Managing Poor Self-Esteem with Chronic Illness

Posted on Tue Oct 8th, 2019 at 2:00 pm

By: J.A.


Last month, I wrote a blog on the Importance of Self Love. Self-Love is an important topic all on its own, but it can be impossible to have self-love without healthy self-esteem. Here are some thoughts on what causes low self-esteem and ideas on how to improve upon it.


The dictionary defines self-esteem as confidence in one's own worth or abilities; self-respect.

Why I Know All About Poor Self Esteem 

An image of a girl starting and a chalk board that says "self confidence" to discuss what causes low self-esteem and how to improve it.

Before I dive into talking about managing self-esteem issues, I want to give you some background on why this is a topic I feel very familiar with and comfortable writing about. But also, why I can provide some good advice on it. I had very poor self-esteem as a child into my teen years and even beyond that. I was a completely different person 8 – 10 years ago than I am now.


I had a lot of insecurities, probably more than people knew, because I worked really hard at hiding them. I really had no idea what I was missing out on, how broken I was, I didn’t even consider working on my self-esteem until many years later after becoming an adult.


Although I was well aware of many of my insecurities, for a long time I wasn’t aware of all the insecurities I possessed until I was faced with some very complicated situations. Different situations can bring out different sides to a person’s personality and character traits. But, before I dive into talking about my realization of my self-esteem problems and how I went about fixing them, I want to talk about another big issue related to self-esteem.

Placing Blame & Attacking the Innocents    

Some people will go around blaming others for their self-esteem issues, and maybe they are to blame, but it won’t fix the problem. You can blame them, but don’t get so caught up in it that you don’t do something about it. Most importantly, don’t blame the innocent ones. This really annoys me!! I have seen multiple people in my life take out their self-esteem issues on innocent people around them. I’m sorry, but I just lose some respect for these people. Please don’t be this person, it does not help anything, and may hurt the innocent, or your relationship with the innocent. Personally, more than once I’ve been the target of someone else’s own issues with themselves.


I’m a sensitive person, but I still never assume I know what someone is thinking, or that there is an underlying meaning in what they are saying and it is to insult me. If they don’t come right out and say something insulting or don’t directly say something to me that is offensive, I don’t read into things. Yes, I’ve taken comments the wrong way, but they were comments that were directed at me.


Self-Esteem is Not Fixed by Blaming Others 

A person’s self-esteem issues are their own problem, not everyone else’s. Just because you think you suck at something, and someone is talking about how great they are at it (not knowing that is a sensitive topic for you), does not mean they are trying to insult you. Just because they are sharing an exciting new opportunity they gained, and your life feels a bit empty, does not mean that they are trying to hurt you. It is a dead giveaway that someone has insecurities when they walk around blaming others for their feelings, just because another person is showing a great level of confidence in themselves or sharing a positive experience.


Placing Blame

Don't Let Jealousy Get the Best of You

If you struggle to be happy for others, then that is a problem that you need to deal with. I can tell you I have faced a lot of jealousy throughout my life. I’ve had multiple times in the past, where I have thought in my head “oh please shut up,” when someone was talking about all these exciting things happening to them and I just felt like I deserved those things too, but my life wasn’t going anywhere. But, I always managed to keep my mouth shut. I figured it wasn’t going to make me feel any better getting angry at them for being happy and having things work out. Also, I didn’t want them to know I was jealous, that would just add to my already horrible self-esteem. They didn’t deserve that either.


Even while struggling with my own self-esteem there were many positive things that happened to me. And I had a certain person in my life with insecurities who would insult me or attack me when I had worked so hard to gain something I never thought I would gain, and that truly hurt. You don’t always know how hard someone has worked for something or whether they have their own insecurities. So, if you can’t be happy for them, just at least be courteous enough not to say anything.

Can People Tell You Have Low Self-Esteem? Having great self-esteem literally changes everything!

One of the major problems with having poor self-esteem is it is very difficult to hide. Now that I have become a pretty confident person and secure in who I am in just about every aspect of my life, I can spot others with insecurities pretty well. It actually makes me wonder how transparent my insecurities were as an adult, because I know it was pretty obvious when I was a child. I feel as though I’m an entirely different person now, but I wonder do people see that? Did they always know I was insecure? Do they see that I’ve changed? It literally changes everything when you are confident in who you are, and have self-love. Life is so much better. I have this higher appreciation for my life even when so many things go wrong. I’m happy that I’m this person who isn’t going to heavily blame and put myself down when things go horribly wrong.   

How Did I Improve My Self-Esteem? 

Self Esteem

It did not happen overnight. It took me a long time to change: the way I perceived myself, my views on how I fit into the world, and my negative thought patterns. Plus, my chronic illness actually derailed the train for a bit. I honestly never imagined I would be in the place I am today with my self-esteem and self-love.


I came to this point where I fully recognized and saw my low self-esteem was a problem with me. I realized that even if I could blame the world or someone else for it (which I did), I was the only one who could fix it. And while it is possible to find help through therapy, friends, family, and so on, I worked through it mostly on my own.


Things that Helped me Improve My Self-Esteem

I worked on writing down things I liked about myself, goals, dreams of who I wanted to be, and what I wanted for my future. I read books that were considered by many to be the best books for growing as a person. I read about being an introvert and being a highly sensitive person. I looked up personality profiles and read about the ones that matched me. I read books and articles on being successful, it’s hard to remember what exactly, but I read a bunch of stuff that was motivational.


I started to focus more on things that I liked about myself, as an example I started doing more creative artsy things, which I enjoyed but had told myself I wasn’t very good at. I loved writing, so I started writing about all the difficult things I was dealing with. And all these things helped my self-esteem to grow, every single one of them. The trick is to do a lot of things, not just one or two.

Do I Blame the World for My Self Esteem?   

I never stopped blaming the world for my past, for my self-esteem issues, and for my chronic illness. Except I no longer get mad about it, because I did and am doing stuff about it. I can also share my experiences to help others. I don’t lose sleep at night because of the blame I place in the world. I’m usually very positive, and I don’t live in the past. It sounds so negative, but it’s not. It’s a positive thing that I realize the world is a very broken place, but I’m CHOOSING to be happy despite that. I realize I’m chronically sick every day, but I rarely dwell on it. I could right now dig up a bad memory of the past and go down a rabbit hole of negativity, but I’m consciously making the choice not to.


Being chronically sick and deeply depressed, I even got to that point where I wished that I was dying. I wasn’t suicidal but looked at death as this positive thing that I hoped would happen as a result of my illness. I didn’t want to live anymore. But now, it has been many years since I have had those thoughts, because I did something about my self-esteem, and I did something to improve my illness.   


What Self Esteem Issues Do You Struggle with? 

Self Love

-       Do you feel insecure about your skills and talents?

-       Do you feel unlovable?

-       Do you struggle to feel confident in your decisions?

-       Do you struggle with your appearance?

-       Do you struggle with who are you and what you have to contribute to the world?


Did you have great self-esteem and then chronic illness took it from you?

A chronic illness can definitely have a negative impact on your self-esteem.


Look at the source of your self-esteem problems

  • Are there relationships that are causing you to feel bad about yourself?
  • Are there past issues that cause you to feel bad about yourself?
  • Is it a current issue related to being chronically sick or a mental health problem?

More specifically:


Is it because of things you can no longer do, which you once could?

Maybe your skills and talents have been hindered. If that’s the case, take a look at my blog Finding Purpose in Life When Chronically Sick.


Did your physical appearance change with your illness?

This could be gaining weight, losing weight, or something else entirely. It might be beneficial to look at exercises you can do with chronic pain or just wellness in general. But, also remember the person you are on the inside is what is most important. Yeah I know that is annoying to hear! Of course, you want to feel good inside and out. We just all have to do the best with whatever hand we are dealt with.


Do you struggle with your feelings of worth relative to other people?

Maybe you feel incapable of much and don’t feel like a good friend, significant other, mother, and so on. For some tips on this, take a look at my blogs Maintaining Healthy Relationships While Chronically Sick and The Importance of Self Love When Chronically Sick


Perhaps chronic illness has even changed the fabric of your personality. This is very possible for those who have suffered from a chronic illness for a good portion of their lives. Hopefully, it hasn’t made you bitter and angry, because that may cause you to distance yourself from others, but also others may distance themselves from you. I mean it’s okay to have bitter and angry days of course. You are totally allowed to. But, if you are bitter and angry 24/7, you definitely need to spend some time working on improving your mental health and self-esteem.


Regaining What is Lost

Self LoveMaybe your chronic illness has taken away the humorous piece of your personality. If you were a person who could easily make people laugh, and had the ability to laugh at yourself, as well, and now it’s gone, it doesn’t mean it has to be gone forever. There could be a way to get it back.


I will be honest and say I’m not sure how that all works. I guess if you focus on changing the way you view things, trying to find the positives in life, you may be able to regain a bit of what you have lost. Some people find humor in their illness and that helps them cope, but others may not be capable of that.


Looking at What You Might Have Gained

You should also take some time to think about personality traits you may have gained through becoming chronically sick. For a lot of people, empathy is a big personality gain. Having a better understanding of what others go through, and caring on a deeper level is a really great personality trait to have. Some people have found they are able to be more supportive of other people’s life struggles, and possibly less judgmental when it comes to first impressions.


No one can fix their self-esteem in a day or a week. It is not an easy task, it takes time, but it is well worth the effort.

View my next blog: In-Depth Advice: How to Improve Self-Esteem  (I provide a list of different ways a person can work on improving their self-esteem whether chronically sick or not.)

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