There are two very common limiting beliefs Many people have. Not saying you have either. But many people have one or the other. I have both and some people do have both. It just depends on our life and how we developed them in the first place. Limiting beliefs are just that: beliefs we have that limit our growth and progress in life. They hold us back. Often because sometimes in the past, maybe when we were young, we felt they made us protected and feel safe somehow but as an adult they just do not work for us anymore. We all make beliefs, unconsciously or consciously for a Reason. Initially. Then it becomes unconsciously a habitual belief. And under that belief is really the emotion of fear that is making it so pervasive. And why it is so hard to get these two to go away.

It isn’t the limiting belief I really want to talk about. It is how if you have one of them, or both of them, how they can impact us with a chronic illness… because life everything in life, a chronic illness is an experience that also can reinforce these limiting beliefs in us. And thus affect the choices we make.

Chronic illness: 2 limiting beliefs

Fear of success and acceptance

Sometimes we feel worthless and this leads to a fear of success and acceptance. I mean if we succeed how can we maintain that? If we are not worthy? If we have no worth? If we feel it was some sort of fluke? We fear it because we fear we don’t deserve it at all. You sort of need worth to have self-esteem; work hand in hand.

This works against us with chronic illness because we can fear based on past experiences that have basically given us this idea we have No Worth to society at all.

here is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” — which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us — especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse — have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.

Psychology Today

So let’s say you went on a short-term leave from work, a long-term leave, of disability- and you want to return to the workforce… but this Fear impedes you. What if you succeed at it? But then have to Maintain that? But you have no sense of worth and feel that that is impossible to maintain because you suck and have no worth to society, an employer, yourself. I am terrified of working again. If I got 80% better tomorrow I would be TERRIFIED to go to back to work. I do not have the self-worth to believe if I succeed in the short term I could ever maintain that…. I personally am not worthy of any successes. Anything I achieve is insignificant and a fluke. I will never be worthy. And my chronic illness just proves that. Why ‘get my hopes up’ when I can’t maintain success ever? Not me. Never me.

  • I will always disappoint people
  • I will never live up to my expectations
  • I will never live up to other’s expectations
  • I will never live up to society’s expectations

And because of that I fear success. Chronic illness just adds another dimension to this existing fear. I have all of the same on those list Magnified by the fact I have chronic pain and am chronically ill so I can never, ever meet anyone’s expectations or my own.

And that leads to the second limiting belief:

Fear of Failure: Not good enough

Because that is what it comes down to- NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Not good enough to work. Not good enough to be anything at all.

But if you met someone like you with your perseverance, endurance and all your core values and beliefs you would likely think They are good enough. This belief holds us back. We fear Failure and Rejection. We fear trying at all.

Rather, a fear of failure is essentially a fear of shame. People who have a fear of failure are motivated to avoid failing not because they cannot manage the basic emotions of disappointment, anger, and frustration that accompany such experiences but because failing also makes them feel deep shame. Shame is a psychologically toxic emotion because instead of feeling bad about our actions (guilt) or our efforts (regret), shame makes us feel bad who we are. Shame gets to the core of our egos, our identities, our self-esteem, and our feelings of emotional well-being. The damaging nature of shame makes it urgent for those who have a fear of failure to avoid the psychological threats associated with failing by finding unconscious ways to mitigate the implications of a potential failure—for example, by buying unnecessary new clothes for a job interview instead of reading up on the company—which allows them to use the excuse, “I just didn’t have time to fully prepare.”

Psychology today

Shame is a deeply embedded feeling we may not even consciously acknowledge with chronic pain and chronic illness. Something that says we are to blame in some way. That we should feel shame for not being able to be like everyone else. We know it isn’t true but deep inside we can feel it because our self-esteem has been damaged.

The fear of trying can haunt us. We fear that because in the past we tried and our illness prevented us from achieving something… and we failed. And that confirmed this belief deep inside that we are just not good enough, even though that has nothing to do with it. But we failed so we must be failures as a person? Right? Of course not. That is just this belief telling us we are not good enough because our health has limitations and cannot do the same things as a healthy person can. It just means we have limitations.

And it is because we have been battered by stigma and self-stigma that has trashed our self-esteem. We have taken limitations to mean we are not good enough Personally. People have told us this in subtle ways that being ill or disabled means we are not good enough as a person. And we suck that up and our self-esteem tanks.

I feel things like:

  1. Makes me fear pursing goals
  2. Makes me fear how capable I am or every can be
  3. Makes me feel like I am disappointing people who I respect
  4. Tells me to Expect failure
  5. Makes me procrastinate to delay what I feel will be inevitable failure
  6. Gives me anxiety about doing things because I do not feel capable

But it is a lie. We are enough. With our chronic illness we are enough. With limitations we are still enough. We have to do things differently and maybe we cannot have the same goals and ambitions, but we can have goals, ambitions, and achievements. We are good enough inside, intrinsically, as a person. And we need to do things that build up our self-worth instead of confirm this belief. Anything that Builds up Your Worth… keep doing that until you feel good enough. It is a long arduous process and one I am still working on but worth the journey.

I am whatever it takes


Often both of these feelings of lack of worth and feeling not good enough are beliefs we Confirm over and over again by Comparing ourselves to:

  1. Our past healthy self
  2. Someone with the same health condition who appears to accomplish more than us
  3. To healthy people
  4. To our own unrealistic standards

And when we do this we are constantly say deep inside SEE I am Worthless. SEE I am not GOOD ENOUGH.

But the Only thing we should compare ourselves to is our own progress. To who we were yesterday. To our own progress in well-being and coping. Our own growth. That is all.

Both these limiting beliefs can hinder us in our lives with chronic illness and make us feel like we are just not capable of progress, growth, work, worth… and it is difficult to combat them. Like I said Most people have one, or the other, or like me Both. And with chronic illness or chronic pain we have scenarios that feed these beliefs. Confirming them in our subconscious and solidifying them until we just do not try or fear to try.

What I do:

I do try. I try new things I may not be skilled at or know nothing about to just push myself to try them. This is breaking my tendency towards perfectionism. Push myself to try new things and grow and learn. I try to reinforce the belief that failure is not a bad thing… it is just what we do to learn… it is How we learn. And fear of success is something where I need to adjust my expectations to be realistic to my life as it is. To never compare myself to others. To nudge my limits a little bit all the time. I set small goals and visualize future possibilities where I do succeed and enjoy that success. Feel good about it… I visualize that. And knowing if I do not try things… nothing will ever, ever Change. I want change. I want growth. I Need that. So I need to work on these.

It helps to have some perspective. Sometimes I think what would my Co-worker, my mom, my dad, my friend… think of me in the same situation… that I am worthless? A failure? That I shouldn’t even try? I don’t think so. I think of their perspective of me and the situation and it helps give me a little perspective Outside of my Head.

Another little mental game I play is to think of the times I Did succeed, like when I got my Masters or got my mutual funds certified or any other thing I achieved, and how it made me Feel, and how clearly I am not a complete failure and clearly success isn’t such a horrible thing… if I felt like achieved something and felt good about myself when I did in the past. So these beliefs do not hold ALL the time since in the past I have achieved things, I have felt worth, I didn’t feel like a failure.

Read: Overcoming fear of failure
6 types of Fear of Success (and how to overcome them)

See more posts on similar subjects

Our Chronic Pain Story: The Plot
Our Chronic Pain Story: The Theme
Our Chronic Pain Story: The Author

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8 thoughts on “Chronic illness: 2 common limiting beliefs

  1. “What if you succeed at it? But then have to Maintain that?” – I feel that pressure and suddenly I shrink because of that pressure. I can feel it creeping up on me in the last week or so but I am really trying to let it be a part of growth so that I am allowing myself to grow – so that I am not limiting my experiences and that is making it easier for me to cope this time round. I think I would not have understood what I am subconsciously doing to help me had I not read this beautifully expressed post by you Nikki. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea that fear of failure is fear of shame, I’ve never thought about it that way before. I’ve been reading a lot about how much shame plays into similar things, so that makes sense though. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m afraid of failing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m going to try the “I did succeed” twist. List what I did. Not what I didn’t get to. I think that is a great way of changing the nagging voice of failure.

    Liked by 1 person

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