If someone is well off, has a fancy car and a five bedroomed house in a nice area, they’re considered successful. If they have fulfilled their hopes and dreams, they’re considered successful. Qualifications, careers, acquired wealth, sporting victories and acting awards can all measure a person’s success.
But when people live with chronic pain or illness, it can be difficult to find successes to be proud of. They often can’t fulfil their hopes and dreams. Very often they can’t work or lose careers and can’t make money. There are often more disappointments in life than victories.
Find Success in Small Achievements
But they can still be successful. They can still have achievements. And achievements, no matter how big or small, are always worthy of celebrating.
Getting out of bed some mornings is an achievement. Managing to have a shower and dress are often achievements. Getting a full night’s sleep, brushing their teeth in the morning or eating a nourishing meal are achievements. Those are every day tasks to healthy people, but to many people with health issues, they are huge achievements.
But sometimes people have so many disappointments due to their health problems that they allow the disappointments to overshadow their achievements.
The Burden of Failures and Failings
I’ve had my own fair share of disappointments in life and classed myself as a failure. Nobody else looked at me in that way. I was the only one who perceived myself as a failure.
I remember being seventeen when a brown envelope containing my exam results fell through the letterbox. I had failed English, but passed French and German. Surely, passing French and German was worthy of celebrating? But, no, I was devastated and I allowed the disappointment of failing English to completely overshadow those successes.
As my back pain worsened when I was a teenager, I was determined to ignore it and do the normal things other teenagers do. I failed at that too – miserably. My back said, ‘Stop’ on numerous occasions. I said, ‘No.’ I ignored my pain so much, that my body couldn’t take it, and it made me pass out. I think I fainted in shops in every major town in Scotland.
I didn’t have children. Due to my back pain, I had to give up any hopes of having children. Obviously, this affected my husband too. I often thought of myself as a failure due to that. I will stress that my husband never made me feel like that.
When I worked, I struggled due to my pain. Again, I kept trying to ignore it. Then my back muscles went into spasm and I could hardly move for months. I had to give up work when I was 28. I wanted to work, but I simply couldn’t. Another fail.
I have always had many failings. I used to give myself a guilt trip due to my situation. And I had a horrible habit of putting myself down. I looked on myself as never being good enough. I was a failure. Failed exams. Failed to manage my pain. Failed to have children. Failed to continue working. I had failed.
I burdened myself with guilt and believed I was a failure.
The Importance of Pausing to Think
I needed to change my mindset. I couldn’t carry on putting the ‘failure’ label on my forehead.
Everybody can have ups and downs in life. Everyone, including people in good health. But sometimes I felt that for everything that had gone right, another three things had gone wrong. But when I took time and thought about it, I realised that I always managed to get through life’s problems.
I’ve had to pause frequently throughout my life – sometimes just to let my body rest or to catch my breath, sometimes to think things through and make tough decisions. But very often, I’ve had to pause to convince myself that I am not failure.
How I Stopped Feeling Like a Failure
I had to examine those events which had made me feel like a failure, remove the guilt and find some positives.
I had failed an exam. It wasn’t the end of the world. My knowledge was fine, it was exam nerves which failed me. I coped in life without that exam success. I decided that I couldn’t let that failure overshadow any successes.
I had tried to ignore my pain until it got the better of me. Most people who live with chronic pain try to do that. That’s not really a failing – it just meant that I had kept trying. But I decided a long time ago that I would need to change things. I learned to listen to my pain, and do what it needed me to do. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always manage, but it’s easier to cope with my pain when I listen.
I didn’t have children. That hadn’t been an easy decision, but it was a practical one, and a joint one between myself and my husband. My back couldn’t have coped with a pregnancy and it couldn’t have coped with me raising children. I couldn’t get myself out of bed some days. I couldn’t look after myself, so I certainly couldn’t have looked after children. It had been the right decision, and I wasn’t a failure because of it.
I had to give up work. There was no reason to feel like a failure. The decision to take early retirement had actually been taken out of my hands. The decision I had to make was to accept it, which I did, and eventually my life became a bit easier.
Despite my Pain, I’ve
I have thrived. But I think I’ve done more than thrived. I think I’ve succeeded. I enjoy life and I live happily despite my pain and there’s no price tag on happiness. I could list lots of negatives, but I am making a conscious choice not to because I prefer to look at the positives.
I learned that I wasn’t a failure and I realise that I’ve coped with whatever life has thrown at me. I have learned to recognise any achievements, no matter how small. I appreciate them and regard them as successes. I don’t beat myself up if I don’t manage to do something. I can try again tomorrow. Or the next day. And I try to never judge or put pressure on myself.
I believe that how we live our lives is more important than success from having fantastic careers or being financially well off.
In my opinion, true success has nothing to do with money or status. It’s about who you are.
It’s about being kind and compassionate and having time, patience and empathy for other people.
I hope I succeed at those things, because I believe they are qualities which really matter in life.
Do You Think You Are A Failure?
If you ever think of yourself as a failure, please, pause for a minute and think again, because you are not.
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Thank you to Sheryl from A Chronic Voice for inspiring this post. Sheryl has a blog link up every month. This month, she gave the following prompts :
Failing ~ Succeeding ~ Pausing ~ Deciding ~ Thriving
Please take a look at other entries which can be found here.