My HormonologyEver notice the confidence you have in your appearance is high one day, then low the next?

Point a guilty finger to your hormones.

Depending on where you are in your cycle, your hormones can skew your perception of how you look.

Here’s how:

In your premenstrual week and during the first few days of menstruation, you’re more likely to be dissatisfied with your body shape and experience anxiety over how you appear to others–even when you look exactly the same as you did on other days of your cycle, according to various studies (including this one, this one and this one).

The researchers say it comes down to a combination of factors triggered by progesterone and low estrogen on these days–including water retention, a negative mindset, mental fogginess and fatigue–that make you feel less attractive than you really are.

Contrast that to Week 2 of your cycle: During this phase, which starts 8 days from the onset of your period, the confidence you have in your appearance soars–even when there’s been no drastic change, according to a 2009 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Researchers chalk this  up to high estrogen, which boosts your self-assurance and mood as it climbs.

What’s the take-away here?

Your perception of your how you look is influenced by the ups-and-downs of your hormones–and usually doesn’t reflect how you really appear.

So, when you’re feeling down in the dumps about your body, look at your calendar. If you’re on a day right before or during your period, remind yourself that it’s just hormones playing mind tricks on you. Then, take a moment to remember all the wonderful personality traits you love about yourself, such as your honesty, loyalty or how hard you work. Numerous studies show that this type of self-affirmation boosts flagging self-esteem, making you feel positive about yourself again.

And when you’re feeling over-the-top about how you look thanks to high estrogen in your Week 2, enjoy it. But, also consider bringing a friend with you when clothes shopping or getting a new hairstyle since you could be convinced that you’re the only person who can pull off a pleather polka dot mini skirt or an ‘80s-style checkerboard side-head shave. And there’s a slim chance that anyone other than Cyndi Lauper can even on their best days.

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