When you have chronic illness, it becomes important to carefully self-evaluate and self-regulate. No one else can tell you if you should be resting or if you should be moving. No one else can really know if you are offering up excuses or if you are really having a bad pain day. But the truth is that it can be hard to tell the difference for ourselves at times. Why is this so hard? The answer comes down to self-honesty. Most of us tell ourselves lies without realizing that’s what we’re doing. We buy into the stereotypes or the stigma or the story about ourselves that we grew up with.
If we want to have the best possible chronic illness management, it will require self-honesty. But first, I want to mention that perfection should never been our goal. No one will follow their diet perfectly all the time or stay on track with their exercise goals without every deviating. The good news is that we don’t have to achieve perfect compliance with our management plan to achieve good outcomes. Our diets and our exercise regime need only be good enough. But figuring out what is good enough requires that self-honesty.
When we talk about interpersonal relationships, respect and honesty always come up as being essential for healthy relationships. The most important person to have a healthy relationship with is yourself. That requires that you extend both respect and honesty towards yourself just like you would to a friend or partner. If it makes sense to be respectful and honest towards others, then it certainly makes sense to be respectful and honest towards ourselves.
What we say about ourselves not only reflects who we think we are, but it helps determine who we will become in the future. When we buy into the stereotypes, stigma and outside narratives, we are denying the validity of our personal experience. If we tell ourselves that we are lazy, that will affect the way that we view our choices. When our bodies require rest, we will cast doubt upon ourselves and may even deny ourselves rest when we need it. But our bodies are the only valid source when it comes to telling us when we need to rest; we need only learn to listen to it speaking to us.
Most of us think that being honest with ourselves means seeing our faults and acknowledging them. But it is just as important to see our strengths. The bad experiences we have in life have a crappy habit of clouding our self-perception. We truly are our worst critics. We need not let our bad experiences, the external voices or the history of our habits define who we are. The single thing that is constant in the universe is that everything changes. Humans are no exception. As we age and experience new things, we change. That leaves the door wide open for us to shape ourselves and to modify our daily habits in a meaningful way.
Self-honest requires that we look beneath the surface and that we dig into our assumptions. We need to ask ourselves who we think we are and then look at why we think that’s who we are. If we are truly going to be honest with ourselves, we must consider ourselves in the same fashion that we would consider others. If we call ourselves lazy, we need to ask why we consider ourselves lazy. Is this belief held because it is something we were told we were? Or are we applying stigma standards upon ourselves? If we met someone else who behaved exactly like we do and had the same list of conditions with the same history as ours, would we consider them lazy? Self-honesty requires that we challenge all our self-beliefs.
Once you have established self-honesty, you will know when you are choosing to have a lazy day and when you are resting because your body needs it. And, by the way, I would argue that there is nothing wrong with humans having lazy days. We are not machines and there is no value in being productive like machines. So, please be kind and honest with yourself on your chronic illness journey.