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Body Image

Body Image

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.

Feeling less-than

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!

XOXO,

Calie

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.

Comments

  • chriscoxrox
    4 weeks ago

    Great post ! I understand and have similar struggles daily.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @chriscoxrox I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • chriscoxrox
    4 weeks ago

    Calie, please check out my website and blog at http://www.chriscoxrox.com
    I have had MS for 13 years and recently started a blog and Facebook group call MS blogging what needs to be heard. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • nyrhockeychic
    1 month ago

    I’ve had the lack of self esteem problem long before i was diagnosed wit MS. It just adds on to my sucky life

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 month ago

    @a40f26 my self-esteem issues also started long before my diagnosis. You’re not alone! Please know this community is here for you, and we hope you’ll continue to reach out! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • Goneawall
    1 month ago

    Thank you for writing this. I’m new to this. 44. Was having some odd physical problems for years. Was diagnosed 7 months ago. I was a coach/ptrainer. Retired fighter and brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt. Obviously I’ve done many other things. Just really liked helping people.
    That’s all ended now. Retiring from coaching and recently moved out of home state for family help. I still have plans to return to bjj but this past year was quite a nightmare on the mat. If you’re aware of anyone with a lifestyle like this….Please let me know. That would be so appreciated. Once again… Thank you for writing this.
    Trying to find my way.
    This helped.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi @goneawall, thank you for reaching out. An MS diagnosis can feel so overwhelming, and although it pains me to hear you’re going through this, I’m glad you found our community. I hope you find it to be a safe space to connect with others, find sincere, honest support, and help you in this journey.

    We actually just received this story from a community member on our site who is coming to terms with a different kind of active lifestyle as well if you’d like to read and/or connect – https://multiplesclerosis.net/stories/athletics/

    I hope others will comment and share their experience with you as well. You’re not alone and we’re here for you anytime you need! – Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Legsonstrike
    1 month ago

    I always try to see something positive about myself,I was looking at old pictures the other day and realized how much better I look today than I did after my diagnosis and I’ve lost 40 pounds and kept it off, I still feel like **** most days but I don’t think I look bad, I could use a tan but that’s not happening!! Keep your head up and do all you can to stay positive!! My husband helps out too by complimenting me sometimes and that makes me feel better also!!

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 month ago

    @legsonstrike congratulations on your weight loss! I think it’s so important to find one positive thing about ourselves daily. Thanks for weighing in and commenting!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • @masbrautigam
    2 months ago

    Only thing is I don’t know what’s MS or not?

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    2 months ago

    @maschabrautigam it’s often hard for me to distinguish what exactly is MS and what is not as well. You’re not alone!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • Dede74
    9 months ago

    I love this article, I’m so glad I decided to sign up with this site. It is so nice to read these articles and find out so many of us deal with the same issues. I try every morning before I get out of bed to tell myself that it’s going to be a good day. The fact that you pointed out just little things you do each day can make you feel better is so true! I have dealt with body image issues probably my whole life, but after having MS it can really take a toll on your mental and physical health. The one way I feel better is I volunteer with the local zoo here in New Orleans at least once a week. Just the feeling of getting out doing something great for the conservation of endangered species, and socializing with others really boosts my confidence. It reminds me I am not giving into the darkness that sometimes creeps in. Being a mother, wife, and having a sister that also has MS has made me much stronger. Thank you for sharing this!!

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi @dede74, I love that you’ve found caring for animals and working in nature can really boost your confidence and uplift your spirit! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your perspective and what works for you. We are grateful to have you in our community! Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • MommaMia520
    9 months ago

    Wow with an exclamation point!! It’s heartbreaking so many of us women, men as well, have to convince ourselves that we are worthy, beautiful creatures of god. Everyday. Myself included.
    My mother was a model when I was young, she poured her love into my wounds.. but as we all know to well, it’s not enough.
    She taught me about the law of attraction, the best gift of acceptance and gratitude that only you can give yourself. Everyday.
    She wrote me a poem years ago (that I still have tapped to my mirror). Because you deserve to free yourself of ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT SERVE THE GREATER GOOD
    Great idea! I’m going to put it on my page ❤️

  • OliviaJ
    9 months ago

    Hi Calie,
    You were diagnosed so young! How long have you had MS? This is a really good piece, another reason you should be pleased with yourself!
    Onward,
    Olivia

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi @oliviaj! I’m so sorry I’m just now getting to reply. I have now had MS for 15 years. Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind words!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • TheTodayMe
    9 months ago

    “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.”

    These thoughts made my day.

    So often I let myself notice the lessor aspects of my life. I love the “warm & fuzzy” feelings that come with focusing on the good parts.

    We need to be gentle with ourselves. It’s WAY to easy to be hard on ourselves.

    As my body continues to change, my perception keeps changing. When I feel the rebellion against it start to rise up, I try to think on something (anything!) that I enjoy and love. It gets me distracted so that I don’t dwell on the negative. I might have to do that more than once, but it works for me.

  • Alina Ahsan moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi TheTodayMe, I love that you have found something that can help when those darker thoughts start creeping in. I like to keep a journal filled with positive thoughts, memories, or scraps/reminders from good days that I can look back on and smile when smiling is the last thing I want to do! Thank you so much for sharing what works for you
    -Alina, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • joolz64
    9 months ago

    hi Calie – thanks for sharing your thoughts on this …. I especially appreciate your suggestion to find one thing to feel good about and celebrate that.

  • Shawna1968
    9 months ago

    I might hurt, feel like poop most days, but I’m a crafter, I also work as a part-time secretary. When my boss says, oh that report looks very professional, that makes me feel great! When someone sees my crafted projects and say oh I want one! Makes me feel worthy!
    I haven’t been able to color my hair or wear makeup in years, so I finally found a lipstick and mascara I can use, some days I can use hairspray and all that makes me feel like I belong!
    I do my exercises everyday whether I feel good or not! So those are the ways I try to do to make myself more normal.

  • vvxjr9
    1 month ago

    Shawna1968 – Hi, I liked your posting. I only work as a part-time volunteer. But, when I get dressed in the morning to go to work and taking the bus and subway like others, I feel like I belong. Sometimes when I’m home, I just feel so alone, so it is really nice to get outside and see other people. Someone that will recognize that I am here.

  • Alina Ahsan moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi Shawna1968, those little things can go such a long way in making someone feel “normal” and up to tackling another day. We have such great tips in this comment section for coping on those “down days,” so thank you so much for adding yours!
    -Alina, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Lucylucylucy
    9 months ago

    I work as an artist and understand very well when your hands won’t cooperate.
    I stretch my fingers and do gripping exercises along with applying heat to help and it does seem to work.
    As for hairspray? I wish they’d make one with a better sprayer.I have sprayed myself in the face more times than I can count! Thankfully,the hairspray doen’t freeze the expression on my face when I do that.Lol!

  • Alina Ahsan moderator
    9 months ago

    Lucylucylucy, your comment reminded me of a Full House episode in which they tried to market a face shield to keep hairspray from getting in their faces – it made me laugh! It might be a good idea after all 🙂 -Alina, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Lucylucylucy
    9 months ago

    “Find an identity outside of MS”
    I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Carol
    9 months ago

    Calie,

    Another great article. Looking in the mirror is not good. I used to look good when I was young, but then I started looking older. And then after decades of not knowing what was wrong with me, I finally found out that I had MS. And I am different. Now, I have additional wrinkles and grey hair with the worry about how I am now and what the future holds for me.

  • asapcynthia
    2 months ago

    If you really want to bum out, have ms and go through menopause. Things move and stretch and sag with a mind of its own. I use a walker and I feel invisible if you can believe that. I believe if I stood in the middle of the road at high noon and shot somebody and the witnesses were asked to describe me, they would say I don’t know what she looked like but it was an old lady with one of those things you push around. So I try to count my blessings everyday starting with I woke up so that’s good. Since social media is so pervasive I try to use it for good and give positive feedback to random strangers like I love that dress or that’s a great hair cut. I recently adopted a lady who runs a feral cat charity, since my husband won’t let me get anymore pets. She does all the work and I write letters and beg for grant money. It’s not much, but it makes me feel like I can contribute to the greater good. My husband and I were talking about how our friends are all aging and needing new joints and all the ills that go along if you are lucky enough to live that long. But it’s still different for me. I count my age in dog years.

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