Maintaining Self-esteem with Migraine

Patient Expert & Health Professional
Medically Reviewed

When productivity and performance take a nosedive due to the unpredictable nature of migraine, our self-esteem can take a hit. The problem with self-esteem is that it is intrinsically linked to external sources. We feel badly because we don’t measure up to what we think society expects of us. We compare ourselves to others and assess our self-worth based on how we measure up. Our worth is then measured by our performance.

None of us perform well in the middle of a migraine attack. No one ever said, “Getting a migraine really boosts my creative energy. Man, I can really get stuff done when my head is pounding.” Quite the contrary, those attacks force us into hiding in a near-vegetative state. Everything stops. The world keeps moving while we disappear into dark, quiet isolation.

We have two standards – one for ourselves and one for everyone else. Irrationally, we believe that the rules of self-care shouldn’t apply to us. When our friends get a migraine attack, we tell them, “Take care of yourself.” “Feel better soon.” “Get some rest.”

Yet when migraine attacks us, our self-talk sounds like this: “Not again! I don’t have time for this.” “I have to finish this one thing before I can stop.” “What did I do wrong this time?”

We would never say these things to someone else. We show compassion to others while criticizing ourselves. Why are we any less deserving? Why must we be the ones to push through, tough it out, suck it up, and carry on?

The key is to focus on self-compassion. By showing ourselves the same compassion we show others, we protect ourselves from damaging negative self-talk. We no longer use some arbitrary measurement to determine our worth. Instead, we begin with the assumption that we have worth simply because we exist.

When you start from the belief that you have worth, regardless of performance, then it becomes much easier to treat yourself with gentle kindness. You give yourself permission for self-care that would otherwise be denied because you didn’t deserve it. We all deserve to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion, especially during a migraine attack.

More helpful information:

10 Ways to Keep HOPE Alive with Migraine

Migraines and Feeling Hopeless - Hang On!

Migraine Burden Worsened by Stigma

Migraine, Disability, and the Emotional Fallout