Become Your Ideal Self (Despite a Chronic Illness)

I have a bad habit of being repetitive and this blog is no exception. It’s not a bad habit as much as it’s ingrained from my years of teaching. I found that when I explained the same concept several different ways students had a higher chance of understanding and committing it to memory. It was important that they understood a fundamental point, so I wanted to do everything I could to help them. The same goes for this year’s blog theme: you’re here because you want to become your ideal self while dealing with a chronic illness, so I am going to hit similar concepts multiple times.

We have looped back around to working on becoming your ideal self, but this time we are hitting it with self-reflection in mind. I’ve broken down some key concepts I noticed in my own journey for today to help you work towards your personal goals. You’ll see a lot of repetition to previous blog posts and that’s intentional: we’ve been building on concepts this year to make the process easier to manage.

5 “Simple” Steps to Achieve Success

I dislike clickbait articles that say they can solve my problems if I follow specific steps. Life is never something that can break down in a series of steps. Sure, the steps can get you started, but it’s never that simple.

I am basically painting myself into a corner if you saw this particular section header.

The steps I am offering below aren’t actually simple, and they aren’t the limit. There are many, many other steps you’ll need to consider, but these steps are ones that are there to get you started. And when you are on your personal journey, you have to start somewhere.

So what are those steps?

  1. Selfishness
  2. Self-Reflect
  3. Self-Control
  4. Self-Compassion
  5. Self-Assess

Yes, there is a theme. It’s all about yourself. Because it’s a personal journey, it absolutely has to be about yourself.

You may have a wonderful support network, but even in your illness, you are alone. You are alone in your symptoms, you are alone in coping, you are alone in the management. You may have shoulders to cry on, but no one KNOWS your experience. No one KNOWS what you are going through because no one has the perspective you do.

Let’s break each step down a little bit further.

1. Selfishness

When making personal life changes, you have to be selfish. It will be a struggle to be healthy if you don’t take a moment and say to to yourself “I need to do this for myself.” The problem is that selfishness has a negative connotation in Western culture, but it’s not a negative thing. Not all the time.

The second definition of selfish is: “arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others.”

We can read that definition with a negative lens: worrying about your own needs before caring about others, like in a life or death situation. Or we can read the definition with a positive lens: worrying about your own health and needs before helping others in a particular moment. Being selfish does not need to be a permanent mindset, but a temporary one.

Telling yourself and others that you need a moment is selfish. Wanting to get healthier is selfish. Saying you are worth respect and better treatment is selfish. None of these ideas are negative, you are saying that your needs are more important in the moment.

So embrace being selfish.

That is to say, don’t be rude to people or take them for granted. Be kind to others, grateful for what they have to offer, but set boundaries. Explain to others that you are taking care of yourself and will be available once you are ready.

2. Self-Reflect

We’ve been working on this one all month: the importance of self-reflection. To recap briefly, to best serve your own needs, you need to be honest about what those needs are. Ask yourself leading questions about your past, present, and future. Listen to what those answers tell you.

Only through understanding how you operate, what drives and discourages you, will you be able to know what changes to make. You’ll know how to make them.

In those moments of reflection, you can be honest with what you want in life. You may come to a realization that you are okay with where you are in the moment. Making changes is not for your you at this time, so make the decision to let that go. Why stress about something you know you don’t want to do? It will only lead you to resent the process even more.

Or, you come to the realization that you do want to make changes. Then you can figure out what you’ll need to do to make that happen while coping with a chronic illness. You’ll find your motivation will be strengthened if you are ready to begin rather than forcing it.

3. Self-Control

Self-control is another phrase that gets a bad connotation especially in relation to diet and exercise. Have some self-control, health gurus tell us. But I don’t have any! we say to ourselves. So when someone brings up self-control we’re ready to shut down and move on.

But wait!

Before you do that, understand that I am not referring to self-control with diet or exercise. I am talking about keeping your focus when you have a goal in mind.

Self-control is the drive to get things done: saying “no” to a late night because you know it will impact your fatigue levels the next day. It’s about pushing through the wall you hit when making significant life changes.

Self-control is about taking action (or appropriate inaction) in your life and keep yourself going when you want to give up. With a chronic illness, this is easy to want to stop due to a symptom, but sometimes you have to push beyond the symptoms to make personal progress.

4. Self-Compassion

I’ve covered this at length in this blog, but if you are taking care of yourself, you need to be kind to yourself. Seems intuitive, but many of us don’t think about self-kindness. I struggled for a long time to be “okay” with being kind to myself.

Instead, we berate ourselves when we “mess up,” or “fail,” and that only serves to discourage us. When our illness interferes with our daily lives, it’s easy to blame it and ourselves for having the illness. When I discovered self-compassion a whole world of healing opened up for me.

Life isn’t easy nor is it fair. Recognizing that we are doing the best we can with what we have is important in managing our wellness with a chronic illness like MS.

To practice self-compassion, imagine a friend in a similar scenario such as yourself. What advice would you give them to take care of themselves? Whatever help you’d offer them, provided it’s kind and healthy, is what you should follow for yourself.

The key will be to follow that advice, so remember that you are worthy of your love and your time. Be selfish.

5. Self-Assess

Self-assessment is similar to self-reflection. In fact, self-assessment/reflection is essentially the same. But with self-assessment, it’s about reflecting on how your actions impact your present, versus looking to the future or the past.

Always ask yourself, am I becoming the person I want to be or am I heading in the right direction? Depending on the answer, you make the necessary adjustments.

In the self-assessment we want to do for our wellness journey, take a few moments and see what you are doing. Are you making changes, any at all, that will eventually benefit you with some time? Are you satisfied with the changes made? Are you satisfied that certain changes aren’t happening? How can you adjust to get your dream to match your reality.

Self-assessment will also grant us the opportunity to recognize how different our path looks from what we anticipated. For example, at the beginning of my wellness journey, I never seriously considered running a marathon with my MS and lack of training. I just wanted to find a way to exercise frequently enough to help manage my MS with absolutely no expectations placed on myself beyond that.

Yet, I am beginning to formulate an idea of running the Boston Marathon within the next ten years. With that initial planning, I’ve adjusted my training and research. I’ve joined a running group, amped up my daily practice, looking into classes, and gotten more serious about my cross-training. I currently run a 9:40/mile, but to think about qualifying, I have to bring my pace down to 8:12/mile.

If I never make it down that low and therefore, never qualify, I will have to re-assess my goals. I will have to learn to be okay with that and find another direction to head in.

Self-assess is a form of self-evolution because you are changing the person you are with the information you learn about yourself. It help you achieve your desired success.

Becoming Your Ideal Self with a Chronic Illness

Chronic illness does not lend itself easily for us to “live our best lives.” We are stuck with the life we have, so it’s about adjusting around that and making the best of it. Ideally, we will see a cure in our lifetime; have financial security; beautiful bodies; amazing relationships with everyone; and able to do whatever we want.

The reality is that is not reality.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: people who are “healthy” and living “normal” lives without a chronic illness aren’t necessarily in their ideal lives. They may not be out achieving the success they feel they deserve/owed. But look to successful people: there is a lot of personal compromises that go along the way. They have to be selfish, driven, reflective and take care of themselves along the way.

Successful people get held back in their goals. They may be behind their “ideal” schedule or the success doesn’t take the form they were expecting. When you run into a personal roadblock due to illness or not, you are experiencing the same setbacks as someone else. It just takes a different shape.

You just don’t know what other people go through to find their success. Successful people don’t always broadcast their failures, they would instead highlight their accomplishments because they are something to show.

I am saying all of this as a way to encourage you forward in spite of your illness and make changes. You don’t know what your success will look like, nor is your journey going to be so difficult that you can’t achieve that success. We come from a place of perspective. Our perspective is what we know, so what is difficult for us is easy for someone else and what is easy for us is difficult for someone else.

Taking the steps mentioned above aren’t the beginning and end of your journey, you may find something that doesn’t work as well for you as something not mentioned. That is fine.

They are merely a stepping stone to get you where you need to be to find your personal success.

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5 thoughts on “Become Your Ideal Self (Despite a Chronic Illness)

  1. Such a thorough post that really helps direct you towards the journey and you’ve raised excellent issues about the starting point – we feel selfish doing things for ourselves and putting ourselves first far too often, and yet we need to do this if we’re going to develop ourselves. Embrace the ‘selfishness’! Very well written, thanks for sharing =]
    Caz xx

  2. Pingback: Being Honest with Yourself and Your Chronic Illness | MS Mommy Blog

  3. This really was a fantastic post and something I may have to read multiple times a week! Thank you so much for what you have shared and I know it will be helpful to everyone who reads it!

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