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Living with chronic pain can very easily knock your confidence and self-esteem. You start to see yourself differently – you’re not who you used to be, you’re a failure, you feel like you’re a burden. All these negative thoughts can whirl around in your head and can often lead to depression, stress, and can even make your pain worse. Instead you need to learn how to be confident in who you are, what you can and cannot do, and how to stay focused on the right things. This post will encourage you to change some of those whirling thoughts.
Think more positively about yourself
The first thing you need to start doing is to change how you think about yourself. You are not a failure. You are not a burden. And you are who you used to be. Your chronic pain is one aspect of your life and you can’t let it dictate who you are and all you want to be.
You are more than your pain.
One simple thing you can do is to change your language and thoughts. We are guided by our thoughts and the more negatively you see yourself, the more negative you will feel. It’s a vicious circle that needs to stop.
Things to do: Don’t be harsh on yourself. Be kinder to yourself. Use positive language to describe who you are and what you see in life.
Be confident about what you can and cannot do
When you have chronic pain you either try and do too much, or you do very little at all. The reasons for both can depend on your energy levels, but very often it reflects how you’re feeling about yourself and the world around you at the time.
You know your pain better than anyone. Only you know what you can and cannot do and what your limitations are. But don’t use this as an excuse – an excuse to carry on as normal and struggle; or an excuse to struggle by wallowing in your own self pity.
Things to do: Focus on your abilities not your limitations. Build pain management in to your day.
It’s ok to say ‘no’ to stuff.
FOMO or JOMO? The fear of missing out? Or the joy of missing out?
I’ve swayed more towards JOMO the older I’ve got and the more used to my pain that I’ve got. I’ve changed quite a bit since my pain started, but I’m more comfortable and happier in myself than ever. I’m having to do what I need to do, and this very often means what I want to do.
Having chronic pain definitely causes you to self-reflect more and prioritise you a lot more. Don’t be afraid to do this – self care isn’t a nice to do, it’s a must do.
Things to do: Focus on self-care. Do what you want to do. You don’t have to try and fit in.
Be confident about what you need to help you
Don’t be afraid or scared to ask for help. When you live with chronic pain you may need help from others, help from equipment, or small adjustments to help you do things but in a different way.
I’m lucky in that I haven’t lost any of my independence and I can still take care of myself. However, I do need help when sitting (I use a coccyx cut-out cushion) or working (I use a height adjustable desk). I have also had to ask for help when my anxiety or stress have got too much and everything has felt so overwhelming.
This is life. And we all need a little help at times. There is nothing to be ashamed of by asking for help.
Things to do: Be honest and confident in understanding what you need to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Learn to be more grateful
By being more grateful and appreciating the little things, we can see things differently. We start to focus more on the positives around us and in our minds.
Being grateful for the smallest things can really change our mindset, our outlook on life, and improve our overall wellbeing. People with chronic pain often have long journeys to get a diagnosis, or take a while to learn to adapt and cope with their pain. If you start to pick out little things that make you feel happy or that you are grateful for, you soon see that all these little things add up and create more positivity in your life – a lot more than what you realise.
Things to do: Everyday write down 3 things you are grateful for. Try and think of the positive things that have happened since your pain started.
Keep busy and do the things you enjoy
When you’re doing things you love and enjoy you are bound to feel more confident. And don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know what your chronic pain may lead you to start doing.
My love for writing really flourished because of my chronic pain – I never would have started my blog and you wouldn’t be reading this post now had I not been confident and given it a go.
I’ve also developed a real love for reading. As long as I can get comfy (and not fall asleep by lying down), I could read for hours. I enjoy non-fiction books and have learned so much by doing something I love to do.
Things to try: Do something you love doing everyday. When your mind is on overdrive, distract yourself by reading, going for a walk, or doing something mindful like art or a puzzle.
What have you had to do to be confident with your pain?
What are you going try from my ideas above?