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12 Tips for Feeling Beautiful When You Are Chronically Ill

Beauty. It’s not a word we often associate with chronic pain or illness. It can be really difficult to feel beautiful when you live with ongoing health conditions. I mean how is there any room for beauty when most, if not all, of your energy is used up by pain, symptoms, and simply getting through the day?

It doesn't help that we are bombarded on a daily basis with:

  • Cosmetic surgery clinics

  • Cosmetic dentistry clinics

  • Waxing joints

  • Hair salons

  • Therapeutic IV clinics

  • Gyms

  • Personal trainers

  • Diet centres

  • Eyebrow threading salons

  • Eyelash extension shops

  • Size 0 mannequins

  • Magazines showing mostly healthy teenage models

  • TV shows filled with able-bodied people

  • Movies with actors who exercise with personal trainers for hours every day

  • Advertisements for products that will “fix” us

The message is clear: beautiful is the goal, and beautiful means thin, healthy, and perfect.

This goal is hard enough, if not impossible, for the average healthy person to achieve, let alone those affected by chronic pain and illness. Yet these unrealistic messages about beauty continue to abound.

If you live with chronic pain or illness, there may be a variety of reasons why you don't see yourself as beautiful, feel beautiful, or put effort into your appearance, including:

  • Lack of energy.

  • Financially limitations.

  • Lack of interest due to having too much else on your mind.

  • Self-defeating thoughts, ex: what's the point in even trying?

  • Dealing with medication side effects such as weight gain and skin breakouts.

  • Feeling less than due to a reliance on mobility aids.

How to Feel Beautiful

It’s one thing to be able to say to yourself “I am beautiful,” and it’s another thing to believe it and really feel it. Sometimes it takes effort and work to see and accept your beauty because your mind has been programmed for so long not to see it.

The following 12 Tips for Feeling Beautiful are designed to help you start changing your programming and seeing your own beauty, inside and out:

  1. Explore what you like about yourself, whether it's a body part or character trait. Start small, and try find a new likeable/loveable/beautiful aspect of yourself on a daily basis.

  2. Ask friends and family what they find beautiful about you. If that feels too risky, you might like to start by asking them what they like or love about you. There is nothing wrong with asking others for help and support.

  3. Give and get lots of hugs. When you hug for at least 20 seconds, the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released into your bloodstream. The better you feel, the more likely you may be to acknowledge your beauty.

  4. When you feel joyful, happy and confident, you radiate beauty on the outside. Find ways to generate more of those feel-good emotions. For some ideas, check out my posts on Creating More Happiness.

  5. Conversely, when you look good, you feel good. Play around with make-up and hair-styling once in a while. It doesn't take much energy to lie on the couch with a mirror and some make-up. If you come up with a look you like, try it on in the outside world.

  6. Have a girls night in where you do each other's makeup and dress up for the occasion. It can be fun to schedule these nights around events like the Academy Awards, birthdays, or other special days.

  7. Check out the Hospital Glam movement on social media by searching for #HospitalGlam. If you're only getting out of the house to see doctors and healthcare practitioners, why not glam up a bit for the occasion?

  8. Online retail therapy. Treat yourself to a little bit of online shopping, just for you.

  9. Bring the spa to you. There are many reasonably-priced aestheticians who come to your house so you can enjoy some beauty and pampering in the comfort of your own home.

  10. Don’t compare yourself with others, healthy or otherwise. Comparing leads to despairing. Don't let yourself do it.

  11. Visualize yourself looking and feeling beautiful, connect with the emotion and really allow yourself to feel it. When do you feel most beautiful? I feel beautiful when I’m striding confidently down the street on a sunny day, my hair curled, a little makeup, well-fitting clothes, and high heels. Given how difficult it is for me to walk in heels these days, I often simply visualize this image, and I find that it really does boost my mood.

  12. Strength is beautiful. Consider how much strength you have gained from your challenges. It takes a lot of strength and courage to get through your days when you live with chronic pain and illness. You may not feel strong, but you are, and that strength is beautiful. There is also much beauty in living with dignity and grace, and in being kind and compassionate.

Just because you may not feel beautiful doesn’t mean you're not. And just because you don’t fit into the beauty “ideal,” doesn’t mean you're not beautiful. Beauty comes in so many different forms. Now is the time for you to explore what your beauty looks like, and how you can connect with it more often.

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