🖐️ Raise your hand if you struggle with self-worth and a sense of your life’s purpose when chronically ill…
Prior to your chronic illness, you probably believed that your productivity and usefulness only mattered in the sense that they served others more than yourself.
Then, when your chronic illness began to make maintaining the same level of productivity and feeling of usefulness difficult, maybe you noticed your sense of self-worth decreasing. Now, you may struggle with connecting with your life’s purpose when chronically ill.
No doubt – the onset of chronic illness is life-changing in so many ways. But I think most of us can agree that perhaps the most challenging change is learning to accept that our life’s trajectory is different than what we may have imagined and that rediscovering a sense of purpose amidst our illness is crucial to feeling fulfilled as we cope with our condition.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive deep into some of the reasons why our sense of self-worth and purpose shifts when we become chronically ill, and what we can do to rediscover our life’s purpose and begin to live our life by design – and not according to our diagnosis (or experience).
Disclaimer: While I offer tips for maintaining wellness while dealing with a chronic illness, I’m not a licensed medical physician, psychotherapist, or psychologist, and I’m not offering medical or psychiatric advice.
For my full disclaimer policy, go here.
(Psst…here at The Thriving Spoonie, I use the term chronic illness to refer to not only chronic and rare diseases, but also chronic conditions that are not considered “diseases”, chronic pain, and anything other life-changing medical condition. If you can at all relate to this post – it’s for you! And if you have ideas on how I can make my writing more inclusive of this community, leave a comment and let me know!)
Measuring Our Worth Based on Society’s Standards
Society has conditioned us to believe that without the ability to measurably contribute and produce for the greater community, we’re worth less.
And this feeling can be emphasized when living with chronic illness, as many of us either change the way we work, or give up working completely. Without these tangible ways to contribute, we may feel that our worth is less, and we can struggle to maintain our sense of our life’s purpose when chronically ill.
That’s why it’s so important to have a sense of purpose and self-worth that comes from within. When we’re able to root ourselves in our own worth, there is nothing that can happen to take it away.
When we look beyond just the symptoms of chronic illness, we can begin to see why this might be:
If you’re newly diagnosed, you may be feeling shocked & are flooded with thoughts of “why me” and “it’s not fair”. (psst – you may also find this post helpful for combating these feelings)
You may be angry that you’re sick, sad because of what you may lose the ability to do because of your illness, or fearful of what the future holds for you.
You may also be stressed and confused about different treatment options, as well as the lifestyle changes you’ll have to make.
Even if you were diagnosed some time ago, it’s completely normal to continue to cycle through various emotions in response to being chronically ill.
This quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer is so powerful to me, especially as someone who is chronically ill. It’s help me learn to accept that my life is never going to look the same as it once did, and it’s definitely never going to look the same as the life of a healthy person.
I’m able to see that my life’s potential and purpose are still there – they just look different now. By shifting my perspective a bit, I’m able to maintain my sense of my life’s purpose when chronically ill.
With chronic illness, it’s important to realize that caring for ourselves, ensuring we’re managing our wellness to the best of our abilities, and that we’re still doing the things that bring us joy are all ways to be productive without having to serve other people.
By doing so, we can create a sense of purpose and usefulness that are fueled by managing our own happiness and wellness to the best of our abilities.
Our purpose becomes one of self-love, and the expression of the big Love (or Spirit, God, or whatever term you like to use for that powerful force that unites us all). What could be more meaningful than that?
Why Having a Sense of Self-Worth and Purpose Matter When You’re Chronically Ill
Finding a sense of purpose for your life will help make your good days more vibrant, and allow you to more easily surrender and make it through the tougher days by reminding you that your illness and your current struggle are not all there is to your life.
If you had a strong sense of your purpose before chronic illness, know that it still exists – it just looks different now. What are ways you can still achieve that expression of your purpose while honoring your current limitations?
If you never knew your purpose, you may now feel like your chronic illness has robbed you of the chance to ever find one. This isn’t true. I believe each of our lives have meaning and purpose, and there are ways to discover your own purpose.
Your purpose can change throughout different stages and phases of life, as can how you fulfill that purpose.
As your illness cycles through flares and low-pain days, your purpose will fluctuate, too.
Accepting this and adjusting to the flow will allow you to lean into your purpose and the most meaningful way you can express and honor it.
4 Steps to Rediscovering Your Life’s Purpose When Chronically Ill
Start small by finding the purpose in the little things in your life – what’s your reason for waking up in the morning? It can be as simple as looking forward to watching the sun rise, or enjoying that first sip of coffee or tea. It doesn’t have to impact anyone but you, or have some profound meaning – it just needs to be a reason.
Sometimes, we can over-complicate things by thinking that simple equals less meaningful or impactful. But one of the things I’ve learned from being chronically ill is how much of a relief it can be to lean into the practice of simplicity in all areas of my life, and how empowering it is to know that simple can sometimes be even more meaningful – and sacred – as anything else.
Once you’ve chosen something, take some time to reflect on this. What about this thing drives you to want to wake up and how can it become a seed for a sense of purpose for you?
Next, move onto the positive impact your life can still have on others.
When living with chronic illness, we can have the tendency to feel like our lives can no longer benefit others, but that’s just not true. Oftentimes, as I’ve experienced from interacting with the chronically ill community over on Instagram, is that just living our lives and allowing others to witness our experiences can be such a powerful way to benefit others.
But you don’t have to be this vulnerable about your illness and circumstances if that doesn’t feel good to you. There’s many other ways you can still positively impact those around you.
- Do you have friends, family or pets that you care for, or a home that you help manage? There’s part of your purpose.
- Are you active in a faith community or another organization that uplifts others? There’s another part of your purpose.
- Do you volunteer, or donate financially to charities? Do you always have a smile and a kind word for your neighbors and those you interact with? Spreading hope and joy are part of your purpose.
All of these things are simple, yet powerful ways your life and efforts hold meaning for others
Another powerful way to rediscover your purpose is by connecting with others in the chronic illness community – especially if you can find one that’s specific to your illness or condition.
The support you can gain, and give, will be an amazing reminder of your purpose, and you can lean on those who may be more experienced in the struggle to rediscover a sense of purpose and learn from their lives.
And when the time comes, you may find yourself being that person that someone leans on!
So go ahead, get comfy and grab your phone, tablet, laptop, or however you get online and find your new friends in the virtual world. Some of my favorite social media accounts and groups for those who are chronically ill are:
Fighting Through Chronic Illness
Lastly, look for any similarities or patterns in the emotions behind what you’ve come up with in the previous steps. Chances are, there’s one main feeling that runs throughout all of these experiences.
If you don’t notice a theme, consider which emotion brings the biggest smile to your face.
These feelings are your purpose – you’re here to bring more of this to yourself and those around you. So keep doing those things, and if you’re able, do more of them.
Rediscovering your life’s purpose when chronically ill really is something that’s accesible to you!
I hope after reading this post you’ve learned that even though you live with chronic illness, you have a bigger purpose than you realize – all that’s needed is a shift in perspective and some great resources like those mentioned above.
And – if you also struggle with the intrusive thoughts that chronic illness can bring, be sure to check out the free Chronic Illness Affirmations printable below!
Until next time,