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When Health Issues Make You Question If You're Living Up to Your Potential

“You’ve got so much potential.”

I remember people telling me that, and my teachers telling my parents that about me, too, when I was younger. What does that even mean?

“You can do anything you set your mind to.” That’s another one. I’m pretty sure I tried to move objects with my mind after too many episodes of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” but that was never successful. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried to get a better paying job and win the lottery too, but those didn’t work out either. My “potential” feels quite limited, given the health issues I’ve had. The last nine years have felt wasted in comparison to how I thought they should have been, to how my 20s should have been lived judging by the media and the lives of those around me, or peers on social media. These two phrases, rather than inspiring confidence in me, make me look back on the years and wonder where it went.

What happened to this “potential?” I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere, done anything of importance, or become this amazing person I could or should have been. I weigh up where I am now to what society and those around me perhaps have thought I should be at this point, and I feel like I’m never enough. If I was full of “potential,” is it still there? Has it disappeared? Or am I using it and living it without realizing?

I think our choices are part effort, part chance and part circumstance. We have the potential to control our actions, our emotions and our responses to events, but even these things are partly influenced by neurological and biochemical factors. Our circumstances and choices can be restrained by invisible illness, be that mental or physical. It may have a small effect. Or it could have a huge impact, limiting your “potential” and the things you could do or would like to do.

What we do have is boundless potential when it comes to our thoughts. To define the meanings we associate with things, the value we put on our life and the things in it. We have the potential to change how we see the world and our role in it. Who we are and where our lives are at is something we need to take responsibility for and be active participants in this process. But this is our journey, influenced by our situation, our body, and our thoughts. It is no one else’s.

Rather than define this “potential” so unrealistically and having goals set for us as a result of society’s idealistic standards, why don’t we redefine it in line with our own situation, health, abilities and desires?

All of this pressure, measuring ourselves up and feeling inadequate only serves to make ourselves feel like crap. No one else, just ourselves, if we let it make us feel like this. If we value our lives more, if we become more aware of our freedom of thought and choice, we would be able to realize that we are enough. You can’t measure the length of a cucumber by shoving it on the kitchen scale. Neither can you measure or define your worth, value and success against your peers and prescribed social paradigms.

Follow this journey on Invisibly Me