Embrace Your Inner Self When You Have RA

Use these tips and tricks to help boost your self-esteem and self-confidence when you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Stacey Feintuch
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When you have a chronic health condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it’s not always easy to feel beautiful. Poor body image can lead to anxiety and depression—and that can make it even more challenging to manage your RA.

If you feel RA is taking a bite out of your body confidence, try these everyday ways to face the world looking and feeling beautiful:

1. RAIN in your negative thinking. Here’s how it works: Recognize hurtful thoughts: “My arms are so fat.” Acknowledge your distress: “I can never wear anything sleeveless again!” Investigate your thinking: “Do my arms really make me who I am?” Do Not identify with the thoughts: “It’s ridiculous to think anyone is judging me because of my arms!” Bonus: For good measure, practice self-compassion: “I have a lot to offer.”

2. Admit your shortcomings. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and don’t dwell on these areas. Remember that these shortcomings aren’t a permanent reflection of you as a person. Accept that everyone has flaws, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

3. Stop slouching. Stand (and sit) up straight. Good posture not only helps you look taller and thinner, it also helps you believe in yourself. In an Ohio State University study, participants who wrote statements about themselves while sitting upright were more likely to give credence to what they wrote than did those who were slumping.

4. Be happy with who you are. Keep a compliment list. Half the time, you probably don’t register those passing remarks: “Nice scarf!” “That’s a great color on you!” “Where did you get those earrings!” “Mom, you make the best cookies!” Starting today, tune in to each one and write it down. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the compliments add up. Don’t worry that the exercise will make you arrogant. Rather, it will boost your confidence in who you are and how much you’ve done in life.

5. Try something new. Use your body in a new way. Take a stab at kick-boxing. Learn a new dance step. Play ping-pong. Or just try flipping an omelet. Pick something you can master, so you can experience the satisfaction of nailing something and knowing that your body—the one you have right now—didn’t let you down.

6. Start walking (or swimming or going to Zumba). Physical activity is a sure-fire body-image booster, according to a meta-analysis of studies examining the link between exercise and body image, published in the journal Psychology and Health. As long as your healthcare provider says it’s okay, begin with a 10- or 15-minute walk most days of the week and build from there.

April 2013