you? And how would you feel wearing it?


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Take the compliment

Has anyone told you they like your outfit and you have replied by telling them where you bought it? Has anyone ever complimented your work and you replied, “oh it’s nothing?”

Do you know why you did that? You do it to deflect attention away from yourself. It was once considered manners to appear embarrassed by a compliment. Let us do away with that thinking. Chances are you were proud of yourself, stick by that feeling.

It’s not embarrassing to do something well. Nor is it a character defect to accept a compliment, smile and say thank you, you deserve it.

 Work on your positive self-talk

It’s unnatural I know but sit down and think about the things you like about yourself. What are you good at? Is there something about how you look or dress that you like?

If that’s too hard, think about what a friend might say about you. The things I would say about my friends are that they are kind, funny and intelligent. I bet that’s how your friends would describe you.

It’s important to focus on the positive because that’s how you fight back against negative thinking.

 Watch your social media consumption

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In the past decade, there has been a lot of research done on the effect of social media on self-esteem. A 2014 paper found that frequent use of social networking sites may lead to lower self-esteem. This was particularly true for those viewing health and fitness content. Rather than feeling inspired, those who took part compared themselves negatively.

Instagram has recently removed the like counter from below posts on its site. This should tell you that online images are more than entertainment. But, you are not just a sponge soaking up information. You are an active participant in your own life.

Next time you see something on social media that makes you feel bad about yourself, stop and think. Is the post on a page that regularly makes you unhappy? If so, unfollow it. I go through the pages I follow regularly and make sure that they are things that will make me happy.

Social media can be fun but only if you use it mindfully.

Learn to say no

In the interests of transparency, I have to confess, I’m a people pleaser. From an evolutionary psychology perspective, people-pleasing makes sense. We need other people; other people need us and if we work together our social group is better off. You could argue that our natural tendency is to say yes.

The problem is if we always say yes, we spend more time doing things for others than ourselves. It’s exhausting.

Learning to say no is about establishing boundaries. When you can say no for yourself, you are saying that you are worth putting yourself first.

Think of times you did something well.


I’m writing this in spring. As a student, spring is my busiest time of the year with final assessments and exams coming up. My friends and I are super stressed. One thing we do is remind each other of the previous years by saying something like,

“We did it last year when we didn’t think we could, we will do it this year.”

That is a philosophy we can apply to almost anything we have to do. Of course, there will be times we are thrown a curveball but even then, it won’t have been our first.

Every time you think I’m not good enough, tell yourself you did it before and you will do it again. I promise it works!

Most people are their own worst critic. Everyone feels down on themselves sometimes. If you feel that this is a problem that is impacting your mental health, then it’s time to act.

These tips may seem too simple to have any real effect. But the smallest actions have the greatest impacts, and everyone must start somewhere.

Give it a try, see where it takes you


About the Author

Shannon hidradenitis suppurativa patient


Shannon Sweeney is a psychology and sociology student from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing, and Hidradenitis Suppurativa.

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