Posted by: gaylejervis | February 13, 2011


“To live well you need to understand that in a fast-paced, success-oriented society you are still valuable, even though you may be bedridden, unemployed or suffering from chronic pain.  The way to do this is to retain a positive self-image and a sense of usefulness.  This is difficult to do, but essential.” I never thought that after reading this quote from You Don’t Look Sick I would be spending so much time thinking about what steps can help those of us who are chronically ill build our self image or retain it!

However here I am finally on the last three steps that are recommended from the following web-site:

Tenth Step:  Learn to Laugh and Smile.  I would never under estimate the power of laughter  but  I have to say that I knew a man whose laugh was very contagious and yet he had a very low self-image!  Therefore, I think this step  needs to be more specific and state that our self-image increases to the extent that we can laugh at ourselves!

Eleventh Step:  Remember How Far You Have Come. This step is only helpful if we have had some successes in the past or if we have been making progress! Otherwise, some people may actually find that this reflection confirms their low self-image!

Twelfth Step: Develop Your Strengths. This step poses some challenges for the chronically ill since often our frustration is that we don’t have the health to pursue our strengths.  If you have had to change jobs or quit your job for health reasons, you may no longer be able to practice being a good administrator or a being a good  teacher.  However, I believe that what we must do is discover new strengths if some of our other strengths can’t be practiced.  Or perhaps we can use our strengths for some other purpose.

MY OWN STEP:  Redefine Success. Several weeks ago, in a conversation my friend and I were having, we commented that our Moms never agonized over whether  their self-image was positive!  They did not focus on   “creating a life of significance”!  They   were not surprised when life was not always fair and yet they didn’t succumb to bitterness or despair.  Therefore, their hardships did not send them into a tailspin of low self-image.  Much of their self-worth was connected to their faith in God, but I also believe it was connected to a simpler set of expectations.    If we can forego our need for significance, productivity and recognition, and instead embrace other values that can make us feel valuable, we can retain a positive self- image whether we are healthy or ill.

We might create our own set of criterion for success that could automatically increase our positive self-image. I like what Ralph Waldo Emerson says about success:

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

If you would like to read about the other steps to a positive self-image for the chronically ill, check the following blog postings:

QUESTION:  What would you include in your list of “What is Success?”  Would those things you have included help you retain a positive self-image whether you are healthy or ill?



  1. Excellent critique!

    And, I couldn’t agree more about the need to redefine success. I find I could often use a firm kick to the seat of the pants as I fall backward into societal ideas…no volunteers, please, it would really hurt; honest, I’ll work harder at it, really I will.



    • It’s really difficult to separate ourselves from societal values isn’t it? On some days I feel like I have “evolved” and know that there are much better indicators to determine whether we are living well. Other days I fall apart thinking all that I am not doing, all that I am missing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: