Low Self-esteem Is Another Challenge I’ve Had to Face
I like to refer to myself as a candy-coated treat: a hard shell on the outside with a soft, gooey middle.
Since being diagnosed with scleroderma, I’ve often had to toughen up my hard shell to take on the difficult changes — like hand and facial deformities — this disease has brought to my door. Along with scleroderma literally hardening and tightening my skin, I have figuratively thickened it, too, so I could deal with the emotional issues my self-esteem has encountered along the way.
Unsweetened chocolate has a kick
People can be mean. One typical shopping day, a group of young teenagers started to whisper about why my fingertips were gone and why I had a rash all over my arms and back. That completely devastated me. Being the butt of other people’s jokes felt icky and really messed with my inner goddess. It made me second guess how people perceived me and wonder if I was truly an ugly duckling.
Throughout all my experiences of living with scleroderma, that lesson has been the hardest to accept.
Before I was diagnosed, it didn’t bother me too much when I wasn’t everyone’s flavor of sweet. Not everyone is going to like or get along with me, and that’s OK. I have always been an acquired taste.
However, I have noticed that the older and more versed in scleroderma I get, the more I care about what people think of me. I am more hypersensitive about aspects of myself that I couldn’t have cared less about before my diagnosis.
Sweet vs. sour thoughts
A lot of it has to do with the fact that scleroderma has made me self-conscious. My body dances to the beat of its own drum, and my appearance has changed so much that distant relatives hardly recognize me.
Scleroderma has crept its way into my self-esteem. Little by little over the last 20 years, it has chipped away at my candy-coated hard shell. Negative self-thoughts and doubts have seeped through my shell and saturated my positive vibes.
My self-esteem is a work in progress. I have to practice hard not to go down the rabbit hole of abusive, self-loathing language. I find that I am extra critical of my appearance. The way I speak rubs my nerves. My level of education makes me think ill of my professionalism.
This is all primarily because I was diagnosed with scleroderma at the young, impressionable age of 19. I hadn’t had time to grow into myself as a person.
My mind often lingers on the regrets or missteps I have made in terms of my ability to maintain a job or finish college. Even the way I advocate for this disease is subject to self-criticism; I constantly need to question my abilities.
Picking through your sweets to find a perfect piece
It’s not so easy to stop thinking negatively of yourself and to improve your self-esteem. It takes time to wake up one day and think you are a sexy, well-educated, smart person.
For me, it’s so much easier to accept that I am a chronically ill person than it is to embrace my emotional shortcomings. Leading with the “take me for me’’ attitude is so far out of my wheelhouse.
In the end, it all boils down to scleroderma. Placing the blame for low self-esteem in the appropriate box is a step in the right direction, one that helps me understand my feelings and where they are stemming from.
Not every candy tastes great
Scleroderma has slowly, meticulously taken so much from me. I am learning as I go to embrace my body as well as my situation.
To help process my emotions, I have recently gone to see a counselor, which has reaffirmed to me that I need extra support to talk about my feelings and problems. This is a huge step in the right direction to turning my sour attitude into a sweet treat for myself and others to enjoy.
The process of self-growth is limitless. We’re all actively learning to accept our flaws and overcome our missteps in life.
Sometimes living with scleroderma can seem like the road to acceptance is unpaved. We may even feel like we’re constantly driving through rough terrain. In the end we’ll all get to where we need to be. Sometimes it may take advice from a professional — and time — to get there.
Just remember: There are all kinds of sweets, and some are not for everyone. And that’s OK.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.