Society has a standard of beauty that people often base their confidence on. Some believe that if they don’t possess the qualities of this unrealistic standard, they are in some way less deserving or unworthy. As if beauty standards aren’t harsh enough, imagine what it’s like for those living with a chronic illness. So much of our sense of self is defined by our physical attributes and what we are physically capable of doing. However, chronic illness can cause your body to go through uncontrollable changes that affect those physical qualities. Dealing with changes of your body, whether they are extreme or subtle, can lead to lowered self esteem and confidence.
I know firsthand what it’s like to struggle with a diminished view of self due to chronic illness. I have been living with Crohn’s disease for a great portion of my life, and initially it took a major toll on my confidence. My weight constantly fluctuates and I have no control over it. One week I may look like skin and bones due to a bad flare, then the next week I may be a tad bit more plump as a result of medication (the chipmunk cheeks from prednisone are no joke). I’ve experienced hair loss, bruising, and skin issues to name a few, all as a result of my condition. During my Crohn’s journey I hit another roadblock when I had to receive an emergency surgery that left me with a colostomy. Here I was again having to learn to adjust and love myself with my newfound reality. I now have a bag on my stomach, a scar that stretches down the center of my abdomen, and suffer from extreme anxiety whenever I have to go out in public. My health situation played a key role in how I viewed myself.
Seeing myself as less valuable and my lack of confidence severely impacted my mental health. It was at that moment I knew I had to rectify this issue. I changed my mindset and redefined what being valuable means to me. I no longer placed emphasis on what I can physically do or my physical appearance to determine my value. I focused on embracing and loving myself with Crohn’s, an ostomy, and all of the challenging changes that come along with my diagnosis. If you’ve ever experienced feelings of inadequacy, and struggled with being confident due to chronic illness, it’s imperative that you’re aware that you still can thrive!
The journey of conquering confidence while chronically ill can take time, and may get difficult, but it is attainable. First I would suggest reframing the way you view yourself and your illness. Shifting my mindset to positive had a positive effect on my confidence. I chose to view myself as a warrior, and all of the changes my body experienced as reminders of how strong I am in this battle with Crohn’s. I no longer focused on how much my body hated me, but how much I loved myself, flaws and all. There is no universal guide to being confident but everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. You are beautiful, worthy, loved, valuable and confidence within yourself is still possible despite having a chronic illness.
- Tionna Forchion