Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Self Esteem

Self esteem may play a big part in motivation. If you feel good about yourself as a person, you are more likely to make choices that support your well-being. You are more likely to be willing to put in effort to take care of yourself. If you don't feel good about yourself, you are more likely to have thoughts such as 'It doesn't matter, anyway, why bother,' and 'I'm not worth fussing over.' Thoughts like these decrease self esteem even more, and make it less likely you will make the effort to take care of your needs.

Chronic pain/illness effects self esteem
Loss of job leads to loss of identity and inability to support self
Uncertain future
Decreased ability to participate in family/friends/community activities
Loss of ability to do previous activities
Feeling worthless, depressed.
Others not believing us leads to self questioning and self doubt, defensiveness, loss of support
Feeling guilty for needing help, or not being able to do previous tasks/responsibilities

Other factors that influence self esteem
Negative messages from parents and others
Failure or difficulty at any life-stage
Negative messages that others give us become our own messages to ourselves
Being overly critical of ourselves, expecting more of ourselves than we can deliver, proving we were right to be critical. This sets up a downward spiral.

Enhancing self esteem
'Catch yourself in the act' of being negative, and change to a more positive message.
Have compassion for yourself. You are a worthwhile person, capable of loving and worthy of being loved.
Make a list of all your strengths and of everything that you have accomplished in your life so far. Use this for positive self-talk.
Don't compare yourself to other people, or to yourself when you were well.
Make the best use of your knowledge, skills, and current abilities.
Don't limit yourself. Look for new ways to take more control in your life, starting with your self-care. Are you doing everything possible to take care of yourself physically? Managing your diet? Getting enough rest? Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't do.
Surround yourself with people who care about you and support you. If there are loved ones who don't understand your illness, explain it to them, get brochures for them, or take them with you to a doctor visit.
Accept that some people may never understand. Refuse to buy into the negative judgments of others. Tell people who constantly criticize you that this is unacceptable, and/or limit your time with them.
Practice not responding when others push your buttons.
Talk to a mental health professional to help you to sort out how you are feeling about yourself, and help you to work on building up a more positive outlook on yourself and the world around you.
Your illness is what you have, not who you are. Your illness is not your fault, so it doesn't make sense to feel guilty about it and how it affects you.
Take classes, volunteer, find online opportunities, read, find meaningful hobbies and outlets, go out into nature, make peace with your illness, grieve, cherish the little moments, love, pray, write, draw, create, do what you can do, journal, talk, find others who understand, practice an attitude of gratitude.

We don't have control over having chronic pain or illness, but there are many things we can control, including how we view the pain/illness, and how we interact with it and with other people. Having a sense of control in our lives improves self esteem. Accepting life as it is and working from there also has a big impact on self esteem. You are a person, not an illness. Don't let your illness take away your personhood.

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