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In a world that often celebrates personal triumphs and self-discipline, it’s crucial to recognize the unique challenges faced by those with chronic illnesses. While success stories abound, my own journey with chronic illness has taught me that the path to self-discipline isn’t always paved with straightforward victories.

Layered amidst the applause for personal accomplishments is the often silent and unnoticed struggle of those of us with chronic illness. Ours is a unique journey towards self-discipline that looks much different from that of our peers who don’t share our experiences. It’s filled with unpredictability, quiet victories, small & gentle steps toward our goals, and incremental progress. It can also be filled with drastic setbacks that mean we have to figure out how to MacGyver our way through our days, never mind trying to muster the energy and strength for anything extra.

Mainstream society’s narrative around self-discipline often leaves us behind by focusing on strengthening personal willpower without acknowledging the personal struggles that those of us who are chronically ill or disabled may have to deal with. Because let’s face it: no amount of willpower will convince my body to cooperate with rules during a flare-up or to stick to a rigid schedule when chronic fatigue takes over.

In this blog post, I’m shifting the dialogue around self-discipline to encompass a more inclusive and diverse perspective. It’s time to trade in the one-size-fits-all mentality around self-discipline for something a little more varied and that resonates with the experiences of those living with chronic illnesses.

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.

Explore a personalized approach to self-discipline amidst chronic illness twists. Ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality and discover practical strategies.

The Complexity of Chronic Illness

Living with chronic illness is a multifaceted experience that extends beyond the confines of personal willpower. Fluctuating symptoms, medical treatments, and emotional well-being all play pivotal roles in shaping the day-to-day challenges faced by individuals with chronic conditions. It’s not as simple as adopting a set of rules; it requires adaptability, resilience, and a deep understanding of one’s own body and mind.

The path isn’t linear, and each day brings unique challenges that require us to be flexible and compassionate in our approach to self-discipline. If we were to try to apply conventional thinking around self-discipline on a day with a bad flare-up, it would be like attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole—it’s simply not possible. Instead, we need to rely on a different set of tools and methods of application, ones that prioritize our needs as chronically ill individuals.

Explore a personalized approach to self-discipline amidst chronic illness twists. Ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality and discover practical strategies.

We Need More Empathy and Understanding

One key element often missing from the self-discipline narrative is empathy. The ability to understand and connect with the struggles of others is fundamental, especially when discussing personal growth. Empathy acknowledges that everyone faces different battles, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable for individuals grappling with chronic illness.

I see so many well-meaning people teaching techniques and processes that have worked wonderfully for them like they are the gospel truth and no other method could possibly work as well. While I’m glad for their personal success and appreciate their generosity and intentions, it’s important to recognize that there can be some big pitfalls of presenting personal successes in this way and assuming that what worked for them will work seamlessly for everyone else. It can make it seem like a personal failure when the methods that work for those without chronic illnesses don’t work for those who have them.

But as I’ve mentioned, personal growth for those with chronic illnesses is never a cookie-cutter experience. It makes sense that our approach to self-discipline shouldn’t be, either.

Practical Tips for Coping

So, now you’re probably wondering how we combat this rigid mentality and instead embrace something a little more practical and inclusive. When it comes to cultivating self-discipline while living with chronic illness, it’s about recognizing the unique landscape of our journeys.

Let’s explore how we can see and use self-discipline as a personalized and evolving practice, fostering resilience and self-compassion in the face of the unpredictable nature of chronic illness.

1. Self-Compassion:

Acknowledge that good days and bad days are part of the journey. Be kind to yourself, celebrating small victories and understanding that setbacks are not a reflection of personal failure.

2. Seek Professional Support:

Establishing a solid support system, including healthcare professionals, mental health experts, and coaches is crucial. Their guidance can provide valuable insights tailored to your specific needs.

3. Adapt Your Goals:

Embrace flexibility in setting and adapting personal goals. Recognize that your health is a dynamic factor that may require adjustments along the way. This post is a great starting point if you’re looking for tips on being more flexible with your goals.

4. Open Communication:

Foster open communication with friends, family, and colleagues about your health challenges. This transparency helps create a supportive network that understands your unique needs. Set boundaries where necessary to preserve your energy, and don’t be afraid to change your mind when needed.

5. Emotional Wellness:

Incorporate practices into your day that foster emotional wellness, exploring techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) or deep-breathing exercises. These alternative methods contribute to physical well-being while fostering emotional resilience.

And there you have it—a peek into the world of self-discipline when you’re navigating the twists and turns of chronic illness. We started by debunking the myth that a one-size-fits-all approach is the golden ticket. It’s more like a personalized playlist—some tunes work for you that might not resonate with others. We dove into practical tips, swapping rigid rules for adaptable strategies, and realized it’s about embracing the unpredictable dance of chronic conditions.

So, as you move forward on this journey, remember: resilience, emotional wellness, and a dash of self-compassion go a long way. Your path might not mirror someone else’s, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s a unique path that’s tailored, and all yours.

If you’re wanting to dive a little deeper, I’ve put together the “5 Keys to Adaptability for Chronic Illness” guide just for you. Fill out the form below to download your free copy, and let’s keep this conversation going. Because in a world that focuses on rigid rules & willpower, we need each other’s support in staying compassionate and gentle.


Until next time,

April Smith, founder and coach at The Thriving Spoonie, a compassionate and empowering brand for those with chronic illness. A smiling cisgender woman with short wavy brown hair, green eyes, and dressed in a blue denim shirt, confidently faces the camera, smiling.
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