Chronic Illness and Self-Esteem: How Your Health Impacts How You Feel About Yourself

When you’re dealing with a chronic illness, it can be difficult to get the support you need from society, let alone the acceptance and understanding you need from yourself.

Whether you’re dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, depression, heart disease, or another severe illness, the lifelong journey with the effects of chronic diseases can be destructive to one’s self-worth if not monitored closely.

Let’s discuss how chronic illnesses and your overall health affect your self-esteem and self-worth. Then, we’ll leave you with four tips for getting in a better space with your health and body.

How Your Self Esteem is Effected

There is a direct connection between your overall health and your self-esteem. When your physical health isn’t in a good place, chances are your emotional and mental health are suffering as well.

Navigating any illness is difficult. But a range of chronic illnesses can have a lasting influence on your physical appearance and inner dialogue.

With a chronic illness, negative self-talk and straying from self-acceptance happen because the pain, discomfort, changes in appearance, lack of societal acceptance, and the inability to control your own body become too much.

Even the less serious chronic illnesses can negatively affect self-esteem.

For example, experts say that about 1.3 million Americans are considered legally blind, while millions more suffer from some sort of visual impairment. To cope with these often long-term vision challenges, people have to wear glasses, corrective lenses, or bifocals.

This can impact your self-esteem because you find yourself critiquing how you look with glasses, corrective lenses, or bifocals each day. Also, there are stereotypes associated with wearing glasses, like being a “nerd” or “geek.” And these identities aren’t always positive, leading to less-than-kind treatment from peers.

When your peers don’t accept you, it can lead to low self-esteem and self-worth.

The bottom line is that chronic illnesses can adversely affect your physical appearance. This impacts how you feel about the way your body looks. When you’re unkind to yourself about how you look and what you’re going through with your chronic illness, it is a sign of low self-esteem.

Four Ways to Get into a Better Headspace About Your Health

One of the best ways to cope with self-esteem issues brought on by a chronic illness is to be intentional about getting in a better headspace about your health and body.

Here are four things you can do to help you feel better about your overall health and self.

Make a Doctor’s Appointment

To start your journey to better health, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor. First, ask for a complete physical so you know your overall health status.

Then, based on your results, work with your doctor to develop a plan for improving your health. Ask as many questions as you need and create an open dialogue with your physician about methods for coping with any chronic illnesses.

Having a solid plan in place for better health is the beginning of feeling better about yourself.

Create an Exercise Regimen

Physical activity is not only an excellent way to build self-esteem, but it’s also proven to have a positive impact on chronic illnesses.

Creating an exercise regimen and being disciplined about it will improve your internal health. Additionally, a regular exercise routine improves your physical appearance, directly impacting your body image and how you feel about yourself.

Enlist the help of a personal trainer to help guide your regimen. Or you can explore different exercises and routines at your own pace. Ensure that any training you adopt is safe for your chronic illness.

Prioritize Nutrition

What you put in your body directly affects how you feel and look. So when you prioritize nutrition, you can reverse some of the adverse effects brought on by the stress of any chronic condition.

For example, premature aging can be brought on by stress, and this can affect your self-esteem.

There’s also a connection between what you eat and the health of your skin. For example, poor eating habits can cause acne and premature aging.

On the other hand, eating foods like vegetables, avocados, tomatoes, and dark chocolate can help you look younger. Also, drinking lots of water keeps your skin looking younger and healthier.

Take your nutrition seriously to better your internal health and physical appearance.

Build a Support System

You must develop a solid support system to ensure you’re adequately supported through the life of your chronic illness. Furthermore, you want your support system to be equally enthusiastic about improving your self-esteem.

Individuals in your support system should understand that everybody has their own relationship with their body image and self-esteem.

Childhood experiences, societal views, the media, and age can all impact body image and self-esteem. Therefore, body image issues need to be acknowledged and addressed to boost your self-esteem and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Build a support system that encourages you to love your body and get rid of unrealistic expectations of yourself.

They should also enable you to foster a healthier mindset towards your chronic illness and how to thrive through it.


It’s challenging to live with a chronic illness. Especially with the havoc it can wreak on your self-esteem and self-worth.

Start with a physical exam, consistent exercise regimen, nutritious diet, and an excellent support system to drastically improve how you feel about yourself and your chronic illness.


Photo Credit

Image by Irina L from Pixabay

Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton

Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.




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