A woman looks in the mirror and is disappointed to see that her reflection is unflattering and bloated. She is in a dorm-like bedroom with a laptop and monitor showing pictures of thin women in swimsuits.

Self Esteem: How IBS Has Worsened The Way I View Myself

Let me start off with a disclaimer: I had bad self-esteem issues way before I ever developed IBS. IBS has just exasperated the issues I have been having.

As I have grown up, my self-esteem seems to be getting worse. I was born in the year 2000, which means that I was exposed to social media by the time I was in middle school, which is the beginning of your formative years as a child. Seeing photos that have been PhotoShopped to make girls look skinnier in some places and curvier in others than they actually were has made me feel not up to par with what I thought were real girls in the world. I have thicker thighs, small curves and just a small figure in general. The fact that every time I go onto a social media app I see PhotoShopped women with thigh gaps and way more curves than I do, do not make me feel good about myself.

IBS made me feel worse about myself

Many people have told me, “Just tell yourself that you are beautiful; it is not that hard!” But it is for me. I grew up learning that if I compliment myself, I am full of myself and that no one will like me. So, starting at a young age, I stopped thinking of myself in a positive manner. And now as a young adult, I cannot seem to get out of that state of mind.

I know, I know. This is not what you want to hear right now, but this is my truth. The fact of my life is that constant bloating and nausea makes me feel like I have gained a ton of weight and makes my stomach look like I am pregnant (which I am not). The bloating also makes it so my pants do not fit right and press on my stomach, which makes me even more nauseous. Do you see this wonderful cycle I have been going through?

Where do I go from here?

That part I am still uncertain about. In the back of my head I know I have not gained any weight; in fact, I have to make sure I do not lose any more otherwise I would be considered underweight. But when I see a bloated stomach, or as I like to call it a “food baby”, it makes me feel guilty for eating and causes me to have body dysmorphia. And now I am stuck at an obstacle I cannot jump over: How do I accept my IBS as a part of me instead of something that is happening to me?

I struggle with the fact that I cannot seem to gain control of my body, but I do not know how to overcome my self-esteem obstacle. I can change the way I eat, to prevent bloating, I can take probiotics to help as well, but nothing can “solve” my body image issues. Only my perspective of myself can do that, and unfortunately, only time will allow me to change that.

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