Blog: How The Pandemic Has Affected My Self-esteem

It can feel impossible to balance being careful around Covid with wanting to still be included

Staying in because of the pandemic has, in some ways, boosted my self-esteem. After all, if no one’s going to see me apart from my parents, it doesn’t matter if my skin is perfect or my clothes look on point. 

But, although I’ve been rocking joggers and a greasy bun without my usual freak-out in front of the mirror, Covid has knocked my self-esteem in other ways.

Watching people’s filtered lives through social media, it’s hard not to feel like everyone is excelling apart from you – like you’re the only one who hasn’t run a marathon, become a baking pro or redecorated their whole house. Influencers tell us this is the time to “carpe diem” and become millionaire entrepreneurs. We’re meant to be motivated by the reminder that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague.

I’ve felt like a failure because I wasn’t taking full advantage of all this new free time to “graft”, instead I was mostly flitting between Netflix series and having lie-ins.

The end of lockdowns has proved a particularly tricky time. When the first lockdown started to ease over summer, I had out-of-control levels of FOMO. Tapping through a stream of Instagram stories, I’d see friends and celebs cheers-ing at bars and restaurants or posing in each others’ gardens. 

My brain was locked in battle

On the one hand, I was happy to stick rigidly to the rules. Even before the March lockdown, my family were drowning in sanitiser and ordering groceries online, worried about my 74-year-old dad being higher risk. Then in April, my grandma died from catching Covid, making me even more fearful of crowds and public spaces.

On the other hand, watching friends going about their “normal” lives was making me spiral. If I turn down my friends’ invite to meet up, will they hate me? If I ask to swap plans to something that follows the guidelines, will I seem boring? Will I have a social life left by the time the pandemic’s over?

Occasionally I’d see friends hanging out without inviting me, and while I understood that their living closer made quick meet-ups easier, my self-esteem would plummet – I feared they would forget me.

It felt impossible to balance being careful around Covid with wanting to still be included.

Having honest Skype conversations with friends about my worries helped me through. I realised we all felt responsible for keeping loved ones safe, but that it wasn’t selfish to socialise within the rules to protect our mental health. 

A group of people in a family video call

I fought against social media stress by unfollowing celebs whose edited feeds made me feel inferior, and removing the apps from my home screen to reduce scroll time.

There were some social posts, though, which helped me understand that during a traumatic global event, it’s absolutely ok not to have everything perfectly together, and merely surviving is enough:

The most I achieved in 2020 was watching New Girl from start to finish and perfecting my technique for making instant custard. I have made my peace with that.

Discover Fumble’s pandemic support series

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our lives, and we’ve all struggled to understand and digest the changes that continue to happen all around us. 

Our pandemic support series explores young people’s experiences of COVID-19, and helps you start to make sense of the chaotic and uncertain time we’re living in. Discover the full series here

Other support

If you need more support right now, here are some of our favourite places to start.

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Top Tips For Building Good Self-Esteem

Last reviewed  24 February 2021

Image Credit: Adrian Swancar via Unsplash

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