Seven in 10 women experiencing infertility say that it makes them feel “inadequate”, according to a 2010 survey.
The shock and disappointment of infertility can make it difficult to feel confident. You might feel as though your body is failing you or that something is deeply wrong with you.
While it’s a common experience, it’s important to have self-love throughout the journey. We’ll discuss ways you can begin accepting yourself despite the ups and downs.
How Infertility Impacts Self-Love
Infertility can be emotionally difficult when all you desire is to start or expand your family. To make matters worse, society’s expectations can also wreak havoc on your self-esteem.
Traditional views place importance on becoming a mother. From a young age, many people grow up assuming it’s their body’s inherent ability. When you discover you have fertility problems, it can feel like the world is pointing a finger at you, telling you something is wrong. Eventually, this can take a toll on how you feel about yourself.
If you can relate, first know that it’s normal to feel this way. A 2010 survey on infertile couples found that 4 in 10 report feeling sexually unattractive. That can also translate into your relationship. More than half of couples say infertility has made them physically and emotionally anxious about sex.
Comments from friends and family can also damage your view of yourself. Over 60% of couples said they get tired of people asking about their fertility or offering suggestions.
What is Self- Love?
Self-love may sound egotistical, selfish, or self-centered. However, it simply means having a healthy view of yourself. When someone has self-love, they have a deep appreciation and respect for themselves.
If that sounds cheesy, think about self-love as an action, not a feeling. Our love for ourselves is reflected in the decisions we make, the ways in which we take care of ourselves, and how we cope through challenges.
A healthy sense of self-love stems from:
- Self-worth— Knowing you’re worthy of love and belonging. Regardless of your fertility success, you feel deserving of the good things in life.
- Self-acceptance— Accepting yourself despite your imperfections. Although you’re aware of your flaws, you don’t judge yourself for them.
To harness self-love, we can put 3 concepts into practice.
- Self-compassion— Being kind and easy on yourself when you face suffering or challenges. A 2019 study showed that self-compassion-based training had a significant role in the mental health of infertile women.
- Self-awareness— Being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In becoming more mindful, you understand better what you need to take care of yourself.
- Self-care— Self-awareness can help you understand the type of self-care you need. For example, being aware of your anxiety can lead you to calming self-care practices, like journaling or meditating.
4 Ways to Foster Self-Love During Infertility
Many couples experience a shock to their confidence following infertility. Below are some ways you can build self-love.
#1 Check-In With Yourself
When you neglect yourself, you can chip away at your own self-worth. By meeting your needs, you’re affirming to yourself that you’re worthy. That is self-care in its truest sense.
As a self-awareness practice, throughout the day, ask yourself, “what do I need right now?” Tune into both your body and emotions. Are you anxious and feel the need to take a moment to breathe? Do you need a shoulder to cry on? Maybe you’ve forgotten to eat, need a nap, or need to reach out for help.
To check-in with yourself on a deeper level, you can also use tools like:
- Journaling. By writing down your emotions, you can learn how you’re feeling and what you need. A 2016 study found that expressive writing could be a tool for alleviating depression in infertile women.
- Mindfulness meditation. Meditation helps you become aware of your thoughts and physical sensations. A 2015 study showed that the practice improved the self-compassion of women going through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
#2 Validate Your Feelings
Part of practicing self-love involves being compassionate with yourself. Allow yourself to feel the difficult emotions that infertility can bring. Avoid pushing your emotions away or telling yourself that you’re wrong for feeling them. Instead, validate how you feel. Tell yourself that it’s normal to be sad, mad, anxious, disappointed, shocked, frustrated, and all of the other emotions.
When you recognize the harsh voice inside your head, try to replace it with the voice of a kind friend. For example:
- You might think, “I’m overreacting and I should be stronger through this journey.” But a friend might say, “It’s normal to feel sad and disappointed and you’re allowed time to process it.”
- You might think, “It’s my fault my body doesn’t work like everyone else’s” .
But a friend might say, “Infertility is a medical condition and you’re still worthy of the family you want.”
#3 Set Boundaries
To harness self-love during infertility, it’s important to set boundaries. Many couples experience unwanted advice or questions on how treatment is progressing or why they’re not pregnant yet.
Setting boundaries might look like having privacy, or distancing yourself from people who make hurtful comments. In other cases, boundaries might mean taking time for yourself instead of attending social obligations.
As you build your practice of self-love, you can protect it by setting limits with others.
#4 Find Supportive Partners
Self-love comes from inside us, but the people around us matter too.
Infertility can have ups and downs and it’s natural to feel lower at times. When you do, you need someone who can provide:
- A listening ear. This person should be able to empathetically listen without judgment and without minimizing how you feel.
- Encouragement. When appropriate, they should also give words of encouragement when your confidence takes a hit. Instead of seeing all the bad things about yourself, they can reflect the good parts.
A supportive partner should be someone you trust and feel comfortable opening up to. This person could be:
- Your partner
- Friend or family member
- Someone from an infertility support group
LGBTQ+ Tips for Self-Love During Infertility
Self-love can be particularly important for LGBTQ+ people trying to start a family. Here are some additional tips for finding self-acceptance.
#1 Find Role Models
When self-love seems far out of reach, it’s helpful to have role models who you relate to and who embody healthy confidence. Finding someone who models self-acceptance can be helpful while going through fertility treatments. For example, having a queer role model who has struggled through fertility and now has a family may help you gain compassion for your own struggles.
Whether it’s a celebrity, influencer, or someone you know personally—observe the ways they accept themselves and try to model it yourself.
#2 Consume Relatable Content
It’s easier to accept yourself when you don’t feel alone. When possible, steer clear of content that makes you feel less than or encourages comparison.
Instead, make a conscious effort to consume content you relate to. Examples include:
- Listening to LGBTQ+ fertility and family podcasts
- Following LGBTQ+ family social media accounts
- Reading LGBTQ+ fertility blogs
#3 Seek community
Having a supportive community can encourage self-love. Sharing your story with people who can relate—and having them accept you—can help you accept yourself. Look for in-person or online LGBTQ+ fertility support groups. You can also join LGBTQ+ Trying To Conceive Facebook groups.