Feeling self-conscious about your psoriasis? Maybe it’s time for a confidence boost.
Studies show that psoriasis can negatively affect people’s self-esteem and body image, especially women. In other words, it can shake how you feel about yourself.
“It can be a limiter for people’s lives,” says Matt Traube, a licensed clinical psychotherapist who specializes in psychological aspects of skin conditions. He’s seen how conditions like psoriasis can greatly affect people’s confidence, relationships, and more.
But it doesn’t have to. You have as much right as anyone else to get out there and do the things you want, and need, to do.
On those low-confidence days, remind yourself of these things.
Ditch Your Comfort Zone
One way to boost your confidence is to slowly take on small challenges. Building up little victories can show you that you can get through situations that worry you.
You can start by exploring the situations where you feel like you’re holding back due to your psoriasis.
“Begin to identify, what are you avoiding in life and where are you limiting yourself? Get very honest with yourself. Ask yourself, ‘If I didn’t have this skin condition, what would I be doing differently in my life?’” Traube says. “Increase your awareness there and identify the limiting factors there, and then identify very small, safe ways to do a little bit more.”
Taking those small steps and realizing that your fears didn’t come true can gradually shift the way your brain thinks about these situations, he says.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
If you’re afraid that someone will notice your psoriasis and judge you, take a moment to question those thoughts. You might realize that they’re not realistic, and you can set them aside and move forward.
“Worrying about the experience for a lot of people is often worse than when they actually go through the experience,” Traube says.
For instance, he says, your brain might tell you that, ‘If you go do X, Y, or Z, something bad is going to happen. Someone’s going to look or laugh or point or some other negative consequence.”
But if you test that theory by doing the thing you fear, you may find that, ‘Oh, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.’”
“You do that enough times and the brain goes, ‘I don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s safe there. I’m OK,” Traube says.
Likewise, you can start to notice the thoughts that are holding you back and decide to challenge them.
Own Your Feelings
Traube says one of the first things you should do is accept your feelings, even if they feel negative. It’s OK if you’re feeling self-conscious or not that confident. Noticing that is the first step toward changing that.
“Tell yourself it’s normal and OK to experience that,” Traube says. “Tell yourself that a lot of people with psoriasis and skin conditions will feel that way in that environment and it’s OK,” he recommends.
“When you begin to normalize something that in the past was very threatening, it really changes people’s relationships with it, and it reduces stress, and it reduces anxiety. It helps people reduce the limitations they once experienced.”
Doing this can also let you build more kindness and self-compassion while you work on building your confidence.
Get a Boost From the Psoriasis Community
It can help to know that you’re not alone if your confidence isn’t the greatest right now.
About 75 million adults in the U.S. have psoriasis. It’s easier than ever to find and connect with other people living with psoriasis, thanks to national organizations raising awareness of the condition and online communities.
“There are groups and communities, especially online, where people are going through your experience,” Traube suggests. “You don’t have to be isolated and alone. Getting out there and meeting others can be incredibly empowering.”
Reach out to these communities to feel more connected, learn what other people are doing to feel confident despite psoriasis, and provide encouragement and support. You might be able to share your own tips, too.
“There are many people who are also having the same experience and when we reach out and get help and get support, this challenging experience will get better, even if your skin doesn’t change,” Traube says. “Your experience and quality of life can improve.”
Get Stress Out of the Way
When you’re stressed, that’s a potential trigger for your psoriasis and it can also be a confidence wrecker. Stress can make you feel less than your best and less motivated to take on challenging situations. And that can lead to a vicious cycle: more stress, worse psoriasis, more confidence problems related to psoriasis — on repeat.
You need healthy ways to put your stress in check. In addition to maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, make sure you have someone to talk to and ways to blow off steam, whether it’s working out or taking the time for a hobby you love.
Enlist an Expert Ally
If you’ve tried all of these things and your confidence is still shaky, don’t hesitate to get help. You might want to join a support group or talk with a therapist. Even a few sessions may help you learn new ways to boost your self-esteem. Therapy isn’t just for people who have a mental health condition. It can be a safe place to talk about your goals and plan ways to get around anything that’s holding you back.
“Start by contacting the national or international advocacy group for [your] particular skin condition (for example, the National Psoriasis Foundation),” says Kristina Gorbatenko-Roth, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and a licensed psychologist. “They often have referral or other psychosocial resources listed, including support groups, phone support, etc.”
An experienced psychologist or mental health professional can also point out ways to break the cycle of confidence problems, Traube notes.
Many professionals now offer virtual or over-the-phone appointments, making these services more accessible than ever.
Remember That Change Is Possible
Give yourself some time — and a lot of kindness — while you’re building up your confidence. While some people may go through one life event and experience a surge of confidence, it’s more likely that you’ll build your way there over time. Focus on taking small steps and believing that you can bring about change.
“You just do it bit by bit by bit,” Traube says. “It’s a fine line between ‘I’m stuck’ to ‘I made changes.’” Sometimes, he says, a small change over time “is enough to make an instrumental, important, and crucial change in somebody’s life.”
Remember, boosting your confidence is worth the work and can have a lasting impact on your life. It’s the opposite of the vicious cycle that can erode your confidence. It’s a positive cycle.
“When you begin to relate to your skin and the world a little bit differently, if you can begin to move past some of the obstacles that you have related to your skin, then that also carries over into other areas of your life and your self-esteem, and feeling more empowered and more capable.”
The result: You’re in charge — not your psoriasis.