Building Your Body Confidence When You Have an Invisible Illness or Disability
Not only do I suffer from anxiety, but I’m also legally blind. If I had to give you a full list, I could also include OCD and Body Dysmorphia, but I don’t want to focus solely on the “I haves.” I want to focus on the “I ams,” and my invisible illnesses and disabilities do not take away from who I am.
If anything, they are apart of who I am, and living with invisible illnesses and disabilities doesn’t mean I or anyone in a similar boat can’t learn to love their body. It may be different and even a bit more challenging, but we deserve to love ourselves just as much as anyone else.
All Worthy of Body Confidence
Time and time again, I will preach that confidence is for every body. It’s so important to remind ourselves that we are worthy of beauty no matter what challenges seem to be stacked on our path to self-love. Learning to not just embrace but love yourself and your body isn’t easy, so adding in invisible illnesses and disabilities can make it seem even more difficult. It IS incredibly possible to build your body confidence regardless of your “I haves.”
1. Leave the pity party, and start to celebrate yourself.
I used to feel so sorry for myself and be so negative in my early teens. My vision was rapidly decreasing. I was just figuring out that I had anxiety, and that was the cause for my breakdowns and panic attacks. I was also in the early stages of my bulimia, and I will admit I lived in a self-loathing pity party.
That little girl that I used to be needed positivity and confidence, but she didn’t have anyone to look up to. Even though I wish I could go back and build her up, it’s not possible, so I will celebrate myself and my differences now. Celebrate yourself, and challenge yourself.
If you are stuck feeling sorry for yourself, your confidence will never budge, and you’ll always be miserable. That’s no way to live, so chose to take the next step. Chose to take life head on, and value the strength of your body rather than feel ashamed by your illness or weakness.
Don’t think of it as life dealt you a bad hand of cards. You can go beyond “handle it,” and you can make the most of this life. Despite your illness or disability, you’ve made it this far, so be proud of your strength.
2. Everyone sees differently, so don’t get caught up with ideal standards.
We all see differently. I can’t always see my body the way others can because of my Retinitis Pigmentosa, but I’ve learned that everyone sees differently whether they are blind or not. My blindness is unique, and it has taught me to see beauty in different ways that I might not have considered if I wasn’t blind.
Having body dysmorphia makes how I see myself a challenge, but I always remind myself that beauty is a mindset. I can be what I feel, so I WILL find ways to feel beautiful. I use that challenge to continually remind myself that everyone has some type of road block when it comes to body confidence, so you and I are not alone on this journey.
There will always be some unrealistic beauty ideal that centers around perfection. Well, perfection doesn’t exist, so we have to learn to stop chasing the impossible. With billions of people who all see beauty differently, we shouldn’t focus on ideals anyway.
Beauty should be defined uniquely by all of us. We should feel beauty and spread beauty rather than chase it. We will never be everyone’s idea of beautiful, so learn to become your own.
3. Redefine beautiful and those once perceived body flaws with positive thinking and gratitude.
All bodies are different, and I believe that is what makes all bodies beautiful. Invisible illnesses and disabilities are still present even though they can’t be seen regularly, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them to redefine beauty.
My blindness lets me focus on more things than just beauty aesthetics, so I define beauty differently. That should be true for everyone. Use your differences to see beauty in other areas.
Redefine what you once thought were flaws. I used to struggle with my belly, because I let my illnesses and disabilities drag me down. Letting that inner mean girl be in charge of my body dysmorphia and anxiety made me feel powerless, but I thought I had no other option. I also used to believe that I couldn’t recognize true beauty because of my blindness. Looking back, I was so wrong about all of it, so I flipped the script.
So, I started to redefine not just what beautiful meant to me but also how I labeled myself and my body. Finding that strength in what I’ve been through, and it taught me to appreciate my body. Gratitude helped me to redefine so much about my body, and it’s very helpful.
4. Expect ups and downs, and understand that it’s okay to have bad days.
I used to be even harder on myself for having bad days, because I thought it meant I was failing. With my eye disease, I have bad eye days where I’m in pain and just overall don’t feel well. It’s not easy to appreciate yourself let alone think you’re beautiful when you’re feeling sick. So, I learned to accept that every journey will have bumps.
Ups and downs are a major part of learning to build your body confidence. Everyone has bad days, and I know having an invisible illness or disability can make those days a bit more frequent. You have to remember that it’s okay, and if you have to rest, you should.
Take care of your mental and physical health, and get up and try to feel beautiful the next day. Don’t let one bad day deplete your self-love or confidence. Take the rest day to recharge and stay motivated for tomorrow.
5. Stop comparing yourself.
There are so many successful blind women in the world, and I used to feel like a little nobody. I used to put myself down, because I wasn’t living like they were. I compared myself to everyone who I thought was better than me, and it brought me down so much. Once I started my recovery from bulimia, I realized comparisons were one of the most toxic things you can do to your mental health and body image.
Self-love is about SELF, so stop tearing yourself down over other people. A comparison with another person will never lead you down a successful path of confidence. It keeps you down, and it brings zero positivity.
Don’t even compare your present self and past self, because you’re a different person now. Just work on being the best you, because there will never be a good reason to compare. Comparisons compromise your happiness and confidence, and that isn’t worth it.
Positivity for Everyone
I know it can be a struggle living with illnesses and disabilities, and the fact that they are invisible makes things even more challenging. If people can’t see something, they don’t think it exists, and that can be hard on us. Stop worrying about what other people think, and start helping yourself to see your beauty.
I have been told hundreds of times that I “don’t look like a blind girl.” I’ve also been told I don’t look like I had an eating disorder, because people are awful. I wish there was another way to say it, but people suck. They are either uneducated on invisible illnesses or disabilities, or they are just cruel.
Hell, I’ve been told that I’m “pretty cute for a blind girl,” because some jerk thought blind people look like ogres. You have to remember that you can’t control the negativity of others, so you should focus on how you can be more positive towards yourself.
Life is a challenge, and everyone has a hurdle to jump occasionally. Living with invisible illnesses and disabilities just means there could be a few more hurdles. Don’t think of it as the end of the world, think of it as you being a badass.
You’ve gone through life and handled every mess thrown your way, so keep your head held high and keep fighting. I know it can be exhausting, but take a moment and breathe. You’re so beautiful just as you are regardless of whatever invisible illness or disability you have.
Don’t let the illnesses or disabilities hold you back. Don’t let them solely define you. They are apart of you and are beautiful, but you’re so much more than a single label. Empower yourself with what you thought held you back before, and embrace yourself for all that you are.
I am a blind woman, and I have invisible mental illnesses. Being all of those things and more makes me proud. I am beautiful just as I am, and so are you.
I would love to hear from you all. Tell me what you love about yourself. Tell me about your invisible illnesses and disabilities, and how you’re learning to grow your body confidence.
Also, if you need help rediscovering your confidence and self-love, check out my body positive book, Eat the Damn Muffin.