The sense of self:
This is our own Self Image. Who we think we are. Keep in mind this may be contrary to how others think you are. It can affect our self-worth and our self-esteem. And it can be problematic when life changes make what we perceive to be our sense of self… wrong. This can impact our self-identity greatly and cause us to question just who we Are. Sense of self can be your self-identity, your self-esteem, or the roles we have in the world. It is all of them combined to give us an image of who we are.
So what do we do when life events such as illness, pain, suffering, loss of our careers or job… and all the things that happen when you are disabled… how do we adjust our sense of self?
First, and foremost, I want to tell you that when our sense of self is so disrupted it can cause a lot of damage. The period of adjustment can be short or it can be decades. It is basically a trauma to our core self and what we thought of ourselves. And as a result, we can then think horrible negative things about ourselves. We can feel useless, worthless, and hopeless because who we thought we were and who we know we are now are so different we begin to hate what we are now.
What can we do to recover a healthy sense of self?
Our sense of self can become very negative so we have to encourage a new, better sense of self. And the good news is our sense of self always changes so we can improve it.
You must develop self-compassion
We are dealing with constant stressors in our lives that limit our capacity to be in the world. Instead of loathing, we can’t be the way we want to be we have to have compassion for the existence we have. We tell ourselves, yes, it is difficult. Yes, I do have limitations. Yes, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. And… I have to try and live like this and I know that I am doing the best I can in such a difficult situation. That what I can do is enough. Forgive ourselves for not being able to do things. Let ourselves just accept our limitations are what help us cope.
We must move forward
The past is not who we are. We cannot compare ourselves to it or to healthy people. We have to move forward, as we are, to change our perception of ourselves in healthy ways. Acceptance of who we are is beneficial because we can see all the things about who we are Now that are wonderful things. We can develop a new sense of self. A new way of being in the world.
We must see our positive characteristics
We cannot focus on the person we were. And like I said, the trauma to our sense of self can really create a lot of self-loathing. We have to think about all the things about ourselves that are awesome. I recommend an exercise every once in a while where you write down 10 characteristics or things you do that you love about yourself. Then we must embrace those because they will help us adjust our sense of self again. A new version. And this also means thinking about your values and your beliefs. Because these are also who we are and part of our selfhood. These are also ways that define us. Don’t think about the values society thinks you should have, but your own defining values. These values might be different than they once were. Like you value hard work and always value your reliability and dependability in the workforce. But when you can’t work all of those can be something you now loath about yourself. So perhaps now you value the connections you have with your loved ones. Or the perseverance you have through hard and difficult times. With your resilience, you have to get through difficult times. And these can boost our confidence, because our values, now, can be awesome values as a person and a way to interact with others.
You much embrace your truth
A lot of the time we are fighting our chronic illness and chronic pain. Fighting because we want to live a certain way and it is Impeding our Lives. And this often makes us worse. Because illness and chronic pain require a level of pacing and rest that does make forcing through it worse when we do not listen to our bodies. Our truth is that we have a chronic illness that affects every aspect of our lives. Our truth is we do have to consider our health in our day-to-day lives, activities, plans and how we exist in the world. And that is fine. We have lives to live, but it is a chronic illness life.
I think we really need to be mindful of the things we say to ourselves and the story we tell about ourselves. Sometimes the story we tell about ourselves isn’t true at all but we feel like such a failure as a person we tell ourselves we have no worth or use in the world. And we have to be mindful of those thoughts. When we tell ourselves these things, analyze them, or write them down, and think more kind thoughts or turn the thought around. Like ‘I am a failure’ could be ‘Everyone fails sometimes. And I have an enduring chronic illness that limits my ability to accomplish certain things. And this is not a failure’
Find new ways to be in the world
Finding new ways that we can be in the world will definitely improve our sense of self. I used to think I am what I do for work. And now I say to myself I am a blogger and writer. Those are things I can do. Those are things I love to do. Explore hobbies. Ones you had before or ones you always loved or new ones. If you are a reader, explore new topics and ideas. If you are a writer, put your voice out there in a blog on any subject you love. Two of my uncles have blogs: One on sociology and the other on his awesome photography.
Remember this is flexible
Our sense of self is like our self-identity… it grows and changes and adapts. We just need to find new ways and things that help us flourish with chronic illness and chronic pain.
It is a fight, you know, with our sense of self we had and who we are now. And a lot of negativity we tell ourselves comes from this contrast. So we have to find ways to adjust it to our reality now. And just feel better about who we are as a person now.