I struggle with self-confidence. I think I always have but I think that chronic illness has made that struggle worse. It’s hard to be confident in myself when I look around and see what others are accomplishing.
I know I shouldn’t gauge my accomplishments on what are others are doing and I usually do a good job of reminding myself of that. When I see someone else doing something great there’s a part of me that gets jealous, a part of me that wants it to be me doing whatever it is (even if sometimes that accomplishment is something I know isn’t realistic). When that happens my self-confidence takes a hit.
I’m not the person I used to be a decade ago (before chronic illness). Luckily, I’m not the person I was just five years ago either. I have to remind myself of that. I’m doing much better than I was just five years ago. That should make me feel good and give a boost to my self-confidence. But, it doesn’t always work.
There are a few things I’ve found that do help my self-confidence.
1. Get out of bed
I’ve learned that I have to get out of bed, no matter what. It doesn’t matter how bad I feel. I have to get myself from the bed to the living room. Thankfully, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day where I really just didn’t feel I could get out of bed. But, when those days do happen (even if it’s right after surgery) I have to get to the couch. After hitting rock bottom I realized that staying in the darkened bedroom only hurts me. I feel worse, I feel more depressed, and I lose self-confidence.
2. Take a shower
I find that the longer I go without a shower the worse I start to feel mentally. It drags me down. Some days I don’t feel like taking a shower and some days I don’t really need to. But, making sure I get a shower on a regular basis helps. And, if I’m feeling low I definitely find that taking a shower and the fresh clean feeling that follows boosts my mood and makes me feel better about myself.
3. Get Dressed
There are days when I don’t get dressed. Some days it’s by choice. I, personally, think we all need a pajama day occasionally. But, it can’t become the norm. Even if getting dressed means changing to a different (clean) pair of pajamas. Getting dressed helps me feel better and boosts my self-confidence.
4. Leave the House!
I’m an introvert. I could easily go an entire week and never leave the house and not even feel bad about it. That was a blessing as we faced Covid and the lockdown that came with it. But, I know that I do need to leave the house occasionally for my mental sanity and for my self-confidence.
Even something as simple as a walk around the block or a drive/ride to the store or a restaurant for take-out can lift my mood. It can become disheartening to stare at the same walls for days on end. Sometimes, we just need a change of scenery.
5. Think Positive
No, thinking positive won’t cure you… but it will help you feel better about yourself and life in general. Focus on the good in life. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the negatives, in what your illness has stolen. It can be really difficult sometimes to think positive, but the effect on your mental state and on your self-confidence is huge, which makes the effort worthwhile.
6. Cut out the Negative Thinking
Too many times I’ve found myself caught in a cycle of negative thinking, focusing on a single negative over and over. It’s easy to get stuck there. But, it’s also easy to find your way out when you have the tools.
The tools that I learned in therapy involve paying attention to my thoughts and catching the negative thoughts, then replacing them with positive thoughts. When I catch myself having a negative thought, instead of letting it spiral I note it in my journal then I replace it with a positive thought.
Instead of thinking “I’ll never feel better” I change the thought to “I can feel better” followed by thinking about some action I could take to help me feel better.Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts improves my self-confidence. Click To Tweet
7. Understand the Source
You can’t win a battle with yourself without understanding yourself. Often, our most deep-seated issues have a root in our childhood. I’ve always been an introspective type of person, which means that I’m usually quick to take a step back and ask myself where a feeling or thought originates. Sometimes understanding where a thought or self-doubt is coming from can help me reverse my thinking.
8. Act Confident
Sometimes life is about faking it until you can make it. In this case that means faking confidence until it becomes a reality. Faking confidence means holding your head high and speaking up, rather than speaking in a small quiet voice or walking around with your head hanging down. Living with chronic illness we are already great actors, we just have to dial it up a notch.
9. Prepare Well
If you aren’t prepared for what life throws at you it’s difficult to be confident. Granted, we can’t be prepared for everything, but we can be prepared for the things we expect.
Throughout college I was so scared of giving presentation or speeches. However, several years ago I committed to giving a speech for a group that I was part of. I was well-prepared and I knew that I knew the topic better than anyone attending. I knocked it out of the park. That was a huge boost to my confidence and when I finally returned to finish my degree I purposely took a speech class even though I didn’t have to – just to face the fear. What I’ve learned is that as long as I’m prepared I will always do well. I can apply this to other areas of my life as well. It’s too easy to allow self-doubt to creep in, but if I’m well prepared, I know I can handle whatever life throws at me.
10. Be Giving
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person with chronic illness who wasn’t giving, yet they rarely realize just how wonderful and generous they are. Giving to others makes us feel good, and gives us a small little boost of self confidence that we rarely even notice. Yet, if giving to others didn’t make us feel good we wouldn’t do it (at least most of us wouldn’t).
Be giving, be generous. You may not have any energy to serve others, but you can be giving in so many ways, even if it’s just reaching out to someone online, or spending time on the phone with a friend in need.
11. Keep Learning
Knowledge builds confidence. The more you know the more you can engage with others and you won’t be left feeling out of the conversations going on around you. Most of us with chronic illness have more time than we have energy. We may not be able to get out and do CrossFit but that doesn’t mean we can’t use our time to learn.
Even if you can’t focus on reading, take the extra time you have to watch some documentaries, or a few TED Talks on Netflix. Or, just find a topic that interests you and dig in. You can even just take the time to talk to others and learn from them.
12. Focus on Achieving Small Goals
It’s amazing how many small things we don’t give ourselves credit for. We think we’ve spent the day doing nothing when we’ve actually washed three loads of laundry, vacuumed the living room, and put the dishes away. Start giving yourself credit for the small things. Put those items on your To-Do list after you’ve done them, and don’t forget to cross them off. When you look back at the end of the day you’ll feel so much better about it.
13. Focus on Small Changes
You don’t have to turn your life upside down to change it. You can change it in small ways that have a big impact. You may not be able to walk even ten minutes at a time yet, but start with just one or two and add to it slowly.
Need to kick the soda habit? You don’t have to do it all at once, just replace one soda a day with a glass of water (and keep track). In time those small changes will add up. Just don’t forget to celebrate those small changes.
14. Smile and Laugh
I think sometimes I’ve forgotten how to smile. I don’t fake it well. But, I haven’t forgotten how to laugh – as long as something is funny.
It’s important that we find things to laugh at and smile about. Seek them out, whether it’s a funny tv show, a comedian, or just a good friend that reminds you to be silly. The more often we can laugh and smile the easier it becomes. And, you feel so much more confident when you walk around with a true smile on your face.
15. Clear Your Inbox
Nothing makes me feel like a bigger failure than an inbox with 50 messages in it. The funny thing is that typically when it’s that bad it’s because there are a bunch of things I’m hanging onto. They aren’t messages that need answers, just messages I want to do something with at some point down the road, or messages that need to be moved to other folders. Sometimes the best thing I can do for my self-confidence is to just wipe the slate clean. Answer what needs answered, and file the rest away.Sometimes the best thing I can do for my self-confidence is to just clean out my inbox. Answer what needs answered, and file the rest away. Click To Tweet
16. Delete the To Do List
Speaking of wiping the slate clean, that’s exactly what I often have to do with my To Do list. Sometimes it just gets so overwhelming, and I’m so far behind that I know I’ll never catch up. I can either stare at it and feel bad about myself, or I can just delete it and start over.
If things are continually getting put off on my to do list they aren’t that important anyway. So, I just delete them and start with a fresh list of things that actually do have to be done that day. If they don’t need to be done that day then they don’t need to be on my to do list.A long to-do list is bad for my self-confidence. Click To Tweet
So, what do you think? What do you find most impacts your self-confidence? Has chronic illness affected your self-confidence? What actions do you take to help improve your self-confidence?
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