top of page
web background.png

Info & Resources

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all

Navigating the 'new You' Identity with Pain 


How does chronic pain affect your identity?

When we are introduced to someone new, one of the initial inquiries we make is "what do you do?" This particular question is often linked to our sense of self. However, our sense of self is much more intricate than simply our job title. It encompasses our unique experiences, including our ethnicity, gender, upbringing, attributes, personality, and how we view ourselves and how others perceive us. For those who live with chronic pain, their sense of self may be altered, and coming to terms with this can be a difficult process. Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge and embrace your sense of self, and learn to befriend the person you see in the mirror, despite any obstacles you may encounter.

So, who are you? And how can you claim your identity and befriend that person looking back at you in the mirror?

As human beings, our sense of self is in a perpetual state of evolution. Our past selves, whether it be from a decade or just half a year ago, differ from who we are in the present moment. In fact, every single one of our skin cells undergoes replacement within a month, and approximately 330 billion cells within our bodies are replaced each day.

While we are constantly growing and changing in various aspects of our lives, it can be challenging to come to terms with and adapt to those changes when struggling with chronic pain. These changes can manifest physically, such as limitations in mobility, flexibility, and endurance, as well as in our work, social roles, mood, mindset, and outlook for the future.

Personally, I used to identify as an extroverted individual who relished in social events and festivities. However, my experiences with pain have led me to acknowledge and embrace my introverted inclinations, recognizing that moments of solitude and rest also provide me with much-needed energy.

It is crucial to keep in mind that change is an inherent aspect of life and that adjusting our perspectives can help us navigate these transitions with greater ease.

Rebuilding your identity

When living with chronic pain, there are various tools that can help you rebuild your identity. One of the first steps is to make sense of the pain by understanding its causes, types, diagnoses, impacts, and treatments. This knowledge can reduce uncertainty and alleviate some of the worry. Research shows that accepting and understanding pain is crucial for living well with it. This does not mean giving up, but instead giving your mind and body the time and support needed to adapt. Here are the top five pain-management tools to help you with this process.


Another important aspect of rebuilding your identity is adjusting to new roles. It may take some time to get used to the changes that come with chronic pain. You can discover the "new you" by tracking symptoms, working with a trusted therapist, setting new goals, and talking to other people living with pain to gain perspective and ideas. Although pain can change how you participate in your various roles, it does not have to stop you completely. You can find many ways to fulfill the same role. For example, not volunteering at your child's school does not make you less of a mother. When you need to stop doing something you love, like playing netball, it can be devastating. However, there are always alternative activities that are more beneficial for your body and mind. You can still watch games and support your favourite team. Remember, different does not mean less than.


Finally, it is important to avoid comparisons. Comparing ourselves with others is a normal human behavior, but it can make you feel deflated when living with pain. We are all unique and imperfect in our own ways, so it is best to be yourself. As Oscar Wilde famously said, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Understand your values

Understanding your values is essential as they can change over time, just like identities. Working with a life coach to determine my values has been an insightful and rewarding experience. Initially, I chose values from a list of common ones based on what I had valued in the past. However, after deeper reflection, I realized that those values were no longer aligned with the current version of myself, especially after learning how to manage my pain better. For instance, achievement was a value that I had adopted to please others, but it was not for me.


If you are living with pain, it can be isolating, and social isolation is linked to various chronic health conditions such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia. It is normal for close relationships to become strained as you and your loved ones adjust to changes in your relationships. It is essential to be open and honest about your needs and feelings so that those around you can understand what you are going through and can support you accordingly.


When figuring out ways to connect with others, it's vital to work within your boundaries and limits. For example, if sitting for too long can prompt a pain flare, consider meeting a friend for a walk instead of at a cafe or try a phone or video call. There are pain support communities online, such as our Facebook Community and in-person that can provide you with a lot of support and validation. However, it is crucial to ensure that these communities positively impact your wellbeing and fill your cup. We also have tips for parenting with chronic pain and ideas for how your loved ones can support you.

It is crucial to prioritize self-compassion and kindness towards oneself. By doing so, one can experience a more positive way of life and enhance their overall well-being. It is common for individuals to be overly critical of themselves, which can be detrimental and lead to increased stress and discomfort. It is essential to start small and incorporate supportive phrases or reminders as a helpful tool. For instance, one can repeat phrases such as "you are stronger than you think" or "how very human of you." It is important to identify what works best for oneself and repeat it frequently. One approach is to write these affirmations and post them on a mirror as a reminder.


If one identifies as living with a disability, it is worth considering the impact of labels and stigma. While labels can be useful, they can also be unhelpful and limiting. The social model of disability recognizes that disability is not solely an individual issue but also a societal one. This means that physical, attitudinal, communication, and social barriers can make an individual disabled. It is imperative to raise awareness and change perceptions regarding disabilities.

bottom of page