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Arthritis Can Affect Self-Esteem

Chronic Pain and Physical Limitations Test Your Confidence and Self-Esteem

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Updated June 03, 2014

Arthritis Can Hold You Back

Living with chronic pain and physical limitations can test your confidence and affect your self-esteem. Think about it -- self-esteem is a measure of how you feel about yourself. Your self-esteem gauge is high when you feel you perform well -- whether that be at work, in the home, or during leisure time -- and it's low when you feel you're failing at what's expected of you.

Logically, it's easy to realize how arthritis can be a life-changer and erode self-esteem -- especially in severe cases. If a combination of pain, swelling, limited range of motion, fatigue, malaise, and other arthritis symptoms is analogous to a ball-and-chain clamped to your leg -- arthritis is slowing you down and holding you back. That's not what you are used to and not what you want. But it may be your reality.

Arthritis Can Change You

Poor body image can also dent your self-esteem. Perhaps you gained weight when you became less active with arthritis. You may have visible joint deformities, scars from surgeries, or walk with a limp. You may need a cane, walker, or wheelchair -- any of which can affect your self-image and consequently your self-esteem.

Arthritis Can Change Your Life

Arthritis can force unwanted change and decisions. A few examples for you. Some people with arthritis are unable to do the job they once did. They must either change their career path or stop working. Some face difficult decisions about having children and their ability to raise a family amidst their physical limitations. Many lose friends because of the disease and fight loneliness and isolation. When it comes to usual activities of daily living -- small, easy tasks for most people -- they are challenging and sometimes impossible tasks for people with arthritis.

The Able-Bodied World Is Not Your Reality

The problem seems to be that we compare ourselves to able-bodied people (people without arthritis). Do you know anyone who could live as bravely and courageously with arthritis as you do? Should your self-esteem be based on how well you perform in an able-bodied world or in your real world -- the world of pain and limitation? Shouldn't you be spotted a few points because there is some degree of disadvantage involved?

Personal note from Carol: I've been admired for how well I handle my disease. I've also been criticized. Can it be both? Truth be told, it can be both. Arthritis makes life less than perfect. Some days go better than others. Does it really matter if you are admired or criticized by others? Only you can justifiably judge yourself. So when you do, be kind to yourself. Arthritis is no walk in the park -- literally or figuratively.

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