I’ve never been that keen on self-help mantras. (Apparently, I’m not alone in that. Good to know.)
The focus on being able to do anything if you only put your mind to it has never struck me as being particularly realistic. I remember going to a work conference about 10 years ago with one of the world’s worst motivational speakers, who was absolutely insistent that we could do whatever we wanted. To the extent that he went around the room asking everyone what they most wanted to achieve, why they thought they couldn’t do it, and then telling people how they could actually reach their goals.
He was a bit stumped by my answer of ‘I want to win an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon – the reason I can’t is because I’m a woman and it’s a men-only event’. (Ignoring the fact that I’m a) seriously unfit and b) have medical issues which mean that elite athletic status was always going to be beyond my capability).
I was, of course, being completely facetious.
But I think the idea of accepting limitations is important. Pushing them, yes, absolutely. But knowing they’re there and working within them – or finding ways to achieve a similar aim in a different way – seems to be a healthier mindset, for me at least.
I don’t always like the limitations that this condition imposes on me. But I’ve come to accept, most of the time, that they are there. And that’s OK. So here are the ones I’ve (mainly) come to terms with:
- There will be situations I cannot tolerate; I find them too overwhelming. When that happens, the best thing I can do is leave before it all becomes too much.
- I can’t do everything on my own. I need support and help, particularly when I have to deal with other people.
- I struggle to look after myself beyond the absolute basics. I’m too exhausted and overwhelmed by living with this condition and working full time to be able to do most household tasks.
- I will never have a family (see previous point for reasons)
- I don’t think I will ever own my own home, unless I can get more support than I currently have
- I am as far on in my career as I am ever going to get
It’s not been easy accepting these. It still isn’t, in some ways. There are some big things in the list, and over the last few months the plan I had for my life has been completely torn up – and I don’t know yet what I’m going to do to replace it.
I’ll admit that my natural tendency is still to fight against limitations, self-imposed or otherwise. I suspect that is always likely to be the case. I tend to push myself too hard; fly too close to the sun. I’m not someone who passively accepts limits and labels that others try to put on me. And I’ve said all along that I refuse to use my condition as an excuse – a reason or explanation, perhaps; but what I can control, I will.
(I’ve rediscovered that element of my personality over the past couple of weeks. I like it. It makes me feel more myself, somehow.)
So I’m willing to acknowledge and accept my genuine limitations. That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop questioning and challenging myself, or start accepting limitations that others say I have. Because if I do, I’m afraid I’ll lose myself again. And that’s something I’m not willing to accept.