Embrace Your Inner Self When You’re Undergoing Chemotherapy

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Lillie Shockney, RN, MS, MAS

It’s not always easy to feel beautiful when you’re undergoing chemotherapy. Poor body image can lead to anxiety and depression—and that can make it even more challenging to deal with your cancer.

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

  1. Admit your weaknesses: Be honest with yourself about your shortcomings 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.
  2. Stand 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. Use your body in a new way: Try something new. 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. Smile!: Being greeted with a warm grin can help you feel better about yourself, according to a study. Pay attention to the friends and the family members who bring you down, and to those who build you up, and make more time for the latter. The result can be improved self-esteem.
  7. Maintain eye content: Next discussion you have, don’t forgot about your eyes. Your conversation partner will perceive you as relaxed and self-confident, which will also put them at ease. The bonus: All those good vibes will be reflected back to you.

If you have prolonged self-esteem issues, talk with your healthcare provider. He may suggest that you speak with a mental healthcare professional.

Published March 2014

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