I went back and forth for awhile on how to approach this post, knowing that I wanted to write it after an experience I had at the beginning of July. As usual, I find that the best way to approach any subject is to just dive right into it and go from there. It’s so easy to feel insecure when your body isn’t cooperating with you. Whether or not you are normally a confident person (I for the most part have always been) or if it’s something you’ve always struggled with, add in autoimmune disease, chronic illness, or chronic pain, and self-perception begins to change.
Just because ducks are cute.
Inner beauty 101. My hip hurts, my knee hurts, my stomach is upset, I have anxiety, my brain is foggy… and so on, and so on, and so on. There can be a never-ending list of reasons that make someone dealing with chronic pain depressed, anxious, grumpy, and just, in general feeling down about themselves. As hard as it is to remember that those things are not you, it is extremely important to remember just that. You are the person dealing with those symptoms, they don’t define you. Think about the positive traits that make you, you. Are you kind? Fun? Smart? Ambitious? Giving? Whatever these traits are, make a list, keep them nearby. They are what make you beautiful, even when you’re not feeling that way. Everyone has bad days, and no one should ever make you feel guilty for having one, but the bad days don’t make up you. Let them go, and start again the next day. Hopefully it’s better.
My friend found this for me when I was having a bad day. I don’t think there could have been anything more aptly named.
Outer beauty 101. Depending on your overall symptoms, this can also be difficult. If it’s just chronic pain, it’s tough enough. If you’re dealing with other symptoms such as weight loss or gain, alopecia, rashes, etc., it can be harder to remember that you are physically beautiful. To your partner, your family, and hopefully to yourself. Normally I’m fairly confident in my looks. I’ve been told enough times that I’m pretty to be aware that it’s true, and I’m happy when I look in the mirror. I definitely struggled with body image when I was much younger, but I found myself to be a strong enough person to grow out of that stage on my own. The past few months, I found that because of physical pain, I haven’t been as confident as I once was. My sex drive is significantly lower (which is fine because I’m single) but also frustrating because that’s not me. During Pride this year, my friend and I walked by a booth and had an opportunity to spin a wheel. The prize was a gift card toward a nude photoshoot. I won $400 which covered the cost of the shoot and one free photo. It was definitely the confidence booster I needed. The photos were so good that I bought two more and got another free one because I let the photographer keep one for his portfolio. Now, by no means am I suggesting that everyone run out and have a nude photo session. However, if you are looking for a confidence boost, there are other ways to go about it. Go on a date, have a regular photoshoot, buy a new outfit. And just try to accept the fact that the definitions of beauty are broad. Even if your body has changed, it is still beautiful.
Photo shoot by Guy Raymond. https://www.nu2.ca/welcome.html
In the words of Christina Aguilera, “We are beautiful, in every single way. The world won’t bring us down.” Don’t let chronic pain drain you of you.
Some other perspectives on chronic pain and beauty: