The body positivity movement tells women, “love your body and it will love you back”. But what about the people whose bodies don’t love them back no matter what? The strength of the body acceptance movement lies in its inclusion. Unfortunately, this is only in essence and not in practice. In our everyday lives, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities often get overlooked. 

The rise of the body positivity movement has helped millions of women and provided an antidote to the body image crisis. However, for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, embracing the skin they’re in isn’t helpful advice. One can’t really dispel the reality of living with a chronic illness. 

We live in a world where public spaces are mostly inaccessible to the disadvantaged. Our culture hasn’t yet understood that some bodies just function differently. To help start the conversation, today we are talking about body love and chronic illness. Read on!

What is a chronic illness? How does that affect one’s relationship with their bodies?

If you’re wondering about the chronic illness definition, you’ve come to the right place! Chronic illnesses are broadly categorized into conditions that are generally lifelong. It is a lifetime disease that doesn’t seem to have a cure. 

Disabilities can fall under the umbrella of chronic illnesses. These illnesses hinder the independence of disabled people, preventing them from being self-sufficient and limiting their capabilities. Their basic activities (such as cooking, washing, cleaning, walking, etc.) are restrained and they need someone to care for them and look after them. 

However, the degree of chronic illnesses and disability can vary. It can range from an amputated arm to spinal stenosis, and so on. 

The most common examples of chronic diseases with disabilities include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, amputated limbs, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. 

When a person has to live with a chronic illness or disability, the narrative that one should love their body can serve as a brutal reminder that their bodies are made differently. In most cases, people with disabilities view their bodies as an obstacle. It can demotivate them, steal their time and energy, and limit their dreams. This also creates an unwelcome imposition that they have to navigate their way through life around their chronic illness. 

Therefore, sometimes loving your body doesn’t come so easily. Even though body dissatisfaction affects a majority of women, the link between body image issues and chronic illness is an overlooked issue. 

The combination of pain, physical symptoms, limited mobility, frequent treatments, scars, and surgery can make people feel out of control and have feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, and depression. 

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Tips on loving your body with chronic illnesses

If you’re someone who has to live with a chronic illness, loving and accepting your body can be incredibly difficult. Here are some tips and practices that can make you feel more in control of your body and help you navigate through difficult days:

Practice intentional self-care

These days, self-care is advertised as something luxurious and extravagant, but it always doesn’t have to be that way. Exorbitant self-care can be rewarding but of course, it isn’t practical most of the time. 

Instead, what you can do is practice intentional self-care. It can be as simple as helping yourself to a warm bath, applying your favorite lotion, taking a nap, touching yourself, pouring yourself a glass of water, etc. 

The intention behind this is to bring awareness to the good things you can do for your body. This can help restore the balance between your body and your illness. 

Be grateful for your body

We know that it’s easier said than done. However, maintaining a gratitude journal can help you feel good on bad days. Note down the wonderful things your body is capable of and things that make you feel good. Whenever you find yourself criticizing your body, open your journal and center yourself. 

Also, read Every Body Type Is Beautiful: Show Love With Female Body Positivity

Find a community

It can be frustrating living with people who don’t understand what you’re going through. You need to find people who have lived through the same experiences as you. We recommend finding a community of people like you. There are many support groups and safe spaces online that help people with chronic illnesses deal with life. You can just do a quick research and find one that you think will help. 

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Advocate for yourself

As a person with a disability, you will often hear people sympathize with you and treat you differently. If you don’t like the pity, speak up. Advocate yourself and make sure they listen. But, try not to be harsh. Advocating for yourself is hard work and it’s a process. You will get there eventually. 

Remember that your friends and family don’t understand what you’re going through, and it’s okay. It is your duty to make them aware. Help them to help you. 

Follow positive role models on social media

Image source: BlackDoctor.org

People with chronic illness and disabilities often feel unwelcomed on social media platforms. To create a safe and welcoming space for yourself, follow positive accounts with realistic messages. There are many women with disabilities who are sharing their stories. If you feel shame around your body, it can be helpful to scroll through these accounts and remind yourself that you’re not alone. 

There are plenty of body-positive and disability-friendly influencers that you can follow in 2021. Some recommendations are Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (@jessicaoutofthecloset), Aimee Mullins (@aimeemullins), Angel Giuffria (@aannggeellll), Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared), and Rebekah Taussig (@sitting_pretty).

And in case you don’t find the message you’re looking for, you can always be the inspiration you need. You can start your own body-positive Instagram account and inspire millions of women who don’t feel represented in social media. 

Always remember to be bold and to be yourself. Any shape or form of the body deserves love, attention, care, and gratitude. There is no version of yourself that is undeserving of all this.