Coping With Emotions

Confidence Building During Cancer Treatment: Busting the Victim Mentality

Keeping a gratitude journal helps you with confidence building during (and after) cancer treatment.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you automatically think of the physical and financial challenges treatment will cause. You may not even consider how the disease affects your self-esteem. While confidence building isn’t your first concern when you hear your diagnosis, it can become a vital part of your long-term treatment plan. Low self-esteem and self-confidence can rear its ugly head in many ways; fortunately, confidence building also comes in a variety of forms.

People Treat You Like You’re Fragile

While friends and family are great for rallying and providing support during treatment, you may quickly grow tired of people treating you like you’re fragile. Even though your friends are taking extra precautions are doing so with nice intentions, you can quickly begin to feel like you’re weak or less than — both killers for your self-confidence. The best way to handle this situation is to be honest and have a conversation with the offenders. Tell them that while you appreciate their concern, their words and actions are making you feel like you’re more delicate than you are. Instead, tell them you can promise to listen to your body and decline any activity you don’t feel up to if they can promise to still offer invitations for events or activities as they did before you were sick.

People Use the Phrase “Poor Thing” When Referring to You

Words are important, and your visitors or community members may not realize that referring to you as a “poor thing” or “such a warrior,” while using the empathetic head tilt, can quickly make you feel less empowered. People do love a bit of drama in their life, and it can do a number on your self-confidence when you become that plot twist in the community. Take power back from your situation by having a stockpile of phrases to say when people refer to you as a “poor thing.” Try saying things like “I appreciate your concern, but I’m actually doing as well as can be expected right now” or “there’s nothing poor about my situation, and I’m handling it like a champ.” You can keep a page of these comebacks in your purse or on your phone for a reminder.

If you feel someone is sticking around you just for the drama of the situation, consider distancing yourself from him or her until you’re out of treatment and back to a “normal” routine.

You Can’t Do What You Could Before

Cancer treatment doesn’t just damage your self-confidence during treatment. The aftermath and side effects can leave you feeling discouraged for months (or years) after treatment stops because you can’t do tasks as well as you could before. Before you allow your self-talk to revolve around what you can’t do anymore, practice confidence building and change your inner dialogue. Use affirmations such as “I will run a 10K soon” or “I’m swimming as fast as I can” to combat negative self-talk, or begin a gratitude journal to note at least three things you’re grateful for each day before bed. It won’t take long for you to be thankful for your body that’s getting stronger with each passing day.

Confidence building is an important part of your treatment and survivorship plan. If you find you’re struggling with low self-esteem, talk to your doctor or begin seeing a therapist. You deserve to feel well — inside and out!

Cancer treatment takes a toll on your mind, body and soul. Counseling services at UVA Cancer Center help you make sense of it all and get the care you deserve.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress