Sense of Self #AtoZChallenge
What is a sense of self? Typically it refers to how we perceive ourselves or in more simple terms it refers to self-image. How does our sense of self influence our lives? How does our sense of self transform when we are suddenly faced with a life-altering diagnosis?
When we are healthy and are able to do things we wish to do, including an occupation where we feel good about going to work each day, our sense of self is easy to identify. We can feel good about our chosen profession. We can feel good about our circle of friends we have built. We can feel good about our family and how close we feel to them.
When we find ourselves presented with a life changing illness or injury, we can face a whole new set of challenges in addition to the present medical situation. Suddenly we may find ourselves facing the very real losses associated with such a sudden change in our health and abilities. We may be unable to work either temporarily or worse yet permanently. We may face fluctuations or even losses of friends and family who are either unable or unwilling to accept our newfound limitations.
When we were able-bodied we often identified with our chosen profession. Without that label, we may struggle to determine who we are without it. Frequently when meeting someone new, one of the routine questions we may face is “What do you do?”. This reference to our occupation can be very difficult for someone who is seeking to identify who they are after finding themselves unable to work.
The key to finding yourself and your newly discovered sense of self is not always a simple one. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to cut yourself some slack! Give yourself some time to adjust physically to your new situation. Give yourself some time to mourn your old sense of who you were. Your injury or illness is not a sign of weakness!
As you begin to adjust to your situation, give yourself some credit on what you are able to do. It is important to recognize those things you are still able to so, or that you have accomplished despite your illness. We are often harder on ourselves than those around us may be. It is time to change this and improve how you feel about yourself. As you adapt to your new life, it pays to focus on the positive things, rather than to dwell on what may be outside of your reach.
As things progress, find things that you enjoy. Find things that make you feel good about yourself. Set goals that are both realistic and attainable that you and your care team can assist you in achieving. This could begin with something as simple as going outside. Enjoy the fresh air! Maybe you previously were a workaholic who spent most of your time inside in an office. Take the time to enjoy the outdoors. Even if you start simply by sitting on your front porch for a few minutes a day.
As time goes on, continue to find the things that bring you joy. It doesn’t matter how small and seemingly insignificant these things may be. No goal is insignificant if it brings you joy or helps you to feel better about yourself. Continue trying to keep things as positive as possible. Each little thing you do can improve how you perceive yourself. Share your experiences with others. Write in a journal so that you can look back and see the progress that you’ve made. This often helps one to keep things in perspective. This is especially true when we feel we may not be making any progress at all.
A true sense of self is often elusive, even to those who may not be facing challenges. It takes effort and time to find a true glimpse into who we feel we are after a major illness or injury. It is imperative that you give yourself the time to adjust and figure out who you feel you are or who you wish to become within the limits of your situation. There is no easy answer or guaranteed steps to accomplish this as it is a variable process based primarily upon your particular situation. There is also no regular time frame in which you must determine the answer to who you feel you are after diagnosis.
Do you have a story about how you adjusted to your new self? Have you found something that helped you improve your own sense of who you are? Please share with us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!