Home » Blog » How Chronic Pain (& Some Other Body Things) Have Affected My Self Esteem

How Chronic Pain (& Some Other Body Things) Have Affected My Self Esteem

If you want to know what really makes me uncomfortable to write about online, it’s this. Welcome to me at my most insecure.

I never had any major body insecurities or self-esteem things growing up. I mean I wished I didn’t have braces when I had braces and I think I wished my legs were bigger so I could fit into junior’s sizes when I was a tween, but as far as the usual I-hate-my-body narrative so many young girls struggle with, I just didn’t have it.

Wellll now I do.

I’ve been struggling big time with loving my body and even though it makes me feel embarrassed to be a 27-year-old woman with the self-esteem of a 16-year-old high schooler, I want to write about it. For me, for you. Because I think it’s important.

I’ve reached a point where I look in the mirror or see photos of myself and can’t believe it’s what I actually look like. I’m like, wait I don’t look as bad as I do in my head??

I’ve never felt this way before…It’s confusing and it hurts and I’m putting conscious effort into finding a way back to loving my body.

How did it even get this bad? A lot of interrelated things happening at once, including coping with chronic pain…

Chronic pain

Pain is at the root of my body insecurities. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that being in physical pain for months or even years at a time could literally make you hate your body, which would then make you…hate your body. But it’s not something I would have predicted when I got coccydynia or TMJD.

My chronic tailbone pain came on slowly starting in 2015. It’s a condition I suppose is manageable. Certain positions are really painful for me, like sitting on soft sofas or doing that ab exercise where you ‘row the boat’ while perched on your tailbone, but for the most part, I get by.

Some days I’ll get strong twinges of pain and yes, it’s always in the back of my mind I suppose that there is this part of my body that will hurt if I’m not careful. But I’ve pretty much given up on seeking treatment for it. I’ve been to doctors and physical therapists and there doesn’t seem to be an effective solution so I’m just trying to live my life in spite of it.

Then there’s my jaw pain, which has just been getting progressively worse over the past two years or so until it reached a point of affecting my everyday life and making me really miserable. (My full jaw pain story here.)

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: chronic pain is the most emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

There are a lot of days when I felt like I would never NOT be in pain and this thought alone could spiral me down into a really dark place.

I would also curse my body for putting me through so much pain and frustration; I would be angry that I had to go through this and other people got to live their lives able-bodied. I couldn’t eat apples anymore or yawn without being in pain while other people can do these things without even thinking. Their bodies worked and mine didn’t and I was angry and betrayed by my body. These were my thoughts.

As my jaw pain has become more manageable, I have these types of thoughts less often. But they have left a lasting imprint on my self-esteem.

Standing on a rock overlooking the sunset on Koh Tao

Losing my mojo

For those who don’t know, I was in a fairly serious long term relationship for about three years until this past year. I didn’t feel super sexy or sexual the majority of the time while I was in that relationship for many reasons:

  • I was depressed a lot of the time
  • I was on birth control and it dampened my libido. I literally never thought about sex.
  • I was in pain – whether it was my tailbone or my jaw, both affected me whenever I would try to ‘lose myself’ to the moment. I would always be called back by my pain, and then I would get upset about it.

Then after we broke up, I moved back in with my parents. That wasn’t so bad, but I did realize I stopped expressing the side of myself that is sexual just because that’s how I feel when I’m with my parents. You know what I mean.

Then there was me getting off birth control which I’ll get to in a second. This resulted in me losing weight and getting basically the worst cystic body acne I’ve ever had. I felt like a skinny string bean with a skin infection.

So overall, by the time we hit 2018, I felt the least sexy I ever have in my life.

Getting off birth control

The final nail in the coffin as they say. I got off birth control in June 2017 again, for a variety of reasons:

  • It was making me sick. I would vomit like once every two months from the pill, plus was nauseous a LOT
  • It was causing some weird skin rashes on my face and torso
  • I suspected it might be dampening my libido and enhancing my depression

Immediately I started dropping weight. For most people this is a good thing but for me who has barely any weight to lose, this is was honestly a tragedy.

Plus the whole reason I was on birth control in the first place was to control my cystic body acne. (For those wondering, I get it on my back, chest, and neck mainly.) Birth control worked and I got to live my life acne-free. I can’t even tell you what a relief that was after struggling with painful cystic acne for eight years.

With some extra weight and clear skin, it was like I got a whole new body for the three years I was on birth control and I honestly loved it. I love it so much.

But then I got off birth control and I lost my new body.

I’m thinner than I’ve ever been in my life and my acne is worse than it’s ever been. To add to it, I now live in a tropical place where hiding my body under lots of clothes just isn’t an option.

Learn to love my body or bust

So add it all up and I guess you have the perfect storm for body insecurity. I once asked my friend Morgan who went through a time when she had awful cystic acne on her face that in her words “made her feel like a monster” how she is now so confident and comfortable in her skin. (You should see her now, she really is body positivity and self-love #goals.)

She said when she was going through the worst acne of her life, she couldn’t stop her life for her acne. She couldn’t stop interacting with people; she had to go to work and go out with friends. And what she realized when she did go out and interact with people was that no one really cared about her acne. They treated her the same as before. Guys still hit on her. She still had great sex. So she realized her skin didn’t matter and she stopped caring.

Heart around my face at Love Koh Tao viewpoint

I hope that level of enlightenment is in my future. I’m not there yet but I’m working on it, even if just in my head (which is where the problem is – it’s not an actual body problem).

I need to learn to love my body the way it is, without wishing it would stop causing me pain, or stop erupting in cysts, or wishing I were shaped more like a Kardashian than a string bean (LOL).

You may also like…

My TMJD Story

The Struggle of Living with Chronic Health Issues

Tools to Manage Your Mental Health While Traveling


  1. Marlene josephs says:

    Well I for one, think u are beautiful. I love your skinniness, your gorgeous eyes, and your light straight hair. And your freckles. All my friends who are constantly trying to lose weight feel jealous of u. And for some reason, I never notice your acne. So I guess, I just love u.
    Your tante,

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