I have experienced chronic pain since I can remember. Thankfully, my story isn’t about how I wondered what was wrong for ages, I had worried parents and was diagnosed early. Turns out, I had two conditions in the autoinflammatory family. A double whammy!
It’s already complicated enough to be a young woman, but living with Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Fibromyalgia just made it that much worse. The Fibro made me feel weak, and the HS made me feel unlovable. Naturally, I found myself questioning my worth. I was afraid to wear shorts up until my early 20s and I didn’t put on a bikini until the age of 26. When I went out with friends, I felt guilty for sitting down so much at the bar; but it was simply the only way to make it through a night out.
I lived constantly worried about other people’s judgments, until one day I got tired of apologizing for being myself. I was born this way, and I would continue to be this way for the rest of my life. And that acceptance led me to venture on a radical journey of self-love, which led to me unleashing my truest self and becoming the badass I was always meant to be.
From someone who has dealt with this their entire life, here’s what I wish someone would have shared with me at the beginning of my journey to confidence.
1. Realize that people aren’t as worried about you as you think.
People are worried about their own problems, and they don’t have time for yours. If someone has the time to make a mean comment about your condition, then they don’t have much going on, and you’re the one who needs to feel sorry for them. Wish them well and keep it moving. But otherwise, don’t show up worried about what people are going to think about from the get-go.
2. Develop a routine.
Feeling good about how you look stems from feeling good about your daily choices. Having a chronic illness often means you have to take extra care of yourself. So don’t slack! I know it gets tough to have to eat extra clean, or take more walks, or use more expensive skincare, but in the end, you are only doing yourself a favor. Take note of what makes you feel better or worse and develop the habits you need to thrive.
3. Accept this is a part of who you are.
I am not saying to make having a chronic condition your entire personality, but what I am saying is to practice loving yourself so hard that you know the right people will love you just the same. You can do this by journaling what you think makes you less than, and simply tell yourself that you are worthy regardless. Repetition is key here because on those flair-up days it will get extra hard. Remind yourself every single day until you know it to be true. Once you can accept who you are, chronic condition and all, you will begin to radiate with the energy of self-love. Believe me, people will notice.
4. Give your friends and family some time to adjust.
Developing a support system is extremely important. However, your friends and family don’t understand your human experience. You probably look just fine to them, and so that is how they want to treat you. Be patient. Send them resources to help them understand your chronic illness, and be clear about what they can do to help you. As you go on accepting your boundaries and loving yourself as you are, so will they.
5. Utilize your social media by looking up hashtags related to your condition.
This will help you find community. These are people you can connect with that share your experience. You will feel less alone and you can trade tips on what you do to practice this self fierce self-love.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Like, seriously. You are a unique human being with your own set of extra special requirements. Comparing your limitations to anyone else will only be your downfall. Only compare yourself to the past version of you. Someone who may have loved themselves less, or didn’t take great care of themselves and work on bettering that version of you, for you.
7. Don’t feel guilty.
There will be times where you may slow down a group of friends, or have to leave an event early. Whether or not your peers understand, don’t feel guilty. You need to do what is best for your condition, and sometimes that means letting other people down. On some occasions, people will take things personally, so you may find yourself explaining your choices to them. That is totally up to you, but just know you don’t owe them a thing. Work on not apologizing for taking care of yourself. The guilt will also subside once you practice this.
8. Don’t trigger yourself.
This one is simple. You will reach a point in which you know what is good and what is bad for you. What causes flare-ups and what eases them. Don’t trigger yourself by doing the shit you know you’re not supposed to do. Period!
9. Don’t allow toxic people in your life.
This is really a tip for everyone. Last but not least, let’s talk about the people who think you’re an imposter just because you look fantastic on the outside. These people will just never understand or respect you as a person. If you cared enough to let them into your world, and they choose to not step into your truth with you. Let them go.