Sexy and Lovable! (At Any Stage of Autoimmune Disease)

We’ve talked a lot about the power of mindset in navigating autoimmune disease, and how our internal conversation can be just as critical to managing symptoms as diet or medicine. Today I want to focus on how we can shift our mindset around our physical appearance so that we can thrive in relationship with ourselves and our partners.

I’m choosing to explore sexiness because anyone in the health coaching business will tell you that they frequently work with people who—yes, want to physically feel better—but also want to look better naked. There are all kinds of reasons for this, and a huge one is that our cultural and societal norms tell us that if you look a certain way, you will be loved. If you don’t look that way? You’re unworthy of affection. Not only that, but in autoimmune disease it’s so easy to look at the body as the enemy. Many of my clients really struggle in partnership because they don’t see how anyone could be attracted to a body as problematic as theirs.

All of us, whether we’re dealing with autoimmune disease or not, are on a mission to own our greatness in the world and show up like the badasses that we are. And there is so much tied up in that mission that has to do with our physical appearance. I’ve noticed with my clients (and in my own thought process!) that we get so stuck in focusing on what we want to HAVE and what we have to DO to get there that we self sabotage (despite our best intention!). I call this self-sabotaging approach the HAVE > DO > BE model. Here’s an example of a conversation I’ve had with clients many times, and the logic goes like this:

“I want to have a thin, slim body and what I’ll do to get there is restrict carbs and exercise 7 days a week so that I will be attractive and lovable.” This model creates the result that we are always chasing our tails because when we focus on what we’re going to have first and foremost, we never arrive at the place where we’re thin or beautiful enough to actually feel lovable, attractive, sexy, etc.

It’s safe to say that we have all been there. At some point or another, we’ve all had an idea about the missing piece—losing 20 pounds, getting married, buying a house, getting a new job, you name it—that will make us happy, attractive, lovable, worthy, or enough. We make ourselves nuts chasing that missing piece, or feeling unsatisfied when we do get it. This trap feels comfortable to us because we are so bought into (and just about everything in society reinforces) the notion of our own unworthiness. The “thing” will never be what gives us what we yearn for deep inside.

Fortunately, it’s totally within our power to wake up from that bad dream.

When we focus on our ability to shift our ways of being, we tap into our power to create the results we want  Let’s explore what it looks like to practice the BE > DO > HAVE model of actually creating change that matters.

Being sexy, lovable, attractive, joyful, happy, and confident is an internal job. In this model, we identify who and how we want to be and do the inner work to shift the conversation with ourselves to align. After all, I am only as hot as I tell myself I am! Here’s an example of how one client was able to shift her dialogue:

Starting out, this client was deep in shame and frustration about her body—she saw herself as unworthy, overweight, and unlovable. She hadn’t dated for years and was wanting connection so badly but had no confidence that she was worthy of attention, desire, or love. It was high time for a shift! First, she focused on being compassionate and loving with her body, even going to the extent of practicing daily affirmations naked in the mirror, telling herself she was gorgeous and enough. It wasn’t about changing her body or wanting it to be different, it was about the mindset of appreciation, love, and gratitude. She then naturally started doing things that nourished her body, like fueling it with supportive foods and really enjoying it when she did choose to indulge. As a result, she began to have more energy, a strong and balanced mental state, and confidence that attracted a partner who finds her sexiness undeniable—after multiple years with no romantic connections whatsoever!

I know that we’ve all heard the saying that “no one can love you until you truly love yourself,” but here’s a different spin on that concept: the things we want most in life usually start with internal work. When I’m getting results that I don’t love, I always check in on my dialogue with myself.

  • What am I doing when I walk in the bathroom in the morning and see myself in the mirror? If the first thing is leaning in close to see what blemishes I have on my face and telling myself how gross I am, I get to find a way to shift my mindset so that I see myself as beautiful and worthy and am open to others seeing me in the same light.
  • How do I talk to myself about my parenting after I get frustrated with one of my kids? Am I telling myself what a horrible mom I am, that anyone would have handled that better? What would be a more supportive conversation?
  • How do I show up for work each day? Do I tell myself a story that I’m incompetent and unworthy, or do I have a dialogue that gets me excited about the job and the skills I bring to it?
  • How do I view myself as a partner? Do I believe that I am worthy, lovable, and attractive? Or do I hide my body in the dark or under the covers, worried that my partner won’t love me the way that I am or might wish they had chosen someone else to be intimate with?

Tapping into a more supportive internal dialogue—and thus, our own desirability—can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health. The benefits of oxytocin alone are enough motivation to get our sexy on! And beyond that, being connected in relationship and intimacy makes a profound impact on our overall health and wellbeing. In fact, I work on this area with almost all my clients because no matter what health issues they’re dealing with, they are almost always feeling a sense of disconnect (and often disgust) with themselves, which ultimately affects their most intimate relationships. It’s so healing to set down the stress and anxiety that can come with loneliness and find meaningful connection—and we get to start with giving that love and support to ourselves first!

So, I’m curious: how does sexiness play out for you in the context of autoimmune disease? Does it feel like an afterthought, or an indulgence you don’t have time for? Is it front and center in your relationship with yourself? How do you talk to yourself about it, and what results have you seen from positive shifts you’ve made? Share in the comments!

About Sarah Kolman

Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC is an AIP Certified Coach, Registered Nurse, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and Contemplative Psychotherapist. Sarah’s unique one-on-one health coaching practice blends her nursing and psychotherapy experience with holistic and nutrition-based health concepts. A passionate student in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, she helps her clients heal by focusing on the brain-body connection and its profound impact on wellness. With Sarah’s support and guidance, clients learn to manage stubborn symptoms that have persisted through countless traditional treatments. Learn more about Sarah’s coaching services by visiting her website, www.this-one-life.com. Her book Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family’s Whole Health in a Busy World is available on Amazon. You can follow Sarah on Facebook.

11 comments

  • Keith Campbell says

    Having a couple of AI illnesses, had non-reversible surgery I’ve never felt confident in my appearance or particularly ‘sexy’. I am married and never much had an issue with my appearance, I do dislike my body, probably my internal body than the external one so its an interesting article about self-love and being in tune with who I really am and that it’s not going to change.

    • Thanks for sharing Keith. I’m wish you courage, commitment, and compassion on your journey to self-love and acceptance.

  • Kim says

    Thank you for your article. It really hit home with me, especially your client’s story. Having all of the physical and emotional hallmarks of Hashimoto’s, I feel very far from sexy, and have intentionally kept myself out of relationships for the most part, always believing that one day in the future I’ll feel better, but that day hasn’t come yet. Thank you for this important reminder.

  • Sarina says

    Loved this article. I was with an amazing partner when I was diagnosed with my autoimmune condition. I was able to feel confident despite me feeling horrible about my body at times. It’s so important to have someone in your life to express how you DON’T feel sexy and why so that they can help you with affirmations, validation, and overall listening. It’s therapeutic for me to voice my feelings. When I told a friend I felt undesirable she was so surprised. I work on nourishing my body and doing things that make me FEEL good both inside and out.

    • I’m so happy to hear you had this experience with love, support, and honesty during times of not feeling lovable and attractive. I have also experienced how voicing my feelings and being honest about my insecurities has invited support and connection in deep ways. Being honest and vulnerable are powerful! Thank you for sharing Sarina.

  • Julie Harmon says

    After being diagnosed with Graves‘ disease and having a full thyroidectomy last April, I have struggled so much with feeling “sexy” or “attractive”. It has changed my personality as well. I’m more withdrawn now than before my diagnosis. My physical appearance makes me sad and the slowness of healing has made it very difficult to be patient with myself. This article is the closest thing I’ve found to describing how this disease has affected me emotionally and mentally. I would love to read more articles like this. Thank you Sarah!

    • Thank you for sharing this vulnerable and honest post Julie. Even when the body feels out of control and isn’t doing what it is “supposed to” be doing (or at least what we want it to do), we get to see and believe our inherent worth, lovability and “enoughness.” It is beautiful and empowering to connect with our ability to internally create the very things we want most in life–even if our body is “doing it’s own thing.” Please let me know how I can support you. You’ve got this! You get to take back your power and feel sexy and lovable again.

  • Denise Waldman says

    I’m so critical and self conscious about myself…I’m dealing with granuloma annulare and have it everywhere except my face and neck, thank God but my husband loves to travel and I refuse to go anywhere that is warm because I want to wear long sleeves and pants. It is getting very frustrating for me but also for him.

    • Thanks for sharing Denise. Have you seen the movie Embrace, by chance? It is such a great documentary about self-esteem, body image, and beauty. One of the most inspiring take homes for me is the beauty of confidence and what it looks like when we walk through the world secure about our unique gifts, powerful spirits, and sacred bodies–with all of the blemishes, inconsistencies and even deformities. There are women in the movie with significant physical deformities, and they are the most beautiful women–because their spirits and smiles light up a room. They have a level of acceptance and self-love that makes me want to have “whatever it is she has.” Another great example of how we “be” creating and manifesting what we have. When I feel lovable, attractive, and enough I have confidence and beauty and inspire others. Let me know how I can support you.

  • Debbie Baskerville says

    Maybe it would be more appropriate to have a photo for this article that looks a bit less like the person has that “ideal” body. This “pretty” image with the perfect nails seems to be reinforcing the idea that we need to be perfect to feel perfect.

    • Angie Alt says

      Debbie-
      We felt that an image showing just hands was very neutral & hands over the chest reflects love toward self.

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