How to Get Your Self-Esteem Back After A Chronic Illness

Everyone gets sick from time to time. Some illnesses are even more serious than others. But, there’s a difference between a sickness you can overcome and a chronic illness. Unfortunately, those who have to deal with chronic illnesses are often stigmatized. They can be pitied, looked down upon, or even blamed for their own ailments.  

If you’re someone with a chronic illness, you likely know all too well what that feels like. 

Not only can the stigma associated with chronic illness affect your self-esteem, but you also have to deal with any changes your body is going through. You might be working through pain,  discomfort, a change in appearance, and a loss of control over your own body. It doesn’t help that we’re living in a world of social media, where everyone wants to portray a perfect image and you feel like you can’t do that. 

With that in mind, let’s dive a bit deeper into how chronic illness can affect your self-esteem, and what you can do to boost it back up again.  

How Different Illnesses Impact What You See

When most people think about chronic illnesses, the following might come to mind

  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Migraines

These are some of the most common chronic illnesses, but not the only ones. When you’re dealing with something like cancer or Alzheimer’s, it’s easy for the world around you to see what you’re going through. Symptoms from other illnesses can also make it harder to hide. For example, high blood pressure is a chronic illness that can lead to visible symptoms like varicose veins, making it hard to hide the fact that there’s a problem. 

Unfortunately, that can make it impossible to avoid stigmas. But, it does usually mean you can enjoy a larger support group and people willing to help you through your hard days. 

Some chronic illnesses, however, are virtually invisible. 

Things like chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive disorders, and even some vision problems are issues that the outside world doesn’t often notice. So, it can be more difficult to feel supported or understood. Unfortunately, when you don’t have that support to lean on, negative self-talk can become even louder.  That may cause your self-esteem to plummet. 

The Damage of the Digital Age

While we briefly mentioned the impact of social media above, it’s worth diving into. To say we live in a digital and social age would be an understatement. It seems as though everything is posted, shared, re-tweeted, and “liked” within minutes of it happening in real life. 

But, what most people share on social media really isn’t an accurate depiction of real life. Rather, it’s a highlight reel of what they’re doing. When you see a picture of your friend’s “perfect” family or someone looking flawless, consider what it took to get there. Maybe it took an hour to get that family to cooperate. Maybe that flawless individual used three or four filters or spent all morning on their makeup. 

Social media is, unfortunately, only a part of the problem. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have started to use video conferencing platforms like Zoom. In fact, as of March 2021, 300 million people were logging onto Zoom meetings every day. 

Zoom meetings can actually be beneficial for those with chronic illnesses. They allow you to stay home and rest while working and connecting with others. 

But, staring at a pixelated version of yourself on screen all day might be doing more harm than good. Recently, a new phenomenon called Zoom dysmorphia has become a prominent problem. It’s the result of people seeing themselves so often on screen that they start to nitpick over their appearance. In some cases, they might even see non-existent flaws. While you can fight back against the effects of Zoom dysmorphia by turning off the camera or identifying your negative thought patterns, the best thing to do is to love yourself and use that love to practice self-care. 

Learn to Love Yourself

Simply reading the different ways in which chronic illness can affect your self-esteem might be overwhelming. It’s okay to feel hurt by the things you can’t change, including social stigmas. But, don’t let those things control how you feel about yourself or your life. 

Self-care can help. Not only will it take your mind off of those stigmas or even how you might see yourself in a negative light, but it can start to boost your esteem and change your opinion of how you look. 

While self-care has become a bit of a buzzword lately, there are so many scientifically proven benefits to it. It doesn’t have to include spending every day at the spa or buying expensive things. Self-care is about what makes you feel balanced and worthy. Some of the best practices include: 

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Exercising
  • Getting enough sleep

Self-care can also be sitting in the park with your favorite coffee drink, or catching up with an old friend. Try to do something every day that makes you feel good about yourself, who you are, and what you’re going through. 

When you’re dealing with a chronic illness, you can’t change the world around you. But, if more individuals with those illnesses were able to boost their confidence and let themselves shine in public, those stigmas might start to change. You can start that movement right now. 

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