Body image. Almost everyone worries about how they look, it’s just human nature. But, in today’s society with perfection surrounding you on social media, it’s even easier to get caught up in being consumed with how you look. Having a disease like MS, where your body doesn’t always function the way it should and subsequently can affect the way you look, having a positive body image can prove difficult.
All I can see is everything negative
I began having pretty significant issues with my body image and self-esteem at the ripe old age of 12, so right around puberty. Pretty normal, right? I was just like any other preteen girl with low self-esteem until I was diagnosed with MS at 14 and those feelings amplified. I’ve never been a huge fan of what I’ve seen in the mirror. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been told I’m the most beautiful girl in the world that day – when I look in the mirror, 90 percent of the time I am unhappy with what I see. I feel like even on days that I’m feeling good and pretty confident that as soon as I look into the mirror it’s like a black fog comes and all I can see is everything negative about myself. And one day it clicked. I find that a lot of the negativity I feel towards my body image is attributed to MS.
Illness has a way of making a negative impact on body image. People like ourselves, with a disease are often pitied or even blamed for our ailments. We experience pain, discomfort, loss of control and changes in appearance. And, on top of all of that, there is a social stigma that tends to come with diseases. That in itself can be a heavy blow to self-esteem and body image. Both the physical aspects and the social stigma can have adverse psychological effects that cause us to view ourselves in a negative light. With MS comes a lot of fear. There is fear of rejection, fear of losing control (mentally and physically), and fear of what’s to come. All of these things don’t exactly make it easy to want to put yourself out there, so it can cause anxiety especially in social situations. However, I think the biggest part of my self-esteem issues doesn’t come from those things I just listed. Instead, mine comes from the sense of being different. It’s psychologically been hard for me to process the fact that I’m not “normal.” And that sense of being different can make me feel unattractive and insecure. It can make me feel less-than. Our bodies are put to the test. We watch our bodies change and betray us. And then we watch our bodies turn us into something we never expected; something different, and something strange. It feels odd, and it feels foreign. So, only seems right to be appalled by what is staring back at us in the mirror, right?
4 way I try to improve my self-esteem:
But, we shouldn’t feel that way. I most certainly don’t want to feel that way, at least. So each day I try to do something to improve in this area of my life. My body image and my self-esteem are obviously an everyday struggle for me. It has never been something that comes easily. But, it is something that I actively work on. It is something I desperately want to improve, and here are a few of the ways I try to do that daily:
Find the good
Each day that I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I try to find one positive thing. It doesn’t have to be a physical aspect either. It can be something as simple as, “Hey, you totally rocked at cooking breakfast today, I’m proud of you.”
Steer clear of social media and unrealistic expectations
I am on social media most days, but I know my limits. I like to get on to check on family and work things, but when I start being sucked into looking at profiles of perfectly put together people with their unflawed lives and unflawed bodies, I know its time to get off. I have to remind myself that most of these people on social media are not showing their bad days. They are unrealistic, and I should not compare myself to anyone online. Ever. Period.
Find an identity outside of MS
I can’t deny my illness, this is true, but I can remind myself of everything in my life that gives me purpose. I’m a wife, a mom, a friend, a daughter, a sister. I am worthy, and I am good. I am enough, and MS does not define me.
Take care of your body and mind
Each day I try to do something to improve. I enjoy finding new healthy recipes or new workouts to try. I may not be confident as a whole most days, but I’m able to find confidence in doing little things each day. I enjoy finding ways that I am strong and capable and finding confidence in knowing that I’m doing things to make myself better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Body image stuff isn’t for the birds
These are just a few of the ways I try to work on me. I know that most people probably have their own body image issues, and I hope this can be of help to them as well. This self-esteem and body image stuff isn’t for the birds. It’s taxing. Moreover, it can bring you down and crush your spirit. I know it has consumed too many of my days; many more than I would like to admit. However, again, it’s something I work on daily, and I find a little bit of confidence and a positive outlook on my self-image knowing that. So, now it’s your turn. I want to turn it over to my readers now. I would love to hear what you do to work on your self-esteem and body image with MS. Give me all you’ve got!
I hope you look in the mirror and like what you see today. Just a reminder: You are amazing!
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.